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Virtual Sexual Harassment and Employee Rights

August 5, 2021 | Sexual Harassment

People often think of sexual harassment in the workplace as a physical or verbal encounter that involves inappropriate advances in the form of touching.  In today’s world, sexual harassment can happen anywhere and through any medium.  As technology and social media make it more possible (and likely) that coworkers communicate with each other virtually, a new set of challenges have arisen in the form of virtual harassment.

In a recent cases across the United States, employees who work from home or virtually have been exposed to unwanted advances and harassment through various forms of technology and electronic media.  From New York to California, painful stories of employees who have been sexually harassed via email, video conferencing, instant messaging, text messaging and other forms of technology have given rise to legal claims where the victim is entitled to the same protections as those applied to physical encounters.  These are important legal issues, particularly as more people continue working from home due to COVID. It shows that sexual harassment can happen virtually, and that employees still have rights when it occurs.

In 2017, years before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pew Research Center conducted a study that concluded that nearly 41% of people had been the victim of sexual harassment.  It is crucial that employees understand what constitutes virtual sexual harassment and how to recognize it when it happens.

Recognizing Virtual Sexual Harassment

Physical and verbal sexual harassment in and of itself can be hard enough to recognize in a workplace setting. Virtual harassment can even be more difficult to recognize when computers, cell phones, touch pads and other technologies are involved. Some of the most common forms of virtual sexual harassment include:

  • The use of inappropriate messages sent via computer, email, cell phone or instant messaging, including sexually suggestive emojis
  • Sharing sexually explicit photos or images
  • Using gender-based, suggestive or derogatory terms when referring to the victim
  • Online stalking, often referred to “cyber-stalking”
  • Scheduling, and in some cases demanding, the use of video calls during abnormal work hours
  • Violations of the company dress code during video calls

Virtual sexual harassment is not limited video conferences and calls over Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WebEx or other virtual platforms.  Virtual harassment can also occur on social media posts, text messages, instant messages, and emails. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits sexual harassment of any form from occurring in the workplace.  Victims of virtual sexual harassment should always speak to a lawyer that can help with their case.

Conduct our California Lawyers for an Evaluation of your Case

Employees are entitled to protection under sexual harassment laws, and this is extended to virtual sexual harassment in the workplace.  Any form of sexual harassment, whether the workplace or remotely, is violation of the law and can be traumatic for the victim. If you have experienced virtual harassment in the workplace, contact our California Lawyers as we know how to solve your claim and recover any damages you deserve.