Find out what sexual harassment looks like when you work from home
Coronavirus has changed the workplace as we know it. Many office workers can now work from home. They set up a remote workplace and complete daily tasks.
Online platforms, such as Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and more, host conference rooms and other in-person meetings. Employees can now spend their entire workday from the comfort of their couch.
However, even employees working from home deal with online sexual harassment from colleagues, supervisors, CEOs, managers, and business owners.
Below are twelve ways sexual harassment occurs in the remote workspace.
Sexism Can Occur in a Subtle Manner Online
When you work from home, communication online is the most effective way to exchange ideas. Email, texting, and instant messaging options create a wonderfully effective way to communicate. They also create a very private form of communication.
This private communication makes it easy to make sexist remarks to the person on the other end. These remarks often appear subtly. However, that does not mean they go unnoticed.
These sexual remarks can also appear as suggestive letters, notes, or emails that creep into your email, messenger apps, or text messages. They can be offensive at times. They almost always result in an uncomfortable feeling or a hostile work environment.
Sexting Runs Rampant
Due to COVID restrictions, people are no longer meeting face to face for social gatherings, let alone workplace gatherings. Therefore, the remote workplace is free from sexual contact as sexual harassment.
As sexual contact decreases, cases of sexting increase. Sexting means sex texting. When people sext, they send explicit photos, videos, or messages to each other. During the pandemic, consensual sexting has become very common.
However, it can also occur within the workplace. When it occurs in the workplace as unwanted sexual communications, it is a form of online sexual harassment.
Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment Over Email
Emails are used regularly in many office settings. However, when working from home, they become the main source of communication between management and employees. Since emails can be private, they can contain any number of inappropriate conversations.
During the Coronavirus pandemic, employers have used email as an opportunity to request sexual favors. They request these favors in exchange for raises, increased vacation time, or even promises to avoid layoffs.
This type of exchange is known as quid pro quo sexual harassment. It violates sexual harassment laws set by federal and state lawmakers.
Sexual Jokes Create a Hostile Work Environment
Whether in a zoom meeting, email, or text message, sexual jokes come through loud and clear. When people do not see each other in person, they may feel freer to make an off-color joke. However, sexual jokes can create an intimidating and hostile work environment.
Online communications are often less formal than communications in person. People feel free to say things they may not feel as comfortable saying when face-to-face with one another. However, when it comes to sexual harassment, people should never feel comfortable. Whether in person or online, sexual jokes are never acceptable.
When a sexual joke, gesture, comment, or general banter offends a person to the point they cannot function at work, it creates a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment violated sexual harassment laws. It is unacceptable, whether at home or online.
Sexual Coercion Ruins Workplace Relationships
Sexual coercion applies when a person feels forced, threatened, or tricked with the threat of physical or financial harm to engage in sexual activities. When others are around, sexual coercion is less likely to occur. People are afraid to get caught.
However, behind closed doors, sexual coercion occurs more often than anyone wants to believe. Employers threaten employees with their jobs for denying sexual favors. They do so while in closed-door meetings or quiet corners of the office.
Coworkers may threaten violence or attempt to destroy your career if you do not give in to their sexual advances. They can whisper this in your ear or send it through a text message.
When the business doors are open, aggressors need to find rare opportunities to make such offers. However, when working from home, every moment is a private moment. Sexual coercion can occur more often because private communications are the norm.
Porn in a Zoom Meeting Is Never OK
Online meeting spaces create a whirlwind of problems. These online meeting spaces become difficult to navigate in the best of circumstances. They are especially difficult when more than two people are on the call.
However, when it comes to sexual harassment, online meeting spaces create another problem. They are easy to hack. Therefore, a hacker can share pornography during a business meeting. Worse, they can make it appear as though the porn is coming from the host or another employee.
Knowing the threat of hackers can open the door for employees to pretend someone hacked them. Then, they can share porn through their online meeting. Better yet, they can blame it on a hacker, and no one would question it.
Retaliation Online Can Be More Subtle
An employer may retaliate against employees who deny sexual advances. Retaliation is more obvious in person. When an employee refuses a sexual advance in person, punishment typically occurs within a few days. Moreover, this retaliation relates to any denied sexual advances.
However, online, wrongful termination, demotion, and reduction of hours can get covered up easily. Because employers cannot micromanage employees effectively in a remote setting, they can easily create reasons to fire an employee.
For instance, an employer can say that the work quality has suffered because employees are in a remote workspace. They can even say the timesheets are inaccurate. It may take a few weeks to back these claims. However, they are easier to believe from a remote workspace than in the office.
Cyber Stalking Happens Easily in a Work-from-Home Environment.
Online stalking, or cyberstalking, occurs when a person follows you online. They can follow your every move on social media. They know where you are at all times. They know what you are doing and who you are doing it with.
Another form of cyberstalking in the workplace is identity theft. Someone can hack your computer system and steal your identity, including your office identity. They can then use this identity to affect your employment and hack your employer’s computer system.
This behavior happens whether you are at the office or home. All it takes is a person to have access to your online profile. The reason it happens even more when everyone is work from home is simple. There is less of a chance to see you face-to-face and deal with the repercussions as a result.
When you are in the office, your stalker must see you every day. It makes them more accountable. When you work from home, your stalker never has to face you, making them less accountable.
They Think It Is Funny to Share Inappropriate Images or Videos
Once again, people think they can get away with a lot from behind a computer. When they don’t need to see you or hear your reaction across the office, they often forget they must remain professional.
These very people think it is acceptable to share inappropriate images and videos over email or workplace messaging apps. They think it is funny. They think they are keyboard warriors and are untouchable.
Meanwhile, they make others extremely uncomfortable. Offensive videos and images do not belong anywhere in the workplace, even if the workplace is online.
Sexual or Degrading Emails or Pictures Do Not Belong in the Workplace at Any Time.
Business emails are just that, business. They are not meant to share personal information, sexual content, or anything that is not professional and related to business. When people use business emails to share sexual and degrading pictures or anecdotes, they violate your rights.
Such emails and pictures violate sexual harassment laws. They often lead to viewers feeling uneasy at best. Most times, viewers feel violated.
Change Your Background to Hide Those Sexually Subjective Objects, Pictures, and Posters
Your home is your sanctuary. However, now it is also your office. Many coworkers forget that when on a zoom call with colleagues and clients. Therefore, their backgrounds may include items not safe for work.
No one says they must change their home décor. However, they must remember their audience. It is common for a sexual object, picture, or poster, to creep its way into a coworker’s background. Remind them to change their background to hide these items.
No one at work needs to know about your sexual taste. Moreover, no one needs to see it and feel uncomfortable.
Your Camera Can Get Used Against You
Using online meeting spaces can open a new problem that many forget. Since you must have your camera on, people can see what you are doing and look like during the meeting. Without even hacking our system, your coworker can zoom in on you and take photos.
These photos can be used for any number of things. However, it is never acceptable to take a person’s picture without their knowledge. It is never OK to use someone’s camera against them and capture them at any moment.
Coworkers often think they are invincible, will never get caught, and can get away with anything when they are on the other end of a computer screen. Talk to your boss about allowing people to turn off their video during a meeting if you feel uncomfortable for any reason.
Working from Home Increases Sexual Harassment
Working from home does not decrease the likelihood of sexual harassment in the workplace. In fact, it increases the risk. People feel empowered when behind a keyboard. They feel invisible.
Therefore, they will make comments and take risks they normally would not talk about in person.
The dedicated sexual harassment attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group can help If you experience sexual harassment in your remote workspace. Call 800.807.2209 for your free consultation.