Sexual Harassment and Remote Work
Navigating Remote Work: Addressing Sexual Harassment in the Virtual Workspace
Working remotely may seem like a safeguard against workplace harassment, but even in the age of remote work, individuals can find themselves subjected to actionable harassment. In the era of endless video conferences and virtual meetings, the lines between personal and professional space have blurred, sometimes leading to boundary issues.
Consider the situation where your only quiet meeting space is your bedroom. Suddenly, colleagues and supervisors are privy to an intimate part of your home, creating opportunities for discomfort. Inappropriate comments and innuendos, whether in person or through video, know no physical boundaries. Reports of lewd gestures, intrusive personal questions, and inappropriate humor have surfaced in virtual settings.
While there are steps you can take to maintain your boundaries and privacy, it's crucial to understand that your right to be free from sexual harassment remains intact in a remote work environment, just as it does in a physical workplace.
What to Do If You Are Being Harassed by Video
In the virtual realm, responding to harassment should follow the same principles as in a physical workplace. Report the behavior to a supervisor or Human Resources to ensure that management is aware of the situation. Your employer cannot retaliate against you for making a report, and they have a responsibility to address the issue once notified.
You don't need to use any special forms or magic words when reporting. A simple email or note detailing the behavior and expressing your discomfort can suffice. The owner or management should then initiate an investigation, which may involve discussing the matter with you to gather more details. Importantly, you should not be forced to confront the harasser directly.
Documentation can be particularly effective in virtual harassment cases. While recording conversations without consent is generally prohibited, you can capture visual evidence through screenshots. Keeping contemporaneous notes, whether on paper or digital platforms, can also be valuable in substantiating your claims.
Can You Quit the Job and Still Bring a Harassment Claim?
Leaving an intolerable work environment voluntarily does not necessarily bar you from seeking legal recourse. While resigning may affect your ability to recover lost wages, you can still pursue compensation for emotional distress caused by the harassment.
If the situation reaches a point where a "reasonable person" would find it impossible to continue working, you might have a claim for lost wages under the theory of constructive discharge. Consulting with an employment lawyer before resigning is advisable, as the standard for proving constructive discharge varies depending on the specific circumstances. Understanding your chances of establishing this claim can inform your decision-making process.
Need Help With a Sexual Harassment Problem?
Wondering if You Have a Claim for Sexual Harassment?
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How Our Employment Lawyers Can Help
Our experienced legal team is here to provide guidance and support if you've encountered sexual harassment in a remote work setting. We can help you understand your rights, navigate the reporting process, and explore legal remedies. Don't hesitate to reach out for assistance. You can use the button below to schedule a call back from a member of our team, or give us a call at 781-784-2322.