What Business Owners Need to Know About Sexual Harassment and Remote Work
COVID-19 has forced many business owners to radically change the way that they run their companies. Many employees are now working from home on a part-time or full-time basis. Meetings are increasingly held via Skype, Zoom, and other video conferencing platforms. Employees may also perform much more of their work duties through phone calls and emails. While it seems that all of this social distancing would prevent sexual harassment at work, sexual harassment continues to be an issue for many workers. As a business owner, having a robust sexual harassment policy that includes information about working from home is key to preventing harassment or discrimination lawsuits.
Sexual Harassment May Take New Forms in the COVID-19 Era
Working from home does not eliminate the possibility of workplace sexual harassment. In fact, many believe that working from home may actually increase the chances of a hostile workplace. Employees may act differently when communicating through email or instant messaging services instead of in-person. People often say things online that they would not say during a face-to-face interaction. Furthermore, having a colleague’s personal cell phone number or seeing into their home via a video call can create a sense of familiarity that may encourage inappropriate comments or jokes. Some employees may even go so far as to send suggestive pictures or videos to other employees.
When sexually explicit or discriminatory remarks or behavior become pervasive, an employee may file a hostile workplace sexual harassment complaint. If that complaint is not addressed and the situation resolved, the employer may find himself or herself facing a sexual harassment lawsuit.
What You Need to Do to Protect Your Business from A Sexual Harassment Lawsuit
As an employer, you must make employees aware of your sexual harassment policy and enforce that policy when harassment does occur. Failure to do so can have disastrous consequences for you and your business. Create an employee handbook that includes vital information about company policies and procedures. Include information about non-discrimination policies and anti-sexual harassment policies. Stress that your business has zero-tolerance for sexual harassment. Establish a procedure for employees to report harassment and make sure that employees understand the procedure. If you receive a complaint about alleged harassment, act quickly.
Contact a Long Island Sound Business Lawyer
Having an employee handbook that clearly describes your company’s sexual harassment policies and procedures is one of the best things you can do to protect yourself from a lawsuit. For help with a wide range of business law issues including starting a business, dealing with contract and business disputes, and more, contact a Fairfield County business law attorney at the Law Offices of Peter V. Lathouris, LLC. Call us today to schedule a free consultation.