With more people than ever working from home, instances of sexual harassment in the workplace have also increased. Sexual harassment is a serious issue that can cause long-lasting harm. It’s essential to understand your legal rights as a remote worker. Federal, state, and New York City human rights laws protect employees from sexual harassment in traditional and remote workspaces.
If you’re an employee in New York City and you’ve been subjected to sexual harassment while working remotely, you have a right to file a claim against your employer. Discussing your case with an experienced employment attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options. You may be entitled to compensation for the damages caused by workplace sexual harassment. Contact Lipsky Lowe LLP to schedule your free case evaluation.
How Does Online Workplace Sexual Harassment Occur?
Sexual harassment in a remote working environment can happen in many different ways. A worker may experience sexual harassment during work-related phone calls or Zoom meetings. Additionally, a worker could be subjected to unwanted sexually inappropriate text messages on Slack channels or other messaging services used by the employer. For example, if an employee’s manager asks him or her out on a date while on a Zoom call, this could constitute quid pro quo sexual harassment. Employers and co-workers may not request a sexual favor in return for a beneficial employment action such as a promotion or raise.
Conversely, a manager cannot threaten an employee with an adverse employment action if the employee refuses to engage in sexual activity with the manager. In other cases, employees can be subjected to a hostile work environment due to sexual harassment. When inappropriate sexual comments, gestures, and online activity is pervasive enough to make a reasonable person uncomfortable at work, unlawful sexual harassment may occur.
Examples of Sexual Harassment in the Remote Workplace
Any unwanted sexual conduct on a digital platform can constitute unlawful sexual harassment. In our online era, there are many ways in which an offender can stalk, harass, cyberbully, and threaten victims online. Some of the most common examples of sexual harassment in the remote workplace include the following:
- Inappropriate emails that are sexually suggestive or explicit
- Request or demands for sexual favors via messaging or email
- Sexual advances made online through video-conferencing or messaging
- Sending pornographic content or website links to a co-worker
- Inappropriate or crude sexual remarks or jokes
- Sexual bullying
- Online stalking
- Sexual gestures on video calls involving pantomiming sex acts
- Comments made online about a person’s sexual preferences and/or gender
- Unwanted sexualization
- Exposure of sexual organs via video chat
- Sending unwanted photos of sexual organs
- Sharing personal information related to someone’s sexual activity without his or her consent
- Discriminating against an employee because of his or her sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity
- Exploitation, threats, or coercion
The Negative Consequences of Online Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment may look somewhat different than harassment in a traditional workplace, but that doesn’t mean it’s less serious or impactful for victims. Sexual harassment can cause damage to a person’s reputation and lost wages. It can also cause emotional distress and medical expenses related to treating mental health challenges arising from sexual harassment, such as anxiety or depression.
Pursuing a legal claim against your employer for sexual harassment can help you recover compensation for all the costs associated with unlawful sexual harassment. If you had to take time off of work or were fired for making a sexual harassment claim against your employer, you could recover compensation for your lost income. Your employer may have to pay additional punitive damages. Speak to an experienced New York City employment attorney who can help you understand your case’s value.
Employers Have a Legal Obligation to Curb Sexual Harassment
According to the New York City Human Rights Law, sexual harassment is a form of gender-based discrimination that involves unwelcome sexual conduct that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. Sexual harassment also includes unwelcome sexual conduct used as a basis for hiring or other employment decisions, such as job assignments, raises, and promotions. The harasser can be a co-worker, supervisor, or someone who isn’t an employee, such as a customer or client. Claimants need to show that the sexual harassment is severe or has resulted in an adverse employment decision.
How to Protect Yourself You’ve Experienced Sexual Harassment in the Remote Workplace
Suppose you suspect that you have been subjected to sexual harassment or discrimination. In that case, it’s essential that you discuss your case with the attorney so you can understand your legal rights under state and federal law. Knowing what steps to take can help protect yourself from emotional trauma, expose the wrongdoer, and stand up for yourself and others experiencing the same problems while working remotely. Finally, you may be able to recover financial compensation for the troubles you’ve endured.
It’s crucial that you save evidence of sexual harassment. When sexual harassment occurs in the remote workplace, there is usually evidence of the harassment. Try to save emails, text messages, and other documentation proving that sexual harassment occurred. You should also take screenshots of any messages in case the offender tries to delete the message. If the offender has sent videos, save the videos and take screenshots of your receipt of the videos online. You should report the sexual harassment incident to your human resources department. Write down who you spoke to and how the representative responded to a complaint.
What Happens After Reporting Sexual Harassment?
Suppose the human resources department needs to address the issue satisfactorily. In that case, you can file an official complaint through the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), with New York State’s Division of Human Rights, or the NYC Commission on Human Rights. Under the New York City Human Rights Law, people who have experienced sexual harassment have up to 3 years to file gender-based harassment complaints in court.
Discuss Your Case with an NYC Employment Attorney
Remote employees have a right to work in a safe environment, free from sexual harassment. If you’ve experienced a hostile online work environment due to sexual harassment, it’s essential that you reach out to an attorney as soon as possible. Contact the experienced New York City employment attorneys at Lipsky Lowe LLP to schedule a free case evaluation and learn more about your rights.