We Fight For Employee Rights

Do employers have a responsibility to stop online harassment?

On Behalf of | Jun 27, 2024 | Workplace Harassment

People have more ways to connect with one another than ever before – for better or worse. Sometimes workplace harassment and discrimination extend beyond the actual work environment and even off-site work events. There’s been a growing issue with people sexually harassing co-workers, subordinates and even those who supervise or manage them on social media as well as via text, email and phone.

Many employees believe that their employer has no responsibility to help them when this kind of harassment occurs. Unfortunately, too many employers also believe they have no responsibility for what employees do when they aren’t on “company time.” The reality is that they can – and have been – held liable.

Some costly court decisions

Courts have ruled that social media is an “extension of the workplace.” In some cases, employers have had to pay for failing to act to stop harassment outside of work. One company was required to pay $1.6 million for not taking action after an employee reported that colleagues were harassing them about their disability on a blog. Another had to pay $2.3 million for not intervening after an employee reported receiving sexually harassing texts from a supervisor.

Employers should have a codified policy clearly defining what constitutes harassment and discrimination, including the fact that it’s unacceptable whether it’s done in person or via electronic communications – whether on work equipment or systems or on personal ones. This can help minimize the issue.

Whether your employer does this or not, it’s still crucial to report any harassing or discriminatory actions or communications to them and provide all the evidence you have (screenshots, voicemail messages, etc.)  If your employer neglects to take action or if you suffer retaliation for reporting it, it may be necessary to explore other options. Having legal guidance can help.