Online social media and mobile communication are very prevalent in today’s society and are being used in all sorts of ways. They can be used to invite friends to a party, notify faraway relatives that a new baby has arrived, find long-lost friends from high school, and share decorating ideas and silly videos with people around the globe. Even charity efforts have gone mobile as phone apps have been created as a convenient way for people to help donate to those who were affected by Hurricane Sandy. Unfortunately, it can also be used in negative ways as well, such as harassment.
Supervisors and co-workers often find each other on social networks or share cell phone numbers to allow for easier communication. Sometimes it is easier to send a text regarding a work matter than it is to have an actual phone conversation. But these technologies can also be used in an abusive manner and result in workplace harassment or sexual harassment even when an employee is not at work.
There are many different ways a worker can be harassed electronically. If a supervisor repeatedly sends text messages to an employee asking for a date or an intimate relationship, the employee may feel uncomfortable or threatened. This constitutes sexual harassment and can create a hostile work environment. Sexual harassment can also occur when a supervisor or co-worker emails or posts pictures or jokes of a sexual nature that other employees find offensive. In a recent case, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against a company because a manager was sending sexual texts to an employee, who told her supervisor. When the supervisor reported the harassment, the company allegedly retaliated against him by firing him. A settlement for $2.3 million was made by the company for both the sexual harassment and retaliation claims.
Other types of harassment or workplace discrimination can also occur. If supervisors or co-workers are posting disparaging remarks regarding an employee’s disability, race, ethnicity, gender, or religion, this may also be discrimination. An employee was recently awarded $1.6 million by a court because co-workers had posted negative comments about his disability and his employer did not take any action when he reported the discrimination.
This electronic workplace discrimination or harassment may occur at work or somewhere else. It can happen through a company’s network or on a personal cell phone. Regardless of how or where it occurs, if the negative behavior is coming from a supervisor or co-worker and the employer does not take action to correct the situation, the employer could be held liable.
Kentucky employees are protected by federal and state laws against workplace discrimination and harassment. If you feel you have been a victim, an experienced Kentucky employment law attorney, like those here at Charles W. Miller & Associates, can help you determine what action needs to be taken to receive the compensation you may deserve.
Social media takes workplace harassment to new levels; HR.BLR.com; Joan Farrell; November 7, 2012