Like many people in New Mexico and across the country, you may currently be working from home. If you experienced sexual harassment at the office, you likely welcomed this change. You might have thought the physical distance from your harasser would curb their behavior. Yet, they may have found new ways to harass you, such as over Zoom calls or through messaging apps.
If your job has become untenable due to digital sexual harassment, know that you are not alone. But by knowing how to identify it and fight back against it, you can protect your career and preserve your well-being.
How sexual harassment can happen digitally
If you are working remotely, you are likely safe from experiencing physical forms of sexual harassment. For instance, your supervisor or a colleague might have touched you, pinched you or brushed against you repeatedly at the office. From the comfort of your own home, you will not have to contend with these behaviors.
Most other types of sexual harassment can happen digitally, though. If your harasser would tell inappropriate jokes, discuss sexual subjects or share explicit images or videos at the office, they may continue these behaviors through messaging apps or over email. And if they often made comments on your appearance or made sexual remarks about you – or other employees – they may use video calls to keep doing so.
Some female workers have also been asked to participate in video calls that are unnecessary or scheduled outside of work hours. These calls are often vehicles for inappropriate and unwelcome behavior, and harassers may use them to proposition or expose themselves to their victims.
Protecting yourself while working from home
Digital sexual harassment leaves more of a trail than in-person sexual harassment does. Some forms of it, though, are easier to document than others. To document inappropriate conversations, you can screenshot or download them and save them to your smartphone or computer. Yet, to record video calls, you may need to be the meeting’s host or receive the host’s permission – which could be difficult if they are your harasser. If the host denies you permission, you will want to take notes about any harassment that happened.
After gathering your evidence, you will want to report your harasser to your employer’s human resources department. No matter how strong your case is, it is possible your employer may fail to hold your harasser accountable or dismiss your report outright. It is also possible your employer could retaliate against you.
Regardless of the outcome, you will want to protect yourself from further sexual harassment. By consulting an attorney, you can determine the appropriate course of action for putting a stop to it.