Understanding harassment in a remote work setting

On Behalf of | May 30, 2024 | Employment Law

The rise of remote work transformed how colleagues collaborate and introduced new challenges; one significant concern is harassment. While physical threats may be absent, online communication platforms can become breeding grounds for inappropriate behavior.

Crossing virtual boundaries

Remote work harassment can take many forms. Sometimes, it can be subtle, and most of the times, it can be blatant and out in the open.

Inappropriate comments or jokes with sexual connotations, offensive or discriminatory language directed at someone’s race, religion or gender, or even constant criticism and micromanagement can all create a hostile work environment. Harassment can occur through various digital channels, including:

  • Video conferencing
  • Email
  • Instant messaging platforms
  • Shared work documents

Sending sexually suggestive images or repeatedly asking out a coworker online is also harassment. Harassment does not require a single, dramatic incident. Repeated, unwelcome behavior that makes someone uncomfortable, intimidated or demeaned is enough to constitute a problem.

Protecting yourself

Harassment in any form can be traumatizing. Whether it is your first time experiencing it or not, it is crucial for you to speak up.

  • Document everything: Save screenshots of inappropriate messages, emails or online comments.
  • Keep a record: Save a copy of dates, times and specific incidents.
  • Maintain clear communication: Never tolerate your harasser’s behavior. Let them know that their actions are unacceptable and must stop.

If the behavior persists, report the issue to your HR department or supervisor. Many companies have specific policies and procedures for handling harassment complaints.

Legal steps in case of retaliation

Many victims fear retaliation after filing harassment claims. It could come from the company or the harasser themselves. Remember that you have the right to a safe and respectful work environment, regardless of the location. If you experience retaliation, resources outside your company, such as anti-discrimination hotlines, government agencies or legal professionals, can support and guide you through this ordeal.