For a few reasons, working from home has become increasingly popular over the last couple of years. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, roughly 70% of those who were able to telework did in 2020. More than half of these workers say they would prefer a permanent work-from-home arrangement.
Even though federal and state employment laws mostly come from a pre-telework era, sexual harassment is illegal in all types of workplaces. Still, it may be somewhat easier for harassers to get away with bad behaviors when they are further away from physical job sites.
Sexual harassment does not have to be in person, of course. If employees make inappropriate remarks in e-mails or through instant or text messages, their employers may have a duty to investigate. Consequently, savvy employers probably want to have a policy that prohibits using electronic communications to sexually harass others.
Thanks to teleconferencing software, employees often are able to meet with colleagues and others from virtually anywhere. In the comfort of one’s home, it may be tempting to be less than professional. Nevertheless, employers should be ready to discipline workers who behave inappropriately.
On a bright note, it may be easier for work-from-home employees to document suspected sexual harassment. After all, there may be written or recorded evidence of misconduct. Victims of sexual harassment should save as much evidence as possible. If employers choose to ignore this evidence, they may have some legal liability.
Ultimately, because sexual harassment can occur anywhere, employers must develop a strategy for keeping it in check.