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Does Sexual Harassment Still Exist in the Remote Workplace?

Does Sexual Harassment Still Exist in the Remote Workplace?

Posted on 09/07/20 By Lorman Team

Does sexual harassment still exist within organizations whose employees are entirely remote? The short answer: yes. 

Sexual harassment can absolutely still happen when people are working remotely. All of the same issues that can happen in the office can happen with remote workers, and while in some cases of peer harassment the victim can log off and walk away, this is not always an option. 

Workplace biases, implicit or not, are omnipresent in corporate America. These biases often take form in harassment and aggression from one employee to another and can infiltrate company culture — even with a remote workforce. 

close up of man's hand checking office communication app Slack

What are the 3 Types of Sexual Harassment?

There are three basic types of sexual harassment, and all types can make employees feel unsafe, humiliated, and abandoned by their peers. 

The three types of sexual harassment are:

  1. Physical sexual harassment. This is what most likely comes to mind when people think about harassment. Unwanted touching, such as putting your arms around somebody, putting a hand on a coworker's butt, or even blocking doorways. Obviously, physical harassment can only happen when people are in the same place, but the downside is that many believe that since physical harassment isn't possible, that means sexual harassment can't happen at all.

  2. Verbal sexual harassment. Verbal sexual harassment includes disrespectful insults or slurs, inappropriate nicknames, or flirtatious or romantic gestures. This might include subtle overtures as well as blatant ones. This kind of behavior can happen in video conferences or on phone calls, but also in emails, chats, and texts.

  3. Visual sexual harassment. Visual sexual harassment can take the form of exposing one's body, but it also covers offensive or insulting cartoons and drawings and offensive videos or pictures. Sending another employee nude photos would absolutely constitute as visual sexual harassment, and this form is particularly pervasive online. Lewd gestures are also covered under this, but the biggest concern for remote work is offensive imagery or videos.

Therefore, digital sexual harassment can include harassment in two of the three forms mentioned above. Sexual harassment in a remote workforce is likely to include inappropriate comments, jokes, pictures, commenting on a co-worker's appearance, stalking on social media, and other aggressions. 

How to Prevent Sexual Harassment in the Remote Workplace

Despite the different format, the key to preventing sexual harassment remains the same: training.

Both crisis management and sexual harassment training are vital to ensure that the remote workplace atmosphere and culture are civil, welcoming, and free of hostility and toxicity.

Just as when working in the office, you need to have solid processes to report incidents. However, you may need to provide additional training as some older workers may not be familiar with more recent techniques of digital harassment.

It's crucial that employees understand what kinds of interactions constitute (or can lead to) harassment, especially those that are not happening where a supervisor or manager can see them. Even for digital natives, a refresher can help, and younger employees need to clearly understand that they are covered and protected if they report behavior, even when it comes from a supervisor. Regular and relevant harassment training for employees is vital for a harmonious work culture. 

Managers must approach the issue from a point of empathy, but also to ensure that a civil work environment is developed in which mutual respect is the rule. It's important for managers and supervisors to model good behavior and demonstrate that toxic behavior is unacceptable.

man and woman sitting on couch talking in an open office space

Sexual Harassment Online Training Courses

Effective sexual harassment training can be hard to find, but it is important to ensure productivity, promote civility, and avoid lawsuits. Anti-harassment training must be provided so employees understand what is and is not tolerated in the workplace. 

Sexual harassment comes in different forms, and is even present among remote workers. Lorman provides sexual harassment and discrimination training online to help organizations keep their workplaces safe for all workers:

Is your company looking to provide the best online training to prevent workplace harassment? Contact Lorman to learn more about our comprehensive Learning Library and custom course options. 

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