In today’s high-tech work environment, sexual harassment frequently occurs in the form of emails, texts and voicemails instead of face-to-face contact. Electronic communications make offensive messages and sexual comments more private and easier to send to colleagues in the workplace.
Sexual harassment in the workplace does not always involve physical contact. Many workers complain about sexual messages they receive from co-workers. Email, networks and wireless technologies have expanded work-related communication, but have also increased anonymous sexual harassment in the workplace.
What Constitutes Sexual Harassment?
Victims of workplace sexual harassment often endure sexual advances or messages because they aren’t sure what constitutes sexual harassment. They are also afraid that asserting their rights will cause a problem at work. Many people put up with demeaning or threatening behavior at work, even though it affects their work performance, their health, and areas of their personal life. A sexual harassment lawyer often sees workers who are victims of unwanted sexual advances, sexual jokes, explicit language, pornographic images, and stalking behavior in the workplace. Common forms of electronic sexual harassment at work include:
- Email and instant messaging (IM)
- Voicemail messages and phone calls
- Text messages to cellphones
- Pornographic or nude images sent by computer
- Computer printouts with sexual messages
- Postings on Facebook and other social media sites
Reporting Workplace Sexual Harassment
Many victims of sexual harassment in the workplace don’t report it for fear of retaliation that may result in job loss, lack of promotions, social isolation and embarrassment. Most employees fear that filing a sexual harassment claim with a sexual harassment lawyer or complaining about a co-worker, supervisor or manager can cause serious problems at work. Many victims of workplace sexual harassment put up with it for months, even years, before they finally speak out.
To prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, employers are urged to take necessary precautions that may include sexual harassment training, establishing rules and regulations, providing an effective complaint process, and taking appropriate and immediate action on all complaints.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as a form of sex discrimination. When investigating allegations of sexual harassment, the EEOC evaluates the nature of sexual conduct on a case-by-case basis. Under the Civil Rights Act, it’s unlawful to retaliate against an individual who opposes employment practices, files a sexual harassment claim through a sexual harassment lawyer, or participates in an investigation.