Sexual harassment is a violation of federal and state employment law, and it’s an offense that can lead to termination, lawsuits and even prison time in Rhode Island. Although sexual harassment is usually associated with physical contact between the perpetrator and victim, it is now more common for perpetrators to take advantage of new technologies, such as email, text messaging and social media websites. Virtual sexual harassment is now a common form of workplace sexual harassment that’s thriving as more people have been working from home.
How does remote work sexual harassment occur?
Many people are now working remotely. It is possible for a victim to get harassed by someone online even if they never meet in person.
Sexual harassment can occur when in the form of sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or simply inappropriate and offensive comments through email, text messages and social media websites, such as Facebook. A perpetrator may also send sexually explicit pictures to the victim via their phone without consent.
Virtual sexual harassment can be just as harmful and hurtful to the victim as physical contact, but it is more difficult for a perpetrator to face criminal charges because of lack of physical evidence.
Can employers prevent virtual sexual harassment?
Yes. They can do so by having a formal policy against any form of workplace sexual harassment and taking measures to ensure that this type of behavior is not tolerated. They can also make sure that victims are aware of the procedures to file a complaint against perpetrators under employment law. It’s also a good idea to train employees on what constitutes sexual harassment.
Employers can also prevent remote work sexual harassment by taking steps to investigate any complaints made by employees even if the perpetrator is a direct co-worker of the victim.
Although working remotely has helped many companies save on work space and operational costs, it has also created new ways for sexual harassment to occur. Employers have a role to play to protect their employees from this issue. As an employee, it’s also your responsibility to know the facts about remote work sexual harassment, including what you can do when it occurs to you.