The short answer to the question in the headline is: Yes. Employees can experience harassment, even when they are in their own homes. It can happen through virtual interactions like Zoom meetings.
Knowing what this type of misconduct can look like in the virtual environment and what you can do to address it can be crucial if you work remotely.
What virtual harassment might look like
Harassment online can entail some of the same behaviors as in-person harassment, like unwanted comments and inappropriate and unwelcome sexual advances. However, in the virtual environment, harassment can also involve:
- Sending explicit links or images
- Requiring certain workers to appear on camera
- Making requests or comments based on a person’s home environment (e.g., asking for virtual tours of a bedroom or requesting to see personal items)
- Indecent exposure
- Using chats, emails or calls to annoy, threaten or intimidate a person
Unfortunately, research suggests that these and other harassing actions are only becoming more common and creating more problems. Some statistics say that nearly 40 percent of people have experienced remote harassment.
There are many reasons we are seeing an increase in these behaviors, including the fact that people can be more offensive, aggressive, and casual in a virtual environment than in a physical workspace.
How to stop it
Whether you are an employee or an employer, you can take steps to prevent or stop remote harassment.
Consider recording all Zoom calls, saving voice messages and retaining copies of chats. In this regard, proving virtual harassment could be easier than proving someone did or said something in person.
If you experience harassment on Zoom calls or over chat, filing a complaint right away with your supervisor or Human Resources can be crucial. An official record of the behavior helps employers take action against the offender. It also helps employees who pursue legal action if an employer fails to remedy the situation appropriately.
Further, having clear harassment policies regarding online conduct is crucial in educating employees on what is and is not appropriate. Proper training of all workers is also a vital tool in protecting employee rights.
People often see remote work as a significant perk. If sexual harassment tarnishes this arrangement, employees have the right to protect themselves and their rights to a safe workplace.