If you are a business owner, employee concerns may take up a great deal of your time. One employee issue that has made many headlines in the past several years is sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is a type of employment discrimination protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If an employee reports sexual harassment and an employer does not properly address the problem, the employer can be liable for damages to the employee and may subject to other negative consequences. Now that more and more people are working from home, it may seem as if sexual harassment is a non-issue. However, online and digital sexual harassment is still against law and should be taken just as seriously as in-person harassment.
Types of Sexual Harassment Recognized Under Federal Law
According to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, the two main categories of sexual harassment are quid pro quo sexual harassment and hostile work environment sexual harassment. Quid pro quo is a Latin term meaning “this for that.” This type of harassment involves a person in a position of power such as a supervisor, boss, or manager attempting to trade work benefits for sexual contact with someone in a subordinate position.
Hostile work environment harassment involves derogatory, sex-related or gender-related remarks and actions. Some examples of behaviors that could contribute to hostile work environment sexual harassment include but are not limited to:
- Discussing an employee’s sex life
- Commenting about an employee’s physical appearance
- Making offensive jokes about a person’s sexual orientation or body
- Displaying or sending sexually suggestive pictures to employees
- Using demeaning terms to refer to a certain person or gender
- Making obscene gestures toward an employee
Employees Should Maintain Professionalism Regardless of Stay-At-Home Changes
Now that many employees are working from home, it is especially important for employees and employers alike to maintain professional boundaries. Staff who are remotely working may be exchanging personal cell phone numbers with each other, communicating after normal work hours, or incorporating other changes that have the potential to break down these boundaries.
Some employees may take this opportunity to have more phone conversations, text messages, or email conversations that are personal in nature and not related to work. If these conversations are sexual or demeaning in nature, they may still constitute sexual harassment even though the conversations are digital. For example, an employee might ask another employee what he or she is wearing while on a phone call. Jokes about working from home “in pajamas” or “with no pants on” may seem harmless, but they have the potential to contribute to a hostile work environment. Employers who do not take steps to prevent and properly address sexual harassment may face a discrimination lawsuit.
Get the Help You Need
If you want to learn more about your responsibility to prevent and address sexual harassment, or an employee has brought a discrimination claim against your company, call The Gierach Law Firm for help. Schedule a confidential consultation with one of our seasoned Hoffman Estates business lawyers by calling us at 630-756-1160 today.
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