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Can You Sue Your Employer for Harassment While Working Remotely?

On Behalf of | Aug 6, 2022 | Employment Law, Harassment

Since the pandemic began, more companies have turned to remote work opportunities for their employees. This new workplace trend has made many jobs permanently remote, and employees are enjoying the freedoms that come with no longer commuting to the office.

Unfortunately, even though you may be working from home, you can still be exposed to the same harassment you would encounter in a physical work environment. Remote or not, employees still share the same legal rights and protections. 

The following information will help you know how you can sue your remote employer if you’ve been the victim of harassment.

Workplace Harassment Defined

Workplace harassment has serious legal consequences in Illinois. Federal labor laws exist to protect all employees from hostile work environments.

Workplace harassment can present itself in many ways and is generally described as unwanted or undesirable behavior, such as:

  • Inappropriate or unwanted sexual advances of any kind
  • Discriminatory comments, messages, or images
  • Racism, sexism, and religious intolerance
  • Personal attacks or insults
  • Threatening or intimidating conduct

Sadly, there are many ways workers can become targeted for harassment by employers, and every case is different. What’s important is that you recognize the warning signs and report any hostile behavior to the appropriate authorities.

When does harassment become unlawful?

In order for you to sue your employer for workplace harassment, their behavior must cross certain thresholds. 

According to the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, harassment becomes unlawful when either of these two instances is met:

  • Putting up with offensive behavior becomes a condition to keep your job.
  • The harassment is severe enough that, under reasonable standards, anyone would consider it “intimidating, hostile, or abusive.”
  • Because workplace rights are federal protections, employees across the country are backed by the same laws. This is important because employees are often spread across many states and jurisdictions in the age of remote work.

    Remote Workplace Harassment

    Although remote work removes the physical interactions between employees and employers, virtual harassment can be just as damaging.

    Harassment in the form of offensive texts, emails, video chats, and phone calls can be just as serious as if it happened in person. Any virtual behavior that infringes on your gender, race, religion, or sexual identity has the same effect as it would in an office. 

    Threatening language and unwarranted sexual advances can happen online just as they would in person.

    The bottom line is that harassment, remote or not, must meet the legal requirements necessary to file a claim. You must be able to prove that the behavior is persistent, hostile, and constitutes legal action. 

    In a remote environment, reporting your claim can often be easier because of digital footprints such as saved emails and text messages.

    Have you been the victim of workplace harassment while working remotely?

    Here are a few tips if you find yourself the victim of a hostile remote work environment.

    Keep a record of all of your evidence, even if your harasser directs you to delete any digital proof. The more evidence you have, the easier it will be to assert your claim in court.

    Know that messages and photos can disappear, depending on the platform. Take screenshots of any evidence, just to be safe.

    Remain calm and don’t resort to counter-harassment. Remember that workplace harassment laws exist to protect you.

    An Experienced Workplace Rights Attorney Can Help

    Discuss and evaluate your situation with an experienced workplace rights attorney. 

    Foote, Mielke, Chavez & O’Neil is a dedicated law firm that represents clients in Geneva and all across Illinois. Our team of passionate attorneys has the expertise to fight for your workplace harassment claim and hold employers accountable for their negative behavior. Get in touch with our team today.