With more attention being paid to discrimination and all
forms of harassment in the workplace, employers are finding
new and innovative ways to address unwanted behavior
while creating a more welcoming workplace for all employees.
This is true in the sheet metal industry as well.
As part of this rising trend in workforce-led efforts to
reduce jobsite harassment, employers are focusing on
revamping the training process. Previously, the emphasis
was on complying with the law. Now, more employers are
concentrating on the kind of culture that’s acceptable in an
organization. Increasingly, sheet metal contractors are ensuring
that equal opportunity employment (EEO) training is
done on a regular basis.
Employers have also shifted the spotlight of EEO
training to ensure that “key employees are more aware
of what goes on and understand that they are responsible
for their crew and that they have to make sure they are
treated fairly,” said Angela Simon, president, Western
A shift in company leadership and Joint Apprentice
Training Centers (JATCs) is also occurring by taking more
responsibility for changing the culture in their workplaces.
Some JATC trustees are ensuring that instructors receive
regular EEO training. A few areas are also encouraging
JATCs to include time in their apprentice curriculum for
apprentices to learn their rights as employees and to
speak up if they witness or experience discrimination
The next step, some employers believe, is for contractors
to support worker-led efforts to address workplace
harassment. This can take the form of placing attention on
bystander intervention. This approach attempts to ensure
that the onus isn’t on the victim alone. It is the “if you see
something, say something” approach.
The SMART union is advocating that its locals and jobsite
leaders use the “see something, say something” approach
to encourage co-workers to intervene on behalf of those
“targeted” for hostility. The union is also encouraging employers
to support these interventions.
At its Business Agents Conference in Florida, the SMART
union told its locals’ leadership about the concept of
“bystander” training, and the more action-based “upstander
training.” This encourages others in the shop or on the
jobsite to speak out when they witness hazing, bullying,
and harassment. This culture of not saying anything can
be rooted in such barriers to intervention as work, social,
or personal obstacles, but these barriers can be overcome
with a culture that supports “upstanding.”
Positive change comes down to embracing a culture that
believes one truth that outweighs any other factor, “that
the individual on the job is the best person for the job,” said
Karen Fox, president, Precision Air Balance. “The industry
needs to be open to the awareness that anyone can excel if
one puts his or her mind to it. Workers just need the opportunity
to show what they can do.”
Companies that embrace these attitudes will be leading
the industry forward with a rich and diverse workforce.