I recently received an email from my employer warning that I might be ineligible for coverage under its legal defense and indemnification policy unless I went online and completed two tutorials: one on sexual harassment and the other on employment discrimination. I duly complied with this directive and then passed the online “mastery test” at the end of each tutorial. This achievement is nothing to crow about, however, because my 10-year-old daughter passed the test without even taking the tutorial.
I could use this directive from my employer as a leaping off point for several discussions, including (1) whether my institution should be shielded from vicarious liability because it took reasonable care to prevent harassing or discriminatory behavior, and (2) whether the tutorial I completed may have sought to “overcorrect” by describing as illegal behavior that is merely questionable. But I will leave these weighty questions to colleagues who actually teach and write about employment discrimination. Instead, I want to ask a more general question about whether we can reasonably expect much good to come from these online tutorials. My own experience suggests no, primarily because the online format allowed me to dramatically disengage from the material.
CURSORY is the word that summarizes my approach to the tutorials. The sexual harassment tutorial was supposed to take 30 minutes; I completed it in less than 10. The employment discrimination tutorial was supposed to take 60 – 90 minutes, but in less than 25 I flew through web pages that summarized (hang onto your hats): Title VII, the Equal Pay Act, The Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans With Disability Act, the Fair Labor Standards Acts, the Family Medical Leave Act, Executive Order 11246, the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act, the Uniformed Services Employment & Re-employment Rights Act of 1994, the Jobs for Veterans Act, the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, plus more. I skimmed each individual page only long enough to insure that I wasn’t going to make an error that would send me back to the beginning. Read More