Sexual Harassment and Work From Home

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect people around the globe, a large percentage of workers are working remotely from home to social distance. Whether you are new to the work-from-home environment or have previously held a remote position, it is important to realize you have all the same rights as in-office workers. These include the right to be free from sexual harassment in the workplace.

California Sexual Harassment Laws

The definition of sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a type of discrimination based on a person’s sex that involves unwanted sexual advances, touching or requests for sexual favors. It can refer to both physical and verbal harassment, as well as written harassment in the form of emails or messages. To constitute sexual harassment, the act must be severe or pervasive enough to give the victim a hostile work environment or make it impossible to do his or her job. Quid pro quo harassment, a type of “this for that” sexual harassment that requests sexual favors in exchange for something else, is also against the law.

In California, the main sexual harassment law is the Fair Employment and Housing Act. Under this law, the definition of sexual harassment is unwanted physical, verbal or visual conduct of a sexual nature in the workplace. It can also describe unsolicited and unwelcome sexual advances at work. If an employee in California experiences any type of sexual harassment, he or she has the right to report the act to management, the police, and state health authorities.

Does Sexual Harassment Happen If Everyone Is Working Remotely?

Many employees picture physical contact when they imagine workplace sexual harassment, such as the squeezing of a shoulder or an inappropriate hug. While these are forms of sexual harassment, physical touch is not the only version of this crime that could pervade a workplace. It is possible for sexual harassment to take place while all employees are working remotely. Even if you are working alone, without any supervisors or coworkers in the same room as you, you could be the victim of workplace sexual harassment. It may simply take the form of verbal or visual harassment rather than physical.

WFH and Common Types of Sexual Harassment

Unfortunately, working from home does not guarantee you won’t encounter some form of sexual harassment or discrimination in your typical workday. One or more perpetrators could still commit sexual harassment virtually, through the online tools you are using to do your job. Virtual sexual harassment in the remote work environment can be just as disturbing, distressing and harmful as sexual harassment in the physical workplace.

  • Sexual jokes made during Zoom or Skype meetings
  • Typed lewd or inappropriate comments
  • Sexual messages sent to you privately
  • Messages requesting sexual favors or broaching inappropriate topics
  • Sexually explicit images DMed or emailed to you
  • Links to sexual or inappropriate content sent to you
  • Virtual messages sent to some workers containing explicit photos of you
  • Online stalking or cyberbullying
  • Discrimination against you in the remote workplace due to your sex or gender

Sexual harassment while working from home can occur during the workday or after business hours. Either way, you could have a case for sexual harassment against the perpetrator. Online and virtual sexual harassment is no less real than in-person sexual harassment.

What to Do About Sexual Harassment When You Work From Home

One of the advantages of work-from-home sexual harassment compared to in-person harassment is that you are more likely to have a digital record of the incident. Take screenshots of the sexual harassment immediately, such as the inappropriate message or photograph. Carefully document the incident through screenshots, printed copies and a written description of what happened. Report the incident to your manager or boss. If the company fails to resolve the issue, contact a Los Angeles sexual harassment attorney for further assistance. A lawyer can help you understand and defend your rights as a work-from-home employee.