For many, their workplace has shifted to a virtual environment because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And this has been the case for more than a year now.
Employees who experienced harassment in the workplace before the pandemic may think that they could finally escape the situation since they’re working from home. Sadly, this isn’t the case.
The work experience has shifted online. But a toxic work environment can still exist. Some employees can still feel uncomfortable despite being far away from their colleagues or their aggressors. One survey looked at the distance work experience of female employees. Results found that 52 percent of women experienced harassment or microaggressions in 2020.
When an employee feels uncomfortable at work, they can talk to their supervisor or an HR officer to seek help. But in extreme cases, the employee may need to seek help from a personal injury attorney to sue their employer for hostile work environment.
Understanding the possible toxic work culture scenarios is key for this employee to determine whether to push through with a lawsuit or not. Below are some examples of note:
Unnecessary and Repetitive Contact
Some people can be very impatient, especially when it comes to deadlines. So they tend to bombard other employees with follow-ups.
In a physical work environment, these follow-ups are usually done face-to-face. The person in need comes to their coworker’s station to remind them of their deliverables. Alternatively, that person can call their coworker. In a virtual work environment, sending follow-ups is just as easy. Someone can send emails or chat messages multiple times.
There’s validity to following up on tasks, especially when they’re urgent. But doing it several times a day can make someone uncomfortable. If this person has already responded to earlier messages but still continues to receive follow-ups, they may feel like they’re being micromanaged and won’t be able to work properly.
Sexual harassment can take many forms in the workplace. Some examples include sending sexual messages and emails and verbal harassment. There’s also the quid pro quo version where a superior demands sexual activity in exchange for opportunities for advancement.
Some victims of sexual harassment in the workplace celebrated work-from-home orders. This setup helps them stay away from their aggressors. Unfortunately, sexual harassment still thrives even in a virtual work environment.
It may have even become more prevalent due to the convenience of online communication. Someone can send a coworker unsolicited texts, chat messages, and photos of sexual nature. These things can make the receiver feel harassed and, therefore, unable to perform their duties.
The pandemic has been a very stressful and frustrating period for everyone. When people get stressed, they sometimes forget to turn off their “filters” and scream profanities when they get agitated, even at work.
This can also occur in a work-from-home setting. Someone might curse and use other forms of inappropriate language while talking to someone during a Zoom call, through email, or through chat messages.
The use of profanities during Zoom calls can put some employees in trouble at home. Say an employee is watching over their child as they work. This employee may choose not to use earphones during a video call to stay aware of their surroundings. And if someone in that call uses profanity, the child will likely hear it.
Discrimination also occurs in a hostile work environment. Someone might take discriminatory comments about another person’s appearance, race, behavior, and other aspects in their team’s online workspace. Even if the target isn’t part of that workspace, this action can still make team members uncomfortable and unsafe in their work environment.
Someone might message or call a coworker for reasons that are not work-related. This action can definitely be harmless. The person might simply approach a coworker for a friendly conversation or ask for advice.
But communication about things not related to work can also be a red flag if it’s done to harass someone. For example, a male colleague might force a female colleague to go on a video call for no apparent reason.
Victims of these red flags at work should alert their superiors as soon as possible. Reporting such incidents to HR will also be helpful, especially if the offender and the victim are from the same team. The HR can function as the mediator to address the issue. They will hopefully not just deescalate the situation but also prevent lawsuits. Employers must also reinforce strict rules and regulations to create a peaceful work environment.