During the pandemic, many people worked remotely from home, yet sexual harassment at work may still happen even if you’re working from home. In point of fact, certain groups are reporting an increase in the amount of harassment that occurs when working remotely.
This may be the result of loneliness, a more laid-back and relaxed working atmosphere, or the lack of a physical presence from management to intervene. Even if your employees are not physically present at the workplace, it is essential for you as an employer to ensure that you are in compliance with sexual harassment regulations (https://www.eeoc.gov/sexual-harassmentssion (eeoc.gov)). If you are not, you might be subject to expensive penalties, legal expenses, and damages.
The term “online sexual harassment” refers to what exactly?
Online harassment is defined as unwanted verbal or visual behavior that demeans or exhibits hostility or aversion toward a person because of any real or perceived protected trait, or that has the aim or effect of unnecessarily interfering with an individual’s job performance or producing an intimidating, hostile, or unpleasant working environment.
Online sexual harassment may take the form of both verbal and visual harassment. This kind of conduct may take place across many digital mediums, such as texting, emailing, using apps, or participating in video conferences.
Sexual harassment in the digital age is defined as “the use of technology to harass”
The following are some examples of improper verbal conduct:
The following are examples of offensive forms of visual sexual harassment:
- The screens on computers as used to harass
- Messages sent by texting, such as emoticons or GIFs
- Social media postings
- Unwelcome or unwanted sexual approaches, demands for sexual favors, talks about sexual activities, and other verbal and visual behavior of a sexual character are all examples of sexual harassment. Click here for more on the definition of sexual favors and sexual approaches.
- Employees may be required to submit to such behavior or demands as a condition of their employment, either expressly or implicitly. Employment judgments are made based on whether a person accepts or rejects an individual’s actions, overtures, or demands; or
- The behavior, approaches, or demands have the intention or effect of unnecessarily interfering with the job performance of a person or producing a working atmosphere that is intimidating, hostile, or insulting.
What laws regulate sexual harassment that occurs over the internet?
Whether an employee is present in the office or working remotely, they are subject to the same anti-harassment legislation. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects 15-plus employee corporations against sexual harassment. Employers that fall under this law are obligated to ensure that their employees do not experience any kind of discrimination or harassment while they are at work.
It is against the law for employers to either allow sexual harassment to take place on the job or to fail to halt it after they become aware that it is occurring. The act of sexual harassment itself is not against the law. It’s crucial to remember that sexual harassment may harm anybody, including witnesses and bystanders, and is not always the fault of the person assaulted.
Training on how to avoid sexual harassment is mandatory in several states, including many in the Northeast:
- For companies with 15 or more workers in Maine, training for new hires and supervisors and managers must be provided within a year of employment or beginning a supervisory/management job.
- Connecticut mandates that all new hires must participate in an interactive training session lasting two hours during the first six months of their employment for organizations employing three or more people. Even companies with less than three employees are required to teach their managers.
- New York: The state of New York requires all employees to participate in a yearly interactive harassment training session, and it also mandates that newly hired employees get training as fast as possible.
Because of company size or location, you may not be protected by any anti-harassment legislation, but it’s still vital to remember that any kind of harassment in the workplace is never acceptable and can get you into trouble.
How can I protect myself from being sexually harassed online?
- Inform workers that engaging in harassing behavior is not permitted.
- Have a policy and training on non-harassment that outlines what kinds of behavior are unacceptable, what kinds of behaviors are forbidden, and the disciplinary repercussions for engaging in inappropriate conduct.
- Determine who among the workers should be contacted in order to address issues or concerns about harassment, and make sure staff are aware of the processes.
- Assure your employees that they won’t get in trouble if they ask questions or voice concerns.
- Investigate allegations of harassment in a fast and thorough manner, as well as respond to any inquiries or concerns about harassment.
- Make sure that supervisors and workers are aware of the responsibilities that fall on their shoulders to put an end to, address, and prevent harassment.