Workplace harassment has long been a problem in California workplaces and workplaces across the nation. Much of that was often perceived as happening onsite, meaning if workers were in each other’s physical presence, those with a predisposition to commit harassment had greater opportunity to do so. There was a belief that if workers were doing their jobs remotely, the various forms of harassment would reduce proportionally.
Unfortunately, researchers have conducted surveys to assess this aspect of workplace culture and found that many continue to claim that they are being harassed even if they are working remotely. Just as distressed workers should know their rights when they are confronted with in-person harassment, they should also understand what steps are available with remote harassment.
Troubling statistics regarding remote worker harassment show its prevalence
The 2021 State of Workplace Harassment was recently released and showed worrisome statistics for what remote workers were experiencing. Thirty-eight percent of people who took part in the survey of around 800 participants stated that they were harassed even when working from home. This was done via email, on chat apps, in video conferences or on the telephone. Almost one-quarter said they felt that remote harassment was worse than what happens when in the physical presence of other people. A problematic part of this behavior is that there is less of an opportunity to inform employers because of the decline of open lines to communicate. The report says that around half of those who were harassed informed their employer or the appropriate department. More than 55% told their manager; more than 36% told HR; and more than one-third left the job outright.
Remote working is growing in popularity among workers and many employers. This came about largely because of the ongoing national health concern making it necessary to keep people safe. Increasingly, it is being found that worker productivity is the same or better when they are at home. It can also reduce costs. More than 36 million people across the United States are expected to work remotely within the next three years. None of this means that human resources should take a backseat when maintaining an orderly and law-abiding workplace with avenues available to workers who have complaints.
How employers can adapt to the changing landscape
Employers must set guidelines regarding all forms of harassment no matter where workers are located. That includes ensuring that workers understand how remote harassment can take place, what it is and why it will not be tolerated. Many victimized workers are uncertain as to what they should be telling the HR department. They may be under the impression that nothing of consequence will be done or that their own job status and chances for upward mobility can be jeopardized by complaining – particularly if it is a person who is overseeing them who is committing the harassment.
With this new landscape, professional assistance may be needed
The sad reality is that many people – whether they are owners, managers, colleagues or contractors – tend to misbehave on the job regardless of where they are. This is a continuing violation of employment law. People have the right to a harassment free workplace whether they are working at home, in an office or anywhere else. When there is this type of treatment occurring, it can be intimidating and fear-inducing with alleged victims unsure of what their options are.
This is especially true in relatively new terrain such as remote employment. Having advice with how to proceed is the first step toward putting a stop to the behavior and ensuring accountability for those who are acting inappropriately and illegally. Often, employers are not even aware as to what is taking place. Consulting with caring professionals who understand all perspectives can be vital to put a stop to harassment.