Can Remote Workers Experience Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment?
Remote and work-from-home jobs are more popular than ever. Many employees are still working from home due to COVID-19, while other employees are continuing with remote work even after stay-at-home orders have terminated because it allows for greater flexibility. Unfortunately, working from home does not completely eliminate the risk of sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination. If you are a remote or work-from-home employee, it is important to understand your right to be free from sexual harassment and what to do if that right has been violated.
Understanding the Law Regarding Hostile Work Environment Harassment
The two types of sexual harassment specifically prohibited by federal law include “quid pro quo” harassment and “hostile work environment” harassment. Quid pro quo refers to a superior using his or her authority in an attempt to gain some type of romantic or sexual benefit. Hostile work environment harassment occurs when an employee’s job is interfered with due to inappropriate or demeaning sexual or gender-based comments or behavior.
A solitary inappropriate remark does not typically fall under the category of hostile work environment harassment. In order to constitute sexual harassment per federal law, offenses must be “severe” or “pervasive.” Sexual assault would be an example of a severe offense that only needs to occur once to violate sexual harassment laws. Offensive comments or jokes become sexual harassment when they are repeated day after day to a point that they interfere with work. Even if you are not sure that offensive behavior counts as sexual harassment, it is important to report the situation to the designated supervisor or manager.
Harassment Can Occur Online or Via Other Electronic Communication
Hostile work environment harassment can occur even when the work environment is an internet platform or phone call. Online sexual harassment often looks the same as in-person harassment: The perpetrator does or says things that degrade the quality of the workplace and make it difficult for the victim to complete work tasks. Some examples of online or remote sexual harassment include:
- Texting an employee to ask him or her out after he or she has declined several times
- Sending sexually explicit photographs via instant messaging
- Repeatedly making sexual or offensive remarks about an employee during a conference call
- Displaying pornographic material via a video chatting service like Zoom
- Constantly making jokes online about employees of a certain gender
Contact a Wheaton Sexual Harassment Lawyer
Employees have a right to be free of sexual harassment. If you have been the victim of sexual harassment or employer retaliation, contact a DuPage County sexual harassment attorney at Mirabella, Kincaid, Frederick & Mirabella, LLC for help. Call us at 630-665-7300 for a confidential consultation.