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Workplace Sexual Harassment and Social Media

Sexual harassment via the internet is widespread and well-known. While most of the attention seems to be focused on teens and bullying, workplace sexual harassment often extends to the cyberworld as well. And in fact, The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) addressed this issue in its June 2016 report on workplace harassment. The EEOC encourages employers to include social media anti-harassment policies when establishing and drafting workplace policy guidelines.

Company Platforms

Social media is prevalent throughout our public and private lives. For businesses, a social media presence is essential. But corporate accounts can easily open workers up to online sexual harassment. Your company's social media account may be viewed as an extension of the business. If a co-worker is making inappropriate comments to or about you on these platforms, this may rise to the level of workplace harassment.

A recent California lawsuit spotlights this potential issue. In this case, the alleged harassment was levied against a job applicant. Like many businesses, this financial industry company uses LinkedIn accounts as a recruitment tool. The plaintiff, identified only as Jane Doe, claims that the company's representative started sending her inappropriate messages of a sexual nature from his corporate account. He even included a photo of his genitals.

The question now is whether the law will indeed view a social medium platform as an extension of a company's workplace. But with the quickly expanding digital world, this is an issue that must be addressed soon.

Misusing Social Media

You may also experience sexual harassment on your own personal social media accounts if your employer, manager or supervisor follows you or friends you on one of these platforms. If any of these individuals posts lewd pictures, or makes uncomfortable comments or sexual overtures via these accounts, you may have a viable claim. The offense is even more evident if they infer that your job will be affected if you don't respond or comply.

While still a gray area, these types of actions may open your employer up to a sexual harassment claim. If you are experiencing these kinds of unwelcome communications, it's important that you report them to your HR department right away. This puts your employer on notice that they need to take some type of appropriate action.

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