All 33,000 Arizona state workers to get harassment training

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(Source: Kheng Ho Toh via 123RF) (Source: Kheng Ho Toh via 123RF)

All 33,000 Arizona state employees will be required to complete newly created training on workplace harassment and inappropriate behavior, the state's human resources director announced Wednesday.

Elizabeth Alvarado-Thorson said the new program will add to existing training that new employees and new supervisors must receive, noting that the state has long barred harassment and retaliation. The 30-minute training program is designed to help prevent harassment and retaliation in the workplace and educate workers on how to report inappropriate behavior.

Alvarado-Thorson said design of the new mandatory training process began early last summer, before a wave of sexual harassment allegations became a key point of the national conversation. Sexual misconduct allegations have since forced out top Hollywood, business and media figures and led to the resignations of three members of Congress, including Arizona Rep. Trent Franks.

"We really know and acknowledge that there's this increased public attention around the topic of harassment," she said. "With what's happening in Hollywood and elsewhere we believed it is an ideal time for us to increase state employees' awareness around the serious nature of this issue."

The state has had a comprehensive anti-harassment and retaliation policy since 1986. It has been amended or expanded since and also follows state and federal law. The new training specifically covers sexual and other harassment and retaliation and will be an online course. It will cover scenarios and describe how to identify, react, report or file a complaint about improper activities by state employees.

Alvarado-Thorson said there has been no increase in complaints of sexual or other harassment from state workers since the topic burst into the news.

"It simply won't be tolerated, absolutely not," Alvarado-Thorson said.

The new training begins Jan. 2 and must be completed by March 31. State workers also will be required to undergo annual refresher training.

The rollout of the training comes as the state House and Senate are focused on the issue. The Senate revised its written sexual harassment policy this month and the House formalized what had been an unwritten policy following complaints against a sitting lawmaker in October.

The House is investigating Rep. Don Shooter after several women complained that he made inappropriate remarks. In response to the initial complaint from Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, Shooter alleged she had made inappropriate remarks in a public hearing and had an inappropriate workplace relationship.

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