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Workplace Sexual Harassment Videos Are Bad. This Company Is Trying to Make Them More Realistic.

SACRAMENTO — Earlier this year, a group of actors gathered at a theater in Sacramento for their latest performance: Starring in a video about sexual harassment that would be used in compliance training courses at workplaces across the country. In the scene, a recruiter receives a dirty photo from a candidate they were planning to…

Workplace Sexual Harassment Videos Are Bad. This Company Is Trying to Make Them More Realistic.

SACRAMENTO — Earlier this year, a group of actors gathered at a theater in Sacramento for their latest performance: Starring in a video about sexual harassment that would be used in compliance training courses at workplaces across the country.

In the scene, a recruiter receives a dirty photo from a candidate they were planning to hire. Like many of the compliance training videos made by the company running this production, Emtrain, the story was based on a real experience. It happened to an Emtrain employee’s friend.

As businesses have been forced to rethink their workplace culture in the wake of the #MeToo movement, companies like Emtrain that offer workplace education and training courses have seen an opportunity for a newer and more realistic take on a genre that has often been overlooked as nothing more than an office requirement.

“Midmarket and enterprise companies spend $5 billion a year on harassment and code of conduct of training, which is basically two courses,” said Janine Yancey, who founded Emtrain after working as an employment lawyer representing tech companies in San Francisco. “And when you think about all of that money going to what people normally think of as compliance training, no one really pays attention and no one expects to get any value out of it. It’s really kind of a shame.”

Since 2018, at least six states have either passed or amended legislation on sexual harassment training in the workplace in the wake of the #MeTooMovement. In New York, for example, companies with 15 or more employees are required to train their staff on an annual basis.

Emtrain produces all of its videos in-house, with a small production team and a rotating cast of professional actors. VICE News spent the day on set with Emtrain as they filmed one of their newest sexual harassment training videos.

Cover: Actors Katherine and Miller Stefen Tanquary on the set of a recent sexual harassment training video created by production company Emtrain. (Karl Mollohan and Ben Zupo/VICE News)

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Campus

Campus Sexual Assault Hearings Will Now Look More Like Criminal Trials

When a college student brings an allegation of sexual assault to campus administration, the complaint kicks off an internal investigation and adjudication process– which can vary a lot from school to school. But new rules released this month, championed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, will standardize that process and give more protections to accused students,…

Campus Sexual Assault Hearings Will Now Look More Like Criminal Trials

When a college student brings an allegation of sexual assault to campus administration, the complaint kicks off an internal investigation and adjudication process– which can vary a lot from school to school. But new rules released this month, championed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, will standardize that process and give more protections to accused students, including the right to cross-examine accusers through a third party.

“Too many students have lost access to their education because their school inadequately responded when a student filed a complaint of sexual harassment or sexual assault,” said DeVos in a statement announcing the changes.

The federal gender-discrimination statute called Title XI has for years required schools to respond to allegations of sexual assault– generally with a dedicated investigator, who writes a report, which goes before a panel for a verdict. A “responsible” verdict can lead to suspension or expulsion from the school.

Now, under DeVos’ new rules, all universities will have to hold live hearings, ending the “single investigator” practice, and the new codified procedures will make these hearings more like criminal trials. Respondents, as the accused parties are called, are entitled to notice of the allegations and evidence against them, and are given the right to cross-examine their accuser through a third party.

The new rules are designed to protect students like John, who was accused of sexual assault. John, whose name is withheld as he is barred from speaking about his case as part of a settlement, was found responsible and suspended from his school. After an appeal within the university yielded the same result, he sued. His university rescinded the verdict, and paid out a six-figure settlement. “My anger over what happened to me is actually not directed at my accuser,” he says. “My anger and frustration are at the university administrators.”

While some see the new rules as a useful correction, to others, the changes will undo years of effort to address systemic failures to respond to victims’ needs.

VICE News spoke to students and advisers involved in Title IX investigations at different schools to see how the process works now, and how it might change going forward.

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