Tis’ the season for employment lawyers to issue warnings about inappropriate behavior at company holiday parties. However, with the pandemic raging, I will assume that companies will not be having their usual year-end celebrations. Does this mean no holiday parties mean no sexual harassment? Since there will not be in-person festivities with plenty of alcohol, one could surmise that sexual harassment at company parties will disappear. That’s good news. But what about virtual holiday parties? What could possibly go wrong?
There will be no close dancing with coworkers. But there still are opportunities for bad behavior and poor judgement. People can drink too much. They can say inappropriate things. Worse yet, “Jeffrey Toobin” incidents would cause a problem. While not at a holiday party, this is the most infamous example of terrible behavior in a remote work setting. If you are not familiar with Jeffrey Toobin, he was fired from New Yorker Magazine and CNN for exposing himself on a Zoom call with coworkers. He apologized for his behavior and added, “I thought no one on the Zoom call could see me. I thought I had muted the Zoom video.” Regardless of his intentions and failures to effectively use Zoom, firing him was the right move for these companies.
Remote Work & Harassment
This brings me to another point. Just because people are not working together in-person, it does not mean that they cannot be harassed. You should not receive inappropriate emails or texts from co-workers. You do not have to be exposed to your boss in his underwear on the weekly Zoom conference call. All should be treated with the same respect and professionalism as if they were in the office, warehouse, school, factory, wherever the place of employment.
If you are a victim of sexual harassment at work, the law is on your side. Again, sexual harassment is unacceptable and illegal. While #MeToo is not in the headlines anymore, I am still a believer and advocate who looks forward to the day of no sexual harassment. Please call me if you feel like you are being harassed at work.