Signs of a Hostile Digital Work Environment
By Gregory Thyberg on October 15, 2021
Federal and state employment laws protect a worker’s right to a safe work environment, or one that is free of harassment and discrimination. Despite these laws, many workers experience treatment that impedes on that right by creating a hostile work environment.
Workplace harassment does not have to take place in person. As many employers have adopted a remote work model, harassment remains a concern. Here, workplace harassment lawyer Gregory Thyberg discusses signs of a hostile digital work environment that should encourage Sacramento, CA, employees to pursue legal action.
Sexual or Racial Harassment
Sexual and racial harassment are two of the most common forms of workplace harassment. Sexual harassment involves any type of unwanted sexual advances, including making lewd jokes or sexual comments, sending sexual material, requesting sexual favors, and making unwelcome sexual advances. Racial harassment can take the form of using racial slurs, making racial jokes, and sharing racially offensive material.
Both sexual and racial harassment can take place in the digital environment. Employees can be the brunt of sexual and/or racial harassment via email, text messages, digital meeting platforms, phone calls, or any other type of workplace communication. Proving harassment in a digital work environment is often easier than proving in-person harassment, since there is a digital trail to follow.
Aggressive behavior can create a hostile work environment by making Sacramento employees feel unsafe in the workplace. As with sexual and racial harassment, aggressive behavior can create a hostile work environment even if people are working digitally, or communicating with each other from a distance. Consistent aggressive behavior could include shouting, making threatening remarks, coercing an employee into doing something they don’t want to, or expressing anger in any way that makes a worker feel unsafe. Aggressive behavior doesn’t have to be directed at an employee to create a hostile work environment. Even witnessing these types of behaviors can make workers feel unsafe.
Teasing, making jokes, or having a laugh at someone’s expense can be friendly banter between friends and coworkers. However, if ridiculing is consistent, if it involves insults that make someone feel degraded, or if one person is routinely targeted, it becomes harassment. Digital ridiculing could involve direct communication between employees, or it could take place over social media. For instance, if workers make Instagram or Facebook posts that put another employee down, or if they publicly humiliate an employee on a digital platform, that creates a hostile work environment.
Whether discrimination is based on gender, religion, race, or sexual orientation, it often involves professional setbacks. For instance, job applicants may be denied a job offer, employees may be passed over for a raise or promotion, or employees may be demoted - all on the basis of discrimination. Discriminatory behaviors such as these can occur in any type of work environment, including one that is digital.
Get in Touch
If you have been the victim of harassment that has created a hostile work environment, employment law attorney Gregory Thyberg can help you hold liable employers accountable for their actions. To learn about your options for legal recourse, send us a message online at your earliest convenience, or call our Sacramento law firm at (916) 204-9173.