The growing use of the internet has created a new medium for sexual harassment, both in and out of the workplace. In the past decade that this darker side of the Internet and social media has exploded. Now users are not only at risk of identity theft and cyberstalking, but also online discrimination, sexual harassment, and cyberbullying.
As it is becoming a more common and acceptable method of communication, it is important to note that such online discrimination and sexual harassment may invoke employment discrimination laws. Moreover, social media platforms and applications have blurred the line between work life and private life. For instance, it is now commonplace for work colleagues to also be “friends” on Facebook, to “follow” each other on Instagram, to send each other “snaps” on Snapchat, or to share a post or photo.

Besides the above, some other online mediums may include, but are not limited to:

(1) Chat rooms;

(2) Internet forums/message boards;

(3) other Social networking sites;

(4) Instant messaging, like WhatsApp or iChat;

(5) E-mail, both work and private; and

(6) their employer’s communication software.

Because of the wide variety mediums, an employee that may not typically be prone to making an inappropriate sexual comment to a co-worker in person may make the comment on a social networking site with the touch of a button. To the harasser, something about this is less intimidating less humanizing, and more distant making it easier than ever to perpetuate behavior that is clearly wrong if done face-to-face. Or perhaps it is that employees feel a false sense of privacy or perhaps a feeling that they can engage in this type of behavior after hours.

Some examples of such modern sexual harassment include: “VIRTUAL HARASSMENT” which is harassment through a social media site, such as “friending” a co-worker on Facebook and then sending offensive messages or repeated requests for a date; “TEXTUAL HARASSMENT” which is harassing, intimidating, or inappropriate text messages; “SEXTING” which is sexually explicit or offensive photos or videos sent via electronic media; “CYBERSTALKING” which is harassing an employee by following him or her on blogs, posts, and social websites. Furthermore, employers that have access to their employee’s social media sites may have access to employees’ medical history, religious affiliation, or other information that would place employees in a protected class that employers would not have otherwise known about.

As such, this behavior has increased the potential for sexual harassment claims in the workplace. For instance, post on Facebook or another social media site may be the subject of a discrimination complaint by an employee if the post includes an unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Additionally, there is potential for sexual harassment claims due to an employee’s comments or pictures on the employee’s personal profile or shared content.

If you feel you have been the victim of workplace discrimination or sexual harassment in New York City, Miami, New Jersey or Philadelphia or if your employment rights have been violated, call us at 800-807-2209 for a free consultation to discuss your possible claim. Our attorneys are available to review your claims and prepare a solid case to recover the damages and justice you deserved.

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About Derek Smith

Attorney Derek T. Smith is an experienced sexual harassment & discrimination law litigator who has particular experience in the areas of workplace discrimination, sexual harassment, wrongful termination, civil rights litigation, employment law and civil litigation.

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