It’s Still Sexual Harassment Even If You’re Working Remotely

It’s Still Sexual Harassment Even If You’re Working Remotely

Posted By

A growing remote workforce has changed the way many organizations do business today. However, something that hasn’t changed is the risk of sexual harassment despite people no longer sharing a physical space. 

In fact, according to Project Include, 26% of those surveyed said they experienced harassment based on gender while working from home. Here’s why it’s still sexual harassment even if you’re working remotely and what that harassment might look like.    

What is Sexual Harassment?

As we’ve previously written, any language or images that offend or hurt a co-worker can be considered harassment, although not necessarily of a sexual nature. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) harassment is: “unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity, or pregnancy), national origin, older age (beginning at age 40), disability, or genetic information (including family medical history).” 

As well, the actions become unlawful when the conduct continues, and creates a work environment where someone feels intimidated or that they find is hostile or abusive – even if that work environment is their own home.

Emboldened Workers  

Harassment does not require in-person interactions. It can take place on the common platforms used for remote work such as Zoom or video messaging platforms like Slack, as well as texts or emails. Although people might feel more secure sexually harassing someone remotely, the platforms used often leave a clear trail of their behavior. 

Unfortunately, because the element of face-to-face interaction is removed, remote harassment might be harder to spot by victims. Although the sexual harassment is happening remotely, if a co-worker or manager is using offensive language or images, or is aggressive in their communication, this still constitutes sexual harassment.

What Constitutes Sexual Harassment?

Generally speaking, remote sexual harassment often circles around the language used. Words that are suggestive, cruel, or aggressive that make an employee feel uncomfortable–whether it is because the comments are of a sexual nature or are derogatory based on their sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation–are considered sexual harassment. Language such as “Honey” or “Babe” for example is considered sexual harassment. 

If someone is asked to stop using certain terms or comments and continues, this is also considered sexual harassment. Workers can report remote sexual harassment if they:

  • Feel uncomfortable by the language used
  • Feel unsafe or threatened by the language
  • Are being shown images of a sexual or derogatory nature
  • Are being asked for sexual favors
  • Are being told inappropriate jokes that are either sexual or derogatory to their gender identity or sexual orientation

The bottom line is that if someone complains about concerns of remote sexual harassment, action should be taken immediately to ensure they are protected.

Sexual harassment can be even more devastating for remote workers because they are being victimized in their own homes. People have a right to feel safe, so it’s important not to dismiss or minimize these behaviors just because they’re occurring online/remotely. 

While policies might not prevent remote sexual harassment, they provide a solid ground to enforce the policies and put an end to the behavior.

If you liked this post, please subscribe to our blog. You can opt out at any time. To learn more about FocusHR and for updates, please like our Facebook page and follow us on LinkedIn.