What impact has the Covid 19 lockdown had on filings of sexual harassment cases?Thu Jan 07 2021. 3 min read
Over the past few decades, many workplaces have become more stringent in how they handle sexual harassment accusations from employees. But many of these accusations arise out of people working together in the same location. If so many companies have made their employees work remotely, wouldn’t it be expected that accusations of sexual harassment are decreased?
Unfortunately, things aren’t that clear-cut.
SAI Global reports:
“As 2020 moves forward, social distancing has forced rapid changes in our working environments. Yet workplace sexual harassment persists around the world, even as the physical workplace has morphed (today more than ever) into an environment that is both digital and increasingly out of the office.
A modern workplace policy must expressly state online harassment as prohibited behavior. Even so, employers and employees may be unused to communicating solely online, and the lines may not be clear. Sexual advances and inappropriate comments and behaviors have plenty of space to hide in online communication platforms. Jokes and casual, more daring comments can quickly be taken out of context or be delivered in one tone and received in another. What would not be said to someone's face, or even out loud, may come out online, where there will be, in most situations, a written record that may be used as evidence later.”
A written record – in email, text, app, or whatever form it takes – can help strengthen an accuser’s case. Companies need to be explicit in their expectations of acceptable behavior and interactions between employees in the workplace. Ongoing training from human resources departments can help educate employees regarding what that acceptable behavior is. It’s helpful to remember that anything that is said online, even if it’s later deleted, will always exist somewhere and can be retrieved. And with so much interaction happening virtually, it’s better to err on the side of caution.