Remote work or working from home (WFH) is now the norm for many people. It’s true that it can provide workers with freedom and flexibility. However, there are some burdens of office life that they can’t always escape.
As managers and workers rely more on apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams to execute projects, people still have to engage with their work colleagues. Depending on the circumstances, some workers can still face sexual harassment – even in isolation from their homes.
What does WFH sexual harassment look like?
Remote work may protect workers from physical harassment but it does not always stop people from displaying lewd conduct. While it’s easier to document online harassment, managers aren’t monitoring every communication channel their workers use. A few ways digital harassers may prey on their victims include:
- Sending inappropriate messages or pictures.
- Offering assistance with a project in exchange for sexual favors/content.
- Making discriminatory comments based on gender in workplace chatrooms.
- Making inappropriate sexual jokes over chat.
- Sending sexually explicit GIFs.
- Gossiping in chats about a coworker’s sex life.
- Threatening to post about a coworker’s sex life if they don’t carry out their request.
What should someone experiencing sexual harassment do?
For anyone experiencing this type of sexual harassment in the workplace, you should:
- Collect evidence: Digital sexual harassment often makes it easier for victims to build a case. If workers face harassment, they should screenshot any pictures or messages they get from the harasser and store it in a file on their computer. However, if the harasser is someone in upper management, victims should store evidence on a non-work issued device.
- Consider confronting the harasser: Even if their behavior continues afterward, victims may confront their harassers know they’re onto them. While the confrontation should remain professional, victims should tell the harasser that their behavior isn’t acceptable and that they want to be left alone.
- Report to Human Resources: Another option is to report the harassment to human resources to ask them to investigate and to take steps to promptly stop the harassment. A victim can also report the harassment outside of the company to the federal government agency that handles complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace– the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)– to ask them to investigate.
- Escalate to pursue legal action: While the MeToo movement has changed the conversation around sexual harassment, many companies are still reluctant to tackle these issues, especially in times of economic uncertainty. If that’s the case, victims may want to go beyond their company and to find an attorney.
Employees deserve respect inside and outside of the office
Remote work will be the standard for the foreseeable future. You still deserve to feel safe even if you are not physically in the same office space as your harasser! Any person experiencing sexual harassment should contact an experienced employment lawyer to find out more information about how they can vindicate their rights and seek justice for themselves.