Can Inappropriate Text Messages Constitute Sexual Harassment?

By Gregory Thyberg on September 09, 2022


sexual harassment complaint formWorkers deserve a workspace that is safe and free of harassment or discrimination. This is not just an ideal, but a right protected by employment laws. Any worker who is subjected to harassment at work has the right to take legal action and pursue compensation for damages.

Unfortunately, many workers fail to take action against harassment, often because they are unsure if the behavior qualifies as harassment. One particularly confusing matter is text messages and sexual harassment. Workplace harassment lawyer Gregory Thyberg helps employees in the SacramentoCA, area recognize when inappropriate text messages constitute sexual harassment, so that they can hold liable parties accountable. 

What Is Sexual Harassment?

The law defines sexual harassment as any type of harassment that is based on a person’s sex. Sexual harassment may include unwanted sexual advances, request for sexual favors, or any other verbal or physical harassment that is of a sexual nature. It is important to note that sexual harassment does not have to occur in person. In this increasingly technological age, it is common for sexual harassment to involve texts, emails, or other forms of digital communication.

Recognizing Sexual Harassment in Text Messages

Sexual harassment can take place via text messages, and text messages can serve as a powerful piece of evidence in a sexual harassment claim. However, Sacramento employees should know what type of text messages constitute sexual harassment. Often, a single inappropriate text message is not enough to demonstrate sexual harassment. Instead, workers should be able to show that they have been repeatedly harassed by a work associate. 

The nature of inappropriate text messages can vary, and they may not all be immediately recognized as forms of harassment. Examples of inappropriate text messages that may constitute sexual harassment include:

  • Text messages with overt sexual remarks
  • Requests for sexual favors (these are often quid pro quo, i.e., a workplace perk is offered in exchange for a sexual favor)
  • Sharing of sexual content, including photos or videos
  • Text messages sharing personal sexual information
  • Texting sexually related jokes

Essentially, what matters when it comes to inappropriate texts is how the message makes the receiver feel. If the text messages are sexual in nature, they are unwanted, and they make the receiver feel uncomfortable or unsafe, they likely can be classified as sexual harassment.

What to Do if You Are Receiving Inappropriate Text Messages from a Work Associate

Workers who have received sexually related texts that make them feel uncomfortable should take action to make the harassment stop or to hold liable parties accountable. First, sexual harassment victims should log all harassing messages. This should be easy to do if the messages were sent via text, since the phone will track when messages were sent and exactly what was said. 

Next, workers should follow protocols outlined in their employee handbook to report harassment to appropriate personnel. If the harassment continues, or if action is not taken by an employer, workers should contact a sexual harassment lawyer to discuss their legal options.

Contact Us

If you have received inappropriate text messages from a work associate, attorney Gregory Thyberg can determine if you have grounds to file a sexual harassment claim. To discuss the details of your situation, send us a message online, or call our Sacramento law firm at (916) 204-9173.

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