With the rise of remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual sexual harassment via electronic communications has become a significant concern for professional workplaces. As more employees rely on communication tools like social media and teamwork tools like Slack to stay connected with their colleagues, the risk of virtual sexual harassment has increased. At Ricotta and Marks, we are committed to promoting a safe and inclusive workplace for all employees, and we are here to help victims of sexual harassment pursue justice and hold their employers accountable.
Virtual sexual harassment involves sending sexually suggestive or explicit messages, images, or videos via email, text messaging, instant messaging, or social media. This type of harassment can create a hostile work environment for employees who may feel uncomfortable or unsafe in the presence of such material. Virtual sexual harassment can also include behaviors such as making sexual comments, sharing inappropriate memes or gifs, or using sexually suggestive emojis.
It is important to note that virtual sexual harassment is illegal under both New York State and New York City laws. Specifically, New York State’s Human Rights Law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace, including via electronic communications, and provides legal remedies for victims of harassment. Similarly, New York City’s Commission on Human Rights has issued guidelines specifically addressing harassment via electronic communications.
Managing remote work can present unique challenges in preventing virtual sexual harassment. With employees working from home or other remote locations, it can be more difficult for employers to monitor and address potential harassment. However, there are steps that employers should take to prevent virtual sexual harassment, including:
- Adopting a clear anti-harassment policy that prohibits sexual harassment via electronic communications.
- Providing regular training to employees on recognizing and reporting sexual harassment via electronic communications.
- Encouraging employees to report any instances of sexual harassment and taking prompt and effective action to investigate and address such reports.
- Monitoring employee use of communication tools to identify and prevent potential harassment.
Employers have a legal obligation to provide a safe and inclusive workplace for all employees, regardless of whether they are working in a traditional office or remotely. By taking proactive steps to prevent sexual harassment, employers can help ensure their employees feel safe and respected.
If you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, you may have legal options available to you. Contact the experienced employment attorneys at Ricotta and Marks to discuss your situation and learn more about your rights under New York State and New York City law. We are committed to helping victims of sexual harassment pursue justice and hold their employers accountable.