Why Does Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Look Different During the Pandemic?

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic of 2020 has lasted into 2021 and caused many states and even entire nations to endure full lockdowns. That means many people who formerly communicated in person or over a company phone have been getting work done remotely. Remote work and remote communications have led to sexual harassment occurring remotely rather than in person. That has many employment lawyers reviewing complaints from clients that are significantly different than during non-pandemic years.

Apparent Rise in Virtual Sexual Harassment

With many more workers getting their jobs done from home instead of traveling to the workplace during the pandemic, the nature of sexual harassment likewise became more remote in nature. Just because it is called virtual does not mean that sexual harassment that occurs online or via other remote channels is not real. Recent studies affirm it very much is a problem, and job providers are just as responsible for doing their best to prevent it.

Women Endure Significant Online Sexual Harassment

A recent Pew Center study attempts to gauge the amount of harassment that occurs online, which respondents indicate is significant. The study did not occur during the pandemic and addresses all types of online harassment; it does show women are much more likely than men to experience and report online sexual harassment.

The Pew Center study shows 16 percent of women respondents said they suffered sexual harassment online versus five percent of men. Another 13 percent of women also said they were stalked online, against only nine percent of men reporting online stalking.

Age seems to be a significant factor in online sexual harassment, with younger women generally experiencing it more often than older women. A third of women under age 35 said they were sexually harassed online, whereas only 11 percent of men in the same age range reported online sexual harassment.

Informal and Work-Related Communications Cross Paths

Many people who are working at home are doing so at more irregular hours and using communications channels that are not necessarily work-provided channels. Conferencing programs, mobile messaging, and general remote communications might take a turn down the sexual harassment route if one or more participants dresses, acts, or speaks inappropriately.

The channels through which work communications are done often also are social media channels used by workers for personal matters. Blurring the lines between social communications and workplace communications makes it much more likely that one or more workers, knowingly or unwittingly, might say or do something online that triggers a sexual harassment complaint.

Workplace Sexual Harassment Liability Still Applies

Although the location and means of sexual harassment generally changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, job providers remain responsible for doing their best to provide a safe work environment. When that work environment becomes a remote one that includes people working from home and using social media channels to communicate, the safe workplace responsibility expands to the online world as well.

South Jersey Employment Lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC, Advocate for Workers Experiencing Sexual Harassment

If you or someone you know has experienced even remote workplace sexual harassment during the COVID-19 pandemic, skilled legal assistance could be the key to making things right again. The South Jersey employment lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC, are ready to help. We will discuss the situation with you and lay out your best legal options. Call us today at 856-235-7075 or contact us online for a free consultation. With office locations in Mount Laurel and Atlantic City, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients from Cherry Hill, Burlington County, Camden County, and throughout South Jersey.