California workers are very familiar with the rules around sexual harassment in any given workplace. As more workplaces switch to a virtual environment though, the rules may become a little blurry.
In a virtual meeting space such as Zoom or Google Meet, there is less oversight and more privacy than there would be in a physical meeting room. This can embolden some people to make inappropriate comments to their coworkers and think it’s fine – because no one’s around to hear it.
What’s considered sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is any form of unwelcome sexual or romantic advances. At its worst, sexual harassment looks like someone leveraging their position of power in order to get sexual favors or putting hands on another coworker without their permission.
However, the most common cases of sexual harassment don’t reach that extreme. Instead, sexual harassment comes in the form of verbal comments over Zoom, text messages in Slack, or crude jokes made to other coworkers.
Since Zoom meetings and Slack conversations are considered to be more private than an open office space, sexual harassment still happens in the virtual workplace. Even worse, it can be harder for someone who’s being sexually harassed to prove.
How do you battle sexual harassment in a virtual workplace?
Making sure that everyone is able to easily report sexual harassment when it happens is essential. Sending out emails about HR, clarifying a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment, and giving employees multiple ways to report sexual harassment can be helpful.
If someone is dealing with sexual harassment virtually, it can feel silly to report it. But the behavior is still happening and absolutely unwelcome, so it’s important to report it and do whatever is necessary to create a safe working environment.