Does sexual harassment still happen in the virtual workplace?

On Behalf of | Dec 17, 2021 | Firm News |

Across the country, efforts continue to push forward in an attempt to eliminate sexual harassment at the workplace. As more media attention falls on stories highlighting these abuses, more measures go in place to help prevent them from ever occurring.

As more people switch to a virtual work environment, however, some may ask: does the elimination of in-person work also eliminate sexual harassment?

The categories of sexual harassment

Unfortunately not. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission discusses sexual harassment at work. Most if not all of these forms of sexual harassment, with the exception of actual physical assault, can still happen in a work from home (WFH) environment.

The two primary categories of sexual harassment include quid pro quo and hostile work environments. Quid pro quo occurs when employers tie your work into whether or not you perform sexual favors or acts. For example, they might threaten to withhold a promotion or even demote you if you do not comply. They may also attempt to bribe you with faster promotions or better raises if you do.

How it happens with WFH

Hostile work environments end up created as a result of the actions and behaviors of the harassing party. When their behaviors get to the point that they interfere with your ability to do your job, you can take action against them.

Some examples of sexual harassment that takes place in WFH environments include sending suggestive, sexual or lewd gifs, photos and videos. The perpetrator may send them through chats, email, messaging services or on video calls. However, simply committing the crime in a digital format will not free them of the legal consequences of their choices.