The coronavirus pandemic has brought about many changes to the workforce. Since the beginning of 2020, more employers than ever have allowed their employees to work from home. Approximately one in four Americans, or over 26% of the workforce worked remotely through 2021. By 2025, 22% of the workforce will likely work from home. Currently, technology allows employees to continue working from home. Employees rely heavily on emails, video meetings, and text messages to keep each other informed. What happens when a co-worker uses inappropriate text messages or emails? Can this type of behavior rise to the level of sexual harassment?
Text Messages and Emails Can be Used as Evidence of Sexual Harassment
A text message or email can be used as solid evidence that unlawful sexual harassment in the workplace has occurred. Sexual harassment in the workplace does not need to be a face-to-face interaction, such as verbal offers to perform a sex act in exchange for a promotion or inappropriate touching. Even though text messages may be viewed as fleeting, employees can still use text messages to hold co-workers and employers accountable for sexual harassment or creating a hostile work environment. Examples of text messages that can constitute quid pro quo sexual harassment include the following:
- An employer texts an employee asking for a nude photo while threatening to fire the employee if she does not respond
- A co-worker continuously texts another co-worker to go out with him or her or engage in a sexual act. He threatens to make her life at work hell if she does not comply
- A supervisor texts an employee nude pictures of himself, threatening the employee with a negative outcome if she files a report on him
Text Messages Can Create a Hostile Work Environment
Sexual harassment does not need to happen at an employee’s job site to create a hostile work environment. Regardless of the way in which an employee is sexually harassed, offensive, sexual, sexist, or derogatory comments can be used as evidence to file a sexual harassment claim with the equal employment opportunity commission (EEOC). All of the following types of messages can create a hostile work environment:
- Social media postings
- Messages through social media
- Text messages
- Video messages
- Computer printouts
Employees should never be afraid to check their emails, answer the phone, or turn on their computers. Electronic communication is becoming more common than face-to-face communication at work. Employers have a responsibility to ensure that their employees know that electronic communications can rise to the level of sexual harassment. Employers need to take advantage of technological progress while making it crystal clear that unwelcome sexual advances or sexual comments are unlawful.
When are Text Messages Considered Sexual Harassment?
For text messages to be considered sexual harassment, the content of the message and how a reasonable person would feel when reading it needs to be taken into account. The text message does not need to be threatening to be considered sexual harassment. It is usually enough if the message is abusive or spam-like. The following types of text messages can be considered sexual harassment:
- Threats of harm of violence
- Repeated or unwanted contact of a sexual nature
- Unwelcome sexually charged text messages
There is not an exact number of text messages you need to receive for the messages to create a hostile work environment. If the text messages are extremely egregious, one or two text messages could be enough to rise to the level of sexual harassment. If you have told the individual to stop contacting you and they continue to send these types of messages, it is wise that you reach out to an attorney as soon as possible.
What to Do if You Have Been the Victim of Sexual Harassment Through Text Messages
Being the recipient of sexual harassment can be stressful and devastating. If you have been receiving emails, text messages, social media messages, or video messages of a sexual nature from a co-worker or manager, you may be wondering what steps you should take. You may be concerned that the offender will be fired if you report the sexual harassment. One of the best steps you can take is to discuss your case with an attorney as soon as possible. You do not need to continue suffering through sexual harassment at work through electronic communication. You have a right to make the harassment stop.
Discuss Your Case With an Alabama Sexual Harassment Attorney
Continuing to work in a place that allows electronic sexual harassment can negatively affect your job performance, mental health, personal life, and emotional stability. The Alabama sexual harassment attorneys at Heninger Garrison Davis have helped many victims of sexual harassment stop the abuse and recover the compensation and remedies they deserve. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation and learn more about your rights.