Last updated on July 12th, 2022
The shift toward remote work that dramatically accelerated in 2020 offered many benefits. Eliminating commutes and travel expenses, reduced child care expenses, and reduced dry cleaning budgets are just a few examples. Some employees might have anticipated another benefit: an end to sexual harassment.
Unfortunately, it appears that sexual harassers and other workplace bullies and abusers have found ways to adapt. In a few situations, the remote work set-up may even be making harassment easier.
38% of respondents to one 2021 survey said they’d still experienced workplace harassment while working remotely. This harassment took place across a variety of channels, including email, video conferencing, chat apps and telephone.
In response to another survey conducted about the same time by Project Include, 26% of workers said they’d seen an increase in gender-based harassment after the shift to remote work. Notably, 40% of women, gender-queer, and non-binary workers said they’d experienced increased harassment. All groups also reported a perceived increase in race/ethnicity-based hostility.
Some examples include:
These are just a few examples of the type of harassment that may occur in a remote work environment. The general rule is simple, though: if it would have been unacceptable to walk over and show someone a picture in the office, it’s almost certainly not okay to send it to a co-worker in chat. The same applies to sexual advances, off-color comments, denigrating women, and other behaviors.
Experts have offered several possible explanations for this increase in sexual harassment and other forms of harassment, including:
Whatever the reason, sexual harassment and other types of workplace harassment are no more acceptable in a remote setting than they are in the office. Some might assume that this behavior is less harmful remotely, since there’s no physical presence. But, sexual harassment is sexual harassment. For some, this type of harassment may be even more stressful, since it’s spilling into the victim’s home.
In some cases, employers simply haven’t caught up to remote working and the differing challenges it presents. Even those with clear sexual harassment policies and reporting procecures may have failed to take simple steps like explicitly notifying employees that the standards remain in effect while they’re working from home, or provided a clear process for reporting when working remotely.
If your employer hasn’t done these things or isn’t responding appropriately to sexual harassment reports, it’s important that you know your rights and how to assert them.
In most situations, you’ll need to report sexual harassment to your manager or to your company’s human resources department or other designated person. A company generally isn’t liable for harassment if management was unaware of the problem and couldn’t have been reasonably expected to know about it.
If you’ve been the victim of sexual harassment–remote or otherwise–begin by documenting as much as possible. Create a list that includes information such as:
Once you have your thoughts and documentation organized, follow your company’s procedure for reporting. This information should be available in your employee handbook or other employee resources, such as a company Wiki. If you can’t find the information you need about how and to whom you should report sexual harassment, talk to your immediate supervisor or your human resources department.
If your immediate supervisor is the person harassing you or is part of the problem (such as having witnessed harassment and let it slide, or dismissing your complaints), go further up the chain of command or to human resources.
Ideally, your employer will review your complaint, investigate, and take action to stop the harassment. But, that doesn’t always happen. Some employers don’t take sexual harassment seriously, or take only token disciplinary measures that don’t put an end to the harassment. In some situations, a mild or obligatory rebuke to the harasser can make things worse.
If you don’t get the help you need when you follow your company’s procedure for reporting harassment and requesting action, you still have options.
Ohio employees have two paths to seeking relief or compensation when they’re being sexually harassed at work or have been forced to leave a job due to the impact of sexual harassment.
If you’re planning to file a lawsuit based on violations of the state Fair Employment Practices Law, you must first file a complaint with the OCRC. This complaint must be filed within 180 days.
When you report violations of Ohio law to the OCRC, the agency will typically offer mediation services. If mediation fails, the OCRC will open an investigation and determine whether or not to pursue a complaint against your employer. If they decide not to pursue the claim, they’ll issue you a “right to sue” letter.
The EEOC process is similar to the OCRC process. The deadline for filing in most situations is also 180 days, and you must file a complaint with the EEOC and wait to see whether they intend to pursue a claim before you can file a federal lawsuit.
The 180-day cut-off for both the OCRC and the EEOC is much shorter than the typical statute of limitations for a lawsuit. If you’ve been harassed in the workplace, whether while working remotely or in the office, it’s in your best interest to get advice and guidance right away.
You can schedule a free consultation with one of the experienced Ohio sexual harassment lawyers at Dyer, Garofalo, Mann & Schultz, L.P.A. right now. Just call 937-222-2222 or fill out the contact form on this page to get started.
Keep up to Date with Our Newest Firm Updates
Private sector and federal employees file an estimated 4.9 million workers’ compensation claims annually in the U.S. for work-related injuries or illnesses. If you’ve become one of the individuals who […]
Many people are unfamiliar with the term “elimination period” regarding disability benefits. It’s an insurance term like “deductible” or “premium,” and an elimination period means a waiting period or qualifying […]
201 East 5th St.