Telework, A Window to Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is easy to identify in physical spaces. But, it is happening that women receive messages with offensive sexual content, unwanted or inappropriate calls while telecommuting.

The Woman Post | Carolina Rodríguez Monclou

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Due to the pandemic, telephone meetings have become quite regular. If a conversation becomes awkward and an employee is forced to turn on her camera without a permissible lens, her human rights are at risk of being violated.

Comments such as "you don't need to dress so formally" or pointing to a woman's appearance when she is dressing appropriately as an excuse to look at and talk about her body is a red flag. If an employee is insisted on more video calls, especially at night, during break time, and the conversations are not related to work, it is essential to report the situation. The topics to be discussed here are: Do the acts of the abuser amount to sexual harassment? Since the problem did not occur within the office premises, is it a valid complaint?

Sexual harassment in the workplace is considered when a person's action is sexual in nature, unwelcome, and makes the complainant feel uncomfortable. It is important to remember that sexual harassment is a subjective experience and depends on how the victim perceives it. Even if the act was unintentional or deemed harmless fun, it would still be among the sexual harassment. It can be physical, non-physical, verbal, non-verbal, etc.

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Let's take a look at some of the other examples that might be unwelcome and may constitute sexual harassment in the workplace while working online from a remote location. Lawcubator Technologies Pvt Ltd signals the following red flags:

-Share images, videos, website links, memes, GIFs, sexual and offensive jokes, either through messages or verbally.

-Sending sexually explicit text messages in online messaging applications.

-Dress inappropriately during video calls and make others feel uncomfortable.

-Sexual advancement or inappropriate comments, biases or discriminatory views, and other hostile behavior on an online platform.

-Show inappropriate pictures or quotes that might be hanging on the wall behind the person in a video call.

Regarding the question "since the problem did not occur within the office, is it a valid complaint?" the answer is yes, in fact it is a valid complaint because working from home is included in the scope of the workplace, since the workspace "includes any place visited by the employee arising from or during employment, including the transportation provided by the employer to travel to and from the workplace," reports Medium. In fact, any place that falls within the realm of labor relations is a workplace.

Daniel Jaramillo Jassir, a researcher at the Labor Observatory of the University of Rosario, told Legal Affairs, "the requirement to turn on the camera in endless work meetings and constitutes a necessary measure, can configure cases of workplace harassment and violate the protection of sensitive personal data in specific cases."

During a Me Too Movement YouTube channel lecture titled "Sexual harassment in the workplace is not the new normal," speakers revealed that 84% of responses on this topic are denials and defenses. According to the source, victims cannot resign from the judicial system, although 97% of clients seeking professional help reject it due to the complexity of the cases.

There are many reasons why many female employees feel intimidated and afraid to speak up, the main concern being about losing their job. However, it is essential to seek help and stop the situation as soon as it starts. It is not easy, but it is a great step to prevent this problem from happening to other colleagues.

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