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Three Ways Sexual Harassment Can Happen While Working from Home


3 Ways Sexual Harassment Can Happen While Working from Home

The COVID-19 pandemic radically changed the way people work, forcing employers to adopt work-from-home strategies to abide by state lockdown orders and keep employees safe. As the weeks of self-quarantine have rolled on, certain employers and their workers alike are realizing that a remote-work environment may be feasible for much longer than the short term.

Even if large swaths of the American workforce opt-out of a central point to conduct business, not all of the problems of such an arrangement will disappear. What far too many people – and predominately women – know about working at the office is that it can be an unsafe space occupied by coworkers and supervisors who engage in sexual harassment and misconduct.

Unfortunately, there are already hints that this problem is mutating in work-from-home situations because sexual harassment does not need to be physical. Non-physical forms of sexual harassment are numerous, and nearly all of them can occur irrespective of proximity to the recipient.

Let’s examine three common ways sexual harassment can happen while working from home.

1. Messages and Emails

Although videoconferencing is enjoying the limelight, emails and instant messaging have ramped up for companies that adopted work-from-home strategies. Both phenomena are the result of needing to communicate and coordinate with workers, but even minor questions or details that could be asked in person must now become emails and instant messages.

As workers adapt to communicating almost exclusively with their colleagues via text-based communications, they should be aware of the ways in which someone could be engaging in sexual misconduct.

Some signs of such misconduct include:

  • Sexually suggestive or explicit comments, whether or not they are directed at the recipient
  • Attachments or links that contain or lead to sexually offensive or explicit content
  • Requests for sexual favors, either physical or non-physical (such as sending images of one’s self, or engaging in “sexting” behavior)
  • Sexually offensive jokes, especially when they are at the expense of a coworker or their sex

2. Videoconferencing

With face-to-face interaction eliminated in the work-from-home situation, videoconferencing has taken center stage. While this can be an important tool to conduct meetings and communicate with colleagues in ways that text-based channels simply can’t accomplish, there are some unfortunately obvious ways to abuse this tool.

For one, employees may become victims of sexual harassment if a colleague exposes their body during the meeting. Employees may also be asked to do something similar, and all of the same non-physical forms of sexual harassment that can occur in text-based communications can apply during a video call.

Frustrating this problem is that a video call may leave as much evidence as an incident in the office – in other words, the victim may not be able to supply the same kind of concrete proof as they would if the abuse occurred in an email or chat group. Recording the call may not even be an option because many jurisdictions might require the consent of both parties.

3. Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

Another form of sexual harassment that can occur irrespective of where people work is quid pro quo. Meaning “this for that” in Latin, this concept implies an exchange between parties. In the context of sexual harassment, quid pro quo would imply that someone at work requested or demanded a sexual favor in exchange for something at work.

No matter how you get the message, if a boss or coworker is requesting you to do something sexual so that you can get a raise, promotion, protection during a layoff, or any other kind of workplace “perk,” this is unlawful behavior.

Do You Need Legal Assistance?

At K2 Law Group, we are dedicated to representing employees in disputes with their employers. We understand it’s not easy to hold someone accountable for violating your rights, be we recognize the importance of doing so – especially in cases where sexual harassment occurred.

Our firm is committed to fighting for clients with challenges like yours, and we are not afraid to aggressively pursue your interests in court if the opposition refuses to settle on favorable terms.

If you need legal support to stand up to someone at work for violating your rights, contact us online or call (800) 590-7674.