Can You Sue In California For Sexual Harassment Committed Online?
Sexual harassment can make the work environment hostile for the harassed person, regardless of whether it takes place online or during a face-to-face interaction. With an ever-increasing number of companies using online technology to communicate with employees and manage workflow, risk of becoming a victim of online sexual harassment is also on the rise.
But can a worker in California sue for sexual harassment that took place online? Discuss your particular situation with a Los Angeles discrimination & harassment attorney at Obagi Law Group, P.C.
Is Online Sexual Harassment Illegal?
Yes, online sexual harassment can be just as pervasive as real-life harassment, which makes it illegal in California. While online sexual harassment does not involve a face-to-face confrontation between the harasser and harassed, it can still create a hostile work environment and result in the same damages as in-person harassment.
Online sexual harassment can take place in emails, chatrooms, messengers, forums, social media platforms, and other communications. As more companies are embracing messengers, emails, and other online communication tools, employees are more likely to become victims of sexual harassment online.
Types of Online Sexual Harassment
Broadly speaking, online sexual harassment can be broken down into these two categories:
- Direct harassment, which involves sending inappropriate content of a sexual nature to the target of harassment.
- Indirect harassment, which involves sending inappropriate content of a sexual nature about the target of harassment on the Internet (e.g., email, social media sites, etc.).
Speak with an attorney if you believe that you have been a victim of direct or indirect online sexual harassment at work.
What is Considered Sexual Harassment Online?
There are many different forms of online sexual harassment, including but not limited to:
- Making disparaging jokes or remarks online
- Online stalking (cyberstalking)
- Online sexual advances
- Sending inappropriate images or videos
- Sharing a private conversation with coworkers
In other words, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit for online sexual harassment if you have been subjected to unwelcome sexual advances and/or comments of a sexual nature, be it online or in person.
What to Do if I Become a Victim of Online Sexual Harassment
If you believe that you have been sexually harassed online at work, it is vital to act quickly before the harasser deletes any evidence of harassment. Take screenshots of the emails, messages, communications, or materials of a sexual nature that may constitute sexual harassment, and print them out.
Go to your company’s Human Resources (HR) department to complain about online sexual harassment — making sure that you submit your complaint in writing. If your employer fails to take appropriate measures to protect you against online sexual harassment — or does not conduct a comprehensive investigation — or if you face retaliation for filing a complaint, your next step may be to complain to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The EEOC will perform a thorough and independent investigation to determine whether or not you have been sexually harassed online. If the EEOC’s attempts to resolve your dispute are not successful, you may have an option to sue your employer for online sexual harassment.
Before filing a complaint or lawsuit, it is advisable to consult with an attorney to talk about your case. Schedule a case review with our sexual harassment lawyers at Obagi Law Group, P.C., to receive a consultation. Call 424-284-2401.