Cyber bullying and textual harassment is frequently considered an issue for adolescents whose access to technology risks exposure to sexual and other harassment experiences. But a recent government study shows that in the context of the workplace, textual harassment is on the rise for adults as well. The study suggests that 23% of all workplace harassment was done via text messaging, emails or over other forms of technology.
With advancements in technology and social media making contact with employees easier, it should not be a surprise that if a boss or co-worker is going to be inappropriate, that it will likely come in electronic form. What baffles the rational mind, however, is that these harassers do it and leave tangible evidence.
Normally, sexual harassment in the workplace is somewhat difficult to prove, coming down to a “he said, she said” scenario. But when there is a paper trail, a chain of emails or texts, the victim has courtroom gold.
One issue to be mindful of is that cell phone carriers do not always store text messages and if they do, they might not store them for more than a few days. So it is best for an employee to save any texts they find to be threatening or uncomfortable. Employment lawyers in Los Angeles can help to evaluate a case if you or someone you know has been targeted in the workplace.
Textual harassment in the workplace can be sexual in nature or not. California Penal Code Section 653m specifically prohibits contact via electronic device, intended to annoy, that contains obscene language or threatens any injury to the recipient or their family. Conviction under this code can carry a jail sentence or fines.
Typically however, harassment suits are tried in the civil arena. Commonly, textual harassment happens when an employee receives an inappropriate or sexually charged text from a co-worker. It can be as obvious as asking for sexual favors in return for a promotion or a simple request for a date. But like all workplace harassment cases, to hold an employer liable for the conduct of the employee, they must have known of the conduct and allowed for a hostile work environment. Employment lawyers in Los Angeles can help you to determine if your case meets the applicable standard.
Since new social media outlets and texting capability are changing the face of harassment, so too are ways in which companies are structuring policies to address it. And some efforts to combat textual harassment go too far. Overly broad social media policies are illegal, according to the National Labor Relations Board, if they interfere with the workers’ rights to unionize, organize, and bargain collectively.
Whether or not your employer restricts use of social media sites during work hours, it is likely that your boss and co-workers have ready access to your cell phone number. When in doubt, save your texts.
For further information on textual harassment, contact employment lawyers in Los Angeles.