Can You Sue Your Employer for Virtual Sexual Harassment?
By Gregory Thyberg on June 16, 2021
Many organizations have embraced remote working in recent years. The virtual work environment has created new challenges for workers because some forms of communication have the potential to blur professional boundaries. Most organizations have not modified their policies to regulate interactions on virtual platforms. Consequently, there is an increased risk of virtual sexual harassment. Sexual harassment lawyer Gregory Thyberg can help you obtain damages for virtual sexual harassment in Sacramento, CA.
Some employees use informal communication channels such as Telegram instead of formal platforms like Slack. The effect is that workplace communications look like an extension of social media. Some employees lose their guard and make risqué jokes or discuss sensitive topics that would not be tolerated in an office environment. Some of these interactions can qualify as virtual sexual harassment if they target specific individuals or make other employees uncomfortable.
There is an emerging trend in which people communicate with co-workers from their bedrooms instead of using designated office cubicles. Others appear live on Zoom naked or dressed inappropriately, whether by accident or on purpose. There may also be discussions of how co-workers look.
The virtual environment makes it easier for people to say things they wouldn't say in person. For instance, an employee who is afraid of asking a co-worker for a date may send a suggestive email or worse. This amounts to sexual harassment if the perpetrator uses official communication channels or the target is not receptive to the advances.
Remote work can make it easier for bullies to engage in behavior that can be classified as intrusive on the employee’s personal life. For instance, a worker may find that a senior employee follows them on Facebook or Twitter.
Another form of intrusive behavior is Zoom bombing, in which uninvited individuals crash meetings held by other workers and share distracting or offensive content with the participants. This behavior can be classified as virtual sexual harassment, especially if it targets certain individuals.
A subtler form of virtual sexual harassment involves behaviors that are meant to demean others. For instance, perpetrators may make comments or start rumors about the victim's sexuality and describe that person using derogatory terms. The bully may share sexually explicit pictures of the victim to intimidate or shame them. Other perpetrators may start rumors about a co-worker's sexual activities. If you suspect you have been a victim, contact our Sacramento practice.
Duties of Employers
California employers have a duty to protect workers from virtual sexual harassment. Organizations should provide virtual sexual harassment training to educate employees on acceptable virtual conduct and examples of inappropriate behavior. Employers should offer multiple communication lines that victims of virtual sexual harassment can use to report the perpetrators.
California employers should make virtual platforms safe for all workers. They can prevent Zoom bombers from interfering with other workers by requiring participants to log in with passwords and unique IDs. Employers should also take disciplinary measures against anyone violating protocols and engaging in hostile behavior. If the employer fails to take appropriate interventions to protect victims, they can sue the employer for damages resulting from sexual harassment.
Contact a Sexual Harassment Lawyer
If you have been a victim of virtual sexual harassment in Sacramento, CA, you can sue your employer for damages. Contact us online or call (916) 204-9173 to speak with employment law attorney Gregory Thyberg.