Aug 06, 2013

Sensitivity Training Becomes Front Page News in Wake of Riley Cooper Scandal: Media Turns to Deborah Weinstein for Explanation


I was surprised and delighted when the national news media beat a hasty path to my electronic door last week in the wake of the Philadelphia Eagles’ announcement that they were ordering wide receiver Riley Cooper to undergo individualized sensitivity training after he was caught on video using a highly offensive racial slur.  Reporters were wondering what is sensitivity training, and what can be accomplished in one-to-one training sessions.

Jeff Blumenthal, reporter for the Philadelphia Business Journal, asked whether sending Cooper to sensitivity training means his days with the team are numbered.  I told Jeff:

We see presidents or vice presidents of companies sent to sensitivity training . . . people so valuable that [the companies] don’t want to terminate their employment despite what they said or did . . . This means they [the Eagles] are willing to invest in him.  If they didn’t value him, he would have been out the door immediately.

Read more: Riley Cooper Scandal Highlights Use of Corporate Sensitivity Training, Philadelphia Business Journal, August 2, 2013.

When reporters from USA Today asked what can be accomplished in the one-to-one sensitivity and anti-harassment training sessions that I conduct, I began by explaining what sensitivity training is not—it’s not therapy and it is not designed to change deep-seated biases or stereotypes:

A short-term stint in sensitivity training isn’t intended to change a person’s core beliefs but rather to promote respectful behavior within a work environment . . . The important thing, when we are reacting to something that has already happened, is to drive home to the individual that they need to take this very, very seriously . . . There are no second chances after this.  We want to intervene and make a difference so that the employer has a sense of confidence that this sort of thing won’t happen again.

Read more:  Riley Cooper Still Earning Eagles' Teammates Trust After Slur, USA Today, August 3, 2013.

The Weinstein Firm has been conducting sensitivity and anti-harassment training for nearly a decade.  Our focus is on developing and improving work-related interactions and communications so that trainees learn to show greater sensitivity to and respect for others.  Our approach is to train people to avoid needlessly offending anyone, especially because of their age, sex, race, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability or other legally protected characteristic.  Trainees are encouraged to be mindful of this dimension of communication and to take seriously their responsibilities in complying with their company’s anti-harassment policy.

I have developed a curriculum for sensitivity and anti-harassment training—called SMARTMOVES®—which my firm provides for employers: usually on-site at workplaces for group training, or in our offices for one-to-one individualized training for employees who are alleged to have harassed or otherwise offended coworkers or subordinates at work.

When it comes to one-to-one sensitivity training, experience counts. Working with experts in organizational development and drawing on my training as a mental health professional combined with 15 years of teaching at The Wharton School, I developed SMARTMOVES integrating legal compliance, effective leadership and personal development that focuses on the individual involved—and allows the organization to demonstrate that it takes its anti-harassment responsibilities seriously.

In fact, other attorneys often bring us in on these kinds of matters, and our program is designed with the realization that its curriculum and presentation may indeed be scrutinized in the course of litigation.

Getting back to the Riley Cooper matter, I discussed with CBS Philly/Channel 3 reporter Todd Quinones how individualized sensitivity training might play out in a case like this:

After an episode like this, it’s a real jolt to someone . . .  People really don’t understand.  They’ve never thought about what it feels like to be on the other side.  Often times they don’t think about the other person and how they feel.

Read more and see the video: Riley Cooper To Receive Sensitivity Training, CBS Philly/Channel 3, August 1, 2013.

For more information about our sensitivity and anti-harassment training and SMARTMOVES, please take a look at our website or contact me at (215) 636-0616.

For more information, contact Deborah Weinstein, Esquire, The Weinstein Firm, (215-636-0616).

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