Remote work has become incredibly common. Since spring, millions of Americans have begun to work from home in lieu traveling to their office. Working from home has numerous benefits: it is efficient, reduces distractions, saves gasoline and allows flexibility.
Unfortunately, working from home does not necessarily protect workers from negative incidents such as sexual harassment. Since the beginning of the year, reports of sexual harassment have actually increased—and part of this is due to the work-from-home trend.
A growing global problem
An investigation from Australia found that sexual harassment, contrary to popular thought, does not necessarily decrease when employees work from home. Claims of harassment have gone up since June, revealing the vast extent of the globe’s sexual harassment problem.
Though remote work would seem not to be conducive to sexual harassment, it can in fact provide many opportunities for this abuse. One hypothesis is that abusers feel emboldened by the physical distance to harass their subordinates or colleagues. Another hypothesis is that the remote environment empowers workers to file harassment complaints without fear of physical retribution.
Common examples, plus what to do
Employees may have a difficult time recognizing remote harassment, especially if they are new to working from home. Some examples of remote sexual harassment include:
- Sending romantic or sexually explicit emails
- Sending of pornographic material, nude photos or other inappropriate material
- Appearing nude or partially clothed on Zoom, Skype or other platforms
- Making sexual jokes on virtual communication platforms
This behavior, even if it does not happen in person, is still against the law. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) forbids discrimination based on gender and sexual harassment falls under this category. Victims have legal options for pursuing the right to a harassment-free workplace, even if they are working from home.