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When sexual harassment goes digital

Category: Hostile Work Environment, Sexual Harassment

We often discuss what sexual harassment can look like in the workplace on this blog. You may already realize that inappropriate touching, comments, gestures or treatment can be grounds for a harassment claim. However, misconduct of this nature is not confined to the physical space around a worker.

Online exchanges and digital materials can prove to be just as harmful and disruptive as physical interactions when it comes to sexual harassment. Modern workplaces rely heavily on Internet access, emails and social networking, and workers who engage in harassing behavior in these environments could be just as guilty of violating an employee’s rights as a person who does it face-to-face.

Cyber harassment can manifest itself in many different ways, but it generally involves one of two major actions: sharing and sending.

Harassment that involves sharing could include actions like:

  • Posting an inappropriate picture of a victim online
  • Publishing private conversations in an attempt to hurt the victim
  • Distributing a victim’s personal contact information for sexually inappropriate or offensive reasons

Harassment that involves sending materials could include:

  • Emailing or messaging a victim with sexually inappropriate requests
  • Uploading offensive images to a victim’s computer, email or social networking profile
  • Engaging in cyber bullying or making threats to a sexual harassment victim

These are a just a few examples of behaviors that could be considered sexual harassment. If you have been the target of these or other malicious and inappropriate acts, you may have grounds to file a legal claim.

There are some unique challenges that victims of digital or online harassment face that others may not. For example, emails can be deleted; chat windows can be closed; web cameras may not record interactions. And the lines between personal and professional use of certain online resources can be quite blurry. All this can make it difficult — though certainly not impossible — to prove harassment.

In order to protect yourself and defend your rights as an employee, you may want to speak with an attorney to explore your options for filing a lawsuit. Not only can this hold an alleged harasser responsible for his or her actions, but it can also result in compensation for damages you have suffered as a victim.

Source:, “Understanding Online Sexual Harassment,” accessed on Oct. 1, 2014

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