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Online Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual Harassment Attorneys Protecting Clients from Virtual Sexual Harassment for Over 25 Years

Sexual harassment in the workplace has always been an issue. However, many people ignore the possibility of virtual sexual harassment when employees work from home. Virtual sexual harassment is as much of a problem as in-office sexual harassment.

Online sexual harassment occurs when an employer, coworker, manager, or fellow employee uses the internet, email, or text messaging to send sexually explicit messages and requests to employees.

Virtual sexual harassment has added to the over 7,500 sexual harassment claims filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the past year. The dedicated sexual harassment attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group can help you fight virtual sexual harassment at work.

For over 25 years, our sexual harassment lawyers have worked with clients to stop sexual harassment in its tracks, whether in person or online.

What Is Virtual Sexual Harassment?

Virtual sexual harassment occurs when an employer, manager, supervisor, coworker, client, or nonemployee makes unwanted online sexual contact, comments, or advances. Virtual sexual harassment can occur between men and women, men and men, and women and women.

Harassers use numerous forms of online mediums to attack others. They may use text messages, emails, online meeting places, social media, and other online tools.

What Creates an Online Sexual Harassment Claim?

Online sexual harassment creates two types of claims: (1) Quid Pro Quo and (2) Hostile Work Environment.

  1. Quid Pro Quo: Quid pro quo is Latin for “this for that.” A quid pro quo claim occurs when an employer or manager promises advances in the workplace in exchange for sexual favors. In online sexual harassment cases, employees receive text messages, emails, and instant message requests for sexual favors or send sexual photos. These requests are in exchange for promotions, bigger offices, raises, or even the ability to keep their jobs.
  2. Hostile Work Environment: A hostile work environment occurs when an employee cannot conduct normal job duties due to sexual harassment. The harassment creates an intimidating environment that instills fear in the victim.

What Forms of Sexual Harassment Occur Online?

Almost any form of sexual harassment that occurs in person can occur virtually.

Forms of virtual sexual harassment may include extremely serious violations, such as:

  • Cyberstalking
  • Sexual Coercion
  • Requesting sexual favors through emails and text messages
  • Sexting
  • Online Voyeurism

It can also include less serious violations, such as:

  • Displaying or Sharing Pornography
  • Lewd and Inappropriate Emails
  • Inappropriate Sexual Joking
  • Sexual Name Calling
  • Sexual Gestures

What Are Examples of Online Sexual Harassment at Work?

Virtual sexual harassment may appear as subtle messages. Other times, it may be painfully obvious and offensive. Some examples of online sexual harassment include:

  • Your boss sends you a private zoom meeting request. In the meeting, he exposes himself to you.
  • Your coworker sends you a sexually explicit text message.
  • Your supervisor offers you a promotion if you send him naked photos of yourself.
  • Your coworker sends sexual jokes via email daily to the entire office.
  • Your boss threatens your job if you do not agree to meet him in person for a date.
  • Your coworker runs pornographic videos during your online team meeting.
  • Your supervisor follows you on Facebook. He starts asking you about your weekend in the places you went with the people who went with you. He threatens to show up at the next planned event.
  • Your boss hacks your Instagram account. She posts false information about you with photoshopped photos of your face on scantily clad bodies.
  • During an online video meeting, your coworker starts making lewd and inappropriate sexual gestures.

What Laws Protect Employees from Online Sexual Harassment?

Federal and state sexual harassment laws protect employees, whether in the physical office or virtually. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits any form of sex discrimination in the workplace. Sex discrimination includes sexual harassment.

The law applies to employers with 15 or more employees. It applies whether the employees work under one roof or are scattered at multiple locations. Multiple locations can include a remote workplace.

State laws protect employees from sexual harassment at work, as well. Depending on the state, your company may only need one employee to qualify.

How Do You File a Claim for Online Sexual Harassment?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) oversees all sexual harassment claims. Employees can file a charge with the EEOC within 300 days of an event.

If you choose to file a claim in state court, you may have between 180 days and 4 years. Your claim gets filed with the appropriate state agency or directly in state court.

What Is the Statute of Limitations to File a Virtual Sexual Harassment Charge?

You must file your sexual harassment charge with the EEOC within 300 days of the sexual harassment. Once the EEOC approves your lawsuit, you can file a lawsuit in federal court within 90 days.

State courts offer different statutes of limitations for sexual harassment claims. Some states offer 180 days to file your complaint. Others offer four years or longer, depending on the circumstances. It is best to consult an attorney when filing your claim to ensure you have the correct time limit again.

How Long do Virtual Sexual Harassment Cases Last?

Sexual harassment claims can last a few months to several years. Some claims settle before a charge ever makes it to the EEOC. These cases can close within 4 to 6 months of contacting an attorney.

However, some claims will go to trial. The trial can take years to settle. Sometimes, these cases may last 10 years or longer.

What Remedies Are Available for Victims of Online Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment, whether in the office or virtual, is never tolerated. Therefore, the courts may offer several financial remedies to help make a person whole again. In addition to financial remedies, courts may offer injunctive relief that prevents a company from encouraging sexual harassment online for any reason.

Do Not Ignore Sexual Harassment Because It Occurred Online.

Sexual harassment can occur online as easily as it occurs in person. Many employees and managers think they cannot get held accountable for online sexual harassment. Today’s technology says otherwise.

If you are the victim of virtual sexual harassment at work, the dedicated and compassionate sexual harassment lawyers at the Derek Smith Law Group can help. Call 800.807.2209 for your free consultation.

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