Can Sexual Harassment Happen at a Remote Job?

home office workspace - harassment remote work concept

Sexual harassment is a serious issue in the workplace and employers have a duty to prevent it, regardless of whether employees work in an office space or remotely. Unfortunately, new forms of technology have enabled problematic workplace behavior. Even though working remotely often means that you do not have to physically interact with colleagues, there are still many ways sexual harassment can occur.

Importantly, no one should be made to feel uncomfortable in their place of work. If you were subjected to sexual harassment in a remote working environment, you may be able to file a legal action to recover the damages you were caused to suffer.

What is Remote Workplace Sexual Harassment?

While there is typically no physical contact in a remote workplace, sexual harassment can be carried out in a variety of ways, including text, e-mail, Zoom, messaging platforms, and other forms of virtual communication. For instance, it could take the form of inappropriate messages sent to you by email or offensive jokes sent by text. Notably, there are two types of sexual harassment that can occur remotely — hostile work environment and quid pro quo sexual harassment.

Similar to sexual harassment that takes place in-person, remote sexual harassment includes any unwelcome behaviors that are frequent or severe enough that they would constitute a hostile work environment to a reasonable person. A hostile work environment exists when the sexual harassment is so severe or pervasive that it interferes with an employee’s ability to perform their work. Quid pro quo sexual harassment translates to “something for something.” In other words, it means that a supervisor or person with authority made an offer in exchange for a sexual favor.

Sexual harassment in a remote working environment can consist of a wide variety of conduct, including the following:

  • Sending jokes or memes of a sexual nature through email or messaging platforms
  • Making sexually suggestive comments on a conference or video call
  • Sharing inappropriate photos
  • Making unwanted comments about a person’s physical appearance
  • Repeated unwelcome requests for dates

A perpetrator of remote work sexual harassment can be a supervisor, subordinate, coworker or anyone else in the workplace. It can also sometimes be committed by a third party, such as a client or independent contractor, depending on the circumstances of the case. Sexual harassment need not be committed by a person of the opposite sex — a person of either gender may subject a victim of either gender to this form of harassment.

What Can You Do If You’ve Experienced Sexual Harassment at a Remote Job?

If you’ve experienced sexual harassment in the remote workplace, you may be entitled to compensation. However, there are specific steps you must take before you can file a claim. You should first make it clear to the harasser that their conduct is unwelcome and tell them to stop. You must also document everything that happened and compile the necessary evidence that will help establish your claim.

There are many different types of evidence that can be used to help prove your sexual harassment case. Evidence that can help to build your case can include documentation of all offensive communications, screenshots of texts or messages, and emails that contain inappropriate content. You should also write down the dates, times, and details of every incident that took place — as well as gather the contact information for any witnesses who may have observed the occurrences. In addition, the company’s policy regarding sexual harassment can help to support your claim by demonstrating that the company failed to follow them.

No matter how difficult it is to remain in your employment if you’ve been the victim of sexual harassment, it’s important that you do not quit your job. Critically, the law requires you to provide your employer with notice about the problem and an opportunity to correct it. While there are many ways this can be demonstrated, it’s typically best to report the harassment to a manager or supervisor. In some cases, you might be able to assert constructive notice if the behavior was so obvious that everyone in the workplace knew about it.

An employer is prohibited from taking any retaliatory employment action against you for reporting sexual harassment in the remote workplace or filing a claim.

Contact an Experienced Ohio Employment Law Attorney

Establishing a claim for sexual harassment in the remote workplace can be complex and it’s vital to have a knowledgeable employment attorney on your side. Located in Westlake and providing representation to clients throughout Ohio, employment law attorney Chris Lalak is dedicated to fighting for the rights of employees who have experienced remote workplace sexual harassment and strives to secure the best possible outcome for each of his clients. Contact Lalak LLC today to schedule a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation and learn how we can help.