Virtual Harassment Still Has Real-World Consequences

On Behalf of | Jan 25, 2021 | Employment Law

Although remote workplaces can protect people from COVID-19 exposure, they don’t automatically protect people from workplace harassment.

Though the harassment may come through electronic means, it is still very real and can have real-world consequences for victims and harassers alike. The wise employer is informed about how harassment occurs online, and what they can do to prevent it.

How employees are harassed online

Many people think of workplace harassment as inappropriate touching, lascivious looks, or other physical behaviors. However, as a recent Forbes article describes, harassment in remote workforces can occur in the following ways:

  • Indecent exposure during virtual meetings
  • Sending inappropriate, unwanted messages through chat or email
  • Requests from supervisors that make individuals uncomfortable, such as having to show their entire body during video calls
  • Sexual comments or gestures made during meetings
  • Supervisors demanding sexual favors
  • Unwanted contact or communications outside of work

These are just some ways that people can still face harassment on the job, even when they work from the comfort of their own home.

Protecting your employees

Victims of harassment can suffer emotional and professional setbacks, while perpetrators can face criminal and civil consequences.

As an employer, you have a great deal of power to protect your workers from these situations. You can start by fostering a workplace that does not tolerate inappropriate behaviors, which can mean refraining from laughing at, or brushing off others’ inappropriate behavior, not to mention avoiding any questionable activity yourself.

You can also make sure you train managers to identify, prevent, and respond to possible instances of harassment.

Further, helping your employees understand what harassment involves can be crucial. Even if you have an employee handbook with a sexual harassment policy, it is often helpful to review the topic in light of new working relationships and circumstances.

Handling allegations of virtual harassment

Despite these efforts, workplace harassment can still occur. If it does, employers should respond swiftly. It is best to take all allegations of harassment seriously and investigate claims thoroughly. If there is evidence of harassment, employers should then take appropriate action.

If you have questions about what disciplinary actions are appropriate, or how to ensure you are fulfilling your legal obligations to your employees, call attorney Anne G. Brown at 651-738-3433.