What Does Work From Home Harassment Look Like During COVID-19?
Never before have we faced circumstances that require us to work from home for such a long period of time. However, with the vaccine on the horizon, millions of U.S. individuals in the labor force will be receiving their COVID-19 vaccine. Even though businesses will slowly open back up, it’s very likely that we will see businesses adopt work from home employment into their regular business functioning. Even though working from home seems like a 180 degree switch from working in an in-person environment, working from home can still leave employees vulnerable to drawbacks like harassment. Despite the fact that harassment looks different when we work from home, work from home harassment still exists and many employees are experiencing hostile work environments as a result of harassment. Below, we outline many of the warning signs or experiences of harassment you might be facing in your work from home employment environment. At Bibiyan Law Group, we are committed to advocating for you and seeking the justice you deserve. If you work from home and believe you are experiencing harassment, read below to learn more about what harassment looks like during these unique circumstances and what options you have to protect yourself.
What Are Examples of Work From Home Harassment?
Because of the nature of working from home, harassment in this work environment is much more likely to occur over Skype, email, Zoom, or on social media like Instagram or Facebook. However, these platforms are not the only place with potential for harassment and it can happen on any digital platform where people can communicate. Common examples of what online harassment can look like while you are working from home include but are not limited to:.
- Colleagues calling you names or using slurs in group chats, work forums, on social media, or through email
- Harassing an employee because of their race, religion, gender, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, etc.
- Stalking an employee on social media
- Sending sexual photos or messages to someone you work with
- Sharing inappropriate content about another employee (like messages, memes, or posts)
- Quid pro quo sexual harassment
- Creating a hostile work environment
Quid pro quo sexual harassment and a hostile work environment both fall under the umbrella of sexual harassment, and can still occur while you work from home. Quid pro quo sexual harassment is when someone with power over you (like a supervisor or employer) demands or asks for sexual favors in return for beneficial employment outcomes like a promotion or raise. A hostile work environment is when some you work with subjects you to unwanted sexual advances, repeated sexual requests, inappropriate touching, or makes offensive jokes. In a hostile work environment, these actions must be so pervasive that they impact your ability to perform the responsibilities of your job.
The harassment mentioned above, whether sexual harassment or any other form of harassment, can occur despite the fact that your work environment has changed. Your employers are legally obligated to protect you from any form of harassment in the workplace. If you are working from home and are experiencing harassment at the hands of a fellow employee or supervisor, it’s in your best interest to speak with an employment attorney who can advocate on your behalf.
What Laws Protect Me From Harassment In the Workplace?
Luckily, in the U.S. there are many state and federal laws that prohibit harassment in the workplace and protect victims of harassment. Some examples include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (which protects individuals from discrimination in the workplace), and The Fair Employment and Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in the work place and provides protection for a large group of people.
If you wish to file a harassment claim against your employer, you must go through the official process. In the case that you do file, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission might decide to investigate your claim.
If I File a Report For Online Harassment, Can I Be Fired?
In the case that you decide to report your experiences of harassment while you work from home, you should not fear retaliation from your employer. Your employer is legally prohibited from firing you or taking negative employment action against you because you filed a claim of harassment. As mentioned above, there are many state and federal laws that afford protection to whistleblowers or employees who have reported illegal practices. If you have filed a case of harassment and have experienced any negative employment outcomes, it’s possible that your employer has broken the law and you could be entitled to damages. If you are able to prove that your employer legally retaliated against you as a result of you filing a claim of workplace harassment, you could be entitled to the following damages:
- Money for mental distress
- Lost wages (both past and future)
- Out-of-pocket costs
- Litigation costs and lawyer fees
If You Work From Home and Are Experiencing Harassment, Speak With an Employment Attorney Today.
Understanding the signs of harassment in the workplace has become even more challenging during our unique circumstances and prolonged period of working from home. However, do not let this stop you from seeking justice for the harassment you have experienced. If you are unsure whether your experiences while working from home qualify as workplace harassment, the Bibiyan Law Group is committed to acting as a resource for you. If you are in fact experiencing harassment, your current or former employers should be held accountable for failing to protect you or retaliating against you. At Bibiyan Law Group, we know how emotional and frightening it can be to make the decision to file a claim of workplace harassment. We are dedicated to supporting you throughout the process and advocating for you when you most need it. If you work from home and believe you have been the victim of workplace harassment, please do not hesitate to contact us at (310) 438-5555 for a free consultation.