Remote Workplaces: Not Cybersexual Harassment Haven

Remote Workplaces: Not Cybersexual Harassment Haven

May 12, 2020 | Personal Injury

According to a recent survey, almost half of women and nearly a quarter of men have been victims of cybersexual harassment.

Overall harassment figures were at 81 percent for women and 43 percent for men.

These numbers are much higher than the figures from previous surveys.

Anita Raj, director of the Center on Gender Equity and Health at the University of California, San Diego, says that’s because this survey had a much larger sample size and defined “sexual harassment” in broad, real-world terms.

Additionally, respondents reported a wide range of sexual harassment responses, from anxiety and depression to changes in their living arrangements or everyday schedule.

Only 10 percent of women, and 5 percent of men, said they reported the sexual harassment to a government authority.

Cybersexual Harassment: A Closer Look

Most cybersexual harassment is anonymous trolling.

Since abusers hide behind online usernames, they feel they can get away with using abusive language or inappropriate online behavior.

In a few cases, such behavior goes the extra mile.

Abusers sometimes hack into the victim’s computer, installing malware or remotely taking control of webcams and other recording devices.

Workplace cybersexual harassment is usually unwanted sexual attention in the form of unsolicited comments and email.

This chatter usually involves the victim’s sex organs, alleged sexual activities, or the use of sexually-charged memes and images.

If left unchecked, unwanted sexual attention usually evolves into sexual coercion.

Online sexual assault has basically the same impact on victims as offline sexual assault.

Specific effects include career advancement, economic stability, physical safety, mental health, and participation in public life

Hostile Environment

In live workplaces, hostile environment complaints are among the most common sexual harassment complaints.

Not every course joke or inappropriate wallpaper display constitutes a hostile environment.

But if the atmosphere is so toxic that victims cannot perform their job duties or they must avoid certain workplace locations, a hostile environment complaint might be in order.

You have the right to a harassment-free workplace in New York and elsewhere.

That includes the right to a sexually-neutral environment.

Quid Pro Quo

People can ask for sexual favors either live or over the internet, so this kind of workplace sexual harassment continues unabated.

If anything, the quid pro quo might be even more common, because there are fewer witnesses when people are working at home.

It is always illegal to condition any preferential treatment, such as an upgraded monitor, on any sexual favor, such as an offer to send lunch over along with the new monitor.

Retaliation

The largest category of sexual harassment matters the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission pursues has nothing to do with sexual harassment itself.

Instead, retaliation has to do with the employer’s reaction to a sexual harassment situation.

Common protected activities in this area include encouraging another person to file a complaint, serving as a witness in an ongoing investigation, filing a complaint, or speaking out against harassment at work or as part of an advocacy group.

Common retaliation tactics include:

  • Sidelining,
  • Loss of professional development opportunities,
  • Reassignment to a less-favorable shift or area,
  • Demotion,
  • Termination, and
  • Loss of decision-making or other authority.

Typically, attorneys need only establish a temporal connection between the protected activity and the retaliation (e.g. filing a complaint in February and a demotion in March).

Your Response

If you were a victim of cybersexual harassment or any other form of workplace harassment, the EEOC usually has initial jurisdiction over your claim.

However, the EEOC is a rather small watchdog agency.

So, its lawyers typically only accept cases that are rather straightforward and involve large damages and/or a large number of workers. Additionally, the claim must line up with the EEOC’s political agenda at that particular time.

So, this agency only follows up on a few of the cases it receives.

If the agency sends you a right-to-sue letter and says it cannot help, that does not mean your claim is weak or meritless.

That just means it did not line up with the aforementioned criterion.

Damages in a sexual harassment claim usually include back pay and a reasonable amount of front pay if reinstatement is not appropriate.

Many claimants can also receive compensation for their pain and suffering and other non-economic damages.

Workplace cybersexual harassment is real.

For a free, confidential consultation with an experienced civil litigation attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC.

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