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Can sexual harassment take place over Zoom calls?

Employees have the right to expect their workplaces to be free from inappropriate treatment from other co-workers. With many now working remotely in California, co-workers are often interacting on Zoom and other chat platforms. Because of a recent lewd incident involving a CNN correspondent on a Zoom call with his co-workers, sexual harassment in virtual settings is a popular topic of conversation right now.

Sexual harassment involves any type of unwanted sexual contact, comments, aggression and more. With more people engaging in virtual workplace settings, many wonder if it counts as harassment if it takes place online. Most people would agree that, yes, harassment can take place online, but what can employers do? Is it a fireable offense if it is accidental? Employers have to rethink their standards on behavior and employee interactions.

The correspondent issued an apology, stating that he did not know he was not muted and on video. Even though these are unprecedented times, it is still reasonable to expect employees to behave professionally in any type of work-related interaction. California employers may have to handle these types of online incidents just as they would if they took place in person or in the office.

Sexual harassment is unacceptable regardless of where it takes place. Whether it’s on a Zoom call, in an email or in person, employees should be accountable for their actions. If an individual in California believes that what he or she experienced could be seen as harassment, it could also count as a valid reason to move forward with a civil claim. An assessment of the case will reveal what legal options are available.

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