It’s been more than two years since the pandemic forced millions of Americans to work from home. Today, many, if not most, Bay Area workplaces are back open, but many employees are still working remotely. They discovered that they preferred the convenience of working from home and avoiding long, exhausting commutes. A lot of employers have become flexible with remote work policies, and it appears white-collar workforces spending part or all of the week at home will be the new normal going forward.
You would think that one consequence of the great migration away from communal office work would be the elimination of employee harassment. If you no longer share an office with someone whose inappropriate comments, “jokes” and other actions created a hostile work environment, the problem would seem to be solved.
Virtual harassment is real
But that ignores the reality that we are all still connected to our managers, supervisors and colleagues. Instant messages, online chats, and remote meeting apps like Zoom keep us in touch with our coworkers — and give harassers continued access to their victims. In fact, the privacy of home might embolden some harassers because there is no manager down the hall who might notice what they are doing.
As The New York Times notes, sexual harassment and harassment based on membership in a protected class is illegal, whether it happens face-to-face or remotely. If someone is harassing you, try to save the harassing emails, messages, voice mails and so on. The more evidence you have, the more pressure there will be on your employer to take action.
Protecting your rights against a hostile employer
However, your employer might choose not to stop the harassment. They might even retaliate against you for reporting it. To protect your legal rights, you might need to file a lawsuit.