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Can sexual harassment occur via social media?

In this increasingly digitized world employers must take extra steps to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. This includes tamping down on harassment that takes place over social media, which is becoming more and more common among workers. HR.BLR.com offers the following advice in this case, which can help both employers as well as employees cut back on instances of harassment in the workplace.

Different Types of Online Harassment

Harassers can use many different technological avenues to forward offensive messages. Harassment via text is a common occurrence, as many workers exchange phone numbers for professional reasons. There is also virtual harassment, which includes instances on different types of social media. Offenses aren’t simply relegated to text either. In some cases explicit pictures may also be sent, which is referred to colloquially as sexting.

How It Can Be Prevented

An employer must take charge when it comes to stopping harassment online. The first step is to inform workers that harassment can take place on off hours and doesn’t only need to occur within the workplace. Additionally, management must take steps to include online harassment in human resource manuals, which typically include provisions related to harassment and discrimination. Workers should also be well-aware of how to report an incident should it occur. 

Outcome of Harassment Cases

While each instance is bound to be different, the truth is that most courts take online sexual harassment very seriously. In one case a disabled employee was awarded $1.6 million when an employer failed to stop harassing statements occurring on a blog that was created outside of work. In another example a claim brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was successful, which stemmed from explicit messages sent by a store manager to a worker. The employer settled with a supervisor for $2.3 million after he was fired in retaliation for reporting the incident.

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