As employees continue to work remotely because of the COVID-19 lockdown, upper management may not be aware that different forms of workplace harassment are occurring.

While employees are no longer physically present at the same location, they continue to message each other through online applications, gather for virtual meetings, and join group phone chats. These methods of communication aren’t always supervised, which leads to issues.

What Is Workplace Harassment?

Harassment consists of unwanted conduct that is physical, verbal, or non-verbal in nature. It’s purpose is to be intimidating, insulting, or humiliating where it creates a toxic environment. It can include personal attacks, misogyny, hostility, and offensive language. Essentially, it’s bullying.

In a remote setting, workplace harassment is detrimental to a person’s mental health, causing anxiety and fear. Working from home can increase a person’s likelihood of not reporting the harassment.

How Can Workplace Harassment Happen Remotely?

Working remotely means employees must rely on the phone or the computer for communication. Workplace harassment can occur during meetings and phone calls, as well as in emails and forums.

A common sign of workplace harassment is when co-workers are less active in conversations. Another sign is when one employee actively interrupts, talks over, or insults another employee. With employees working at home—an environment they’re comfortable in—they may allow themselves to relax and speak more freely, which results in an unprofessional manner. Additionally, employees who know that upper management are not present will take the opportunity to indulge in workplace harassment.

Regardless of where employees are, they should speak and behave professionally when interacting with their co-workers.

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Workplace Regulations in British Columbia

The COVID-19 lockdown happened rather suddenly for many businesses, so upper management may not have had time to ensure their workplace harassment policy had a section dedicated to remote working. However, they must rectify that according to the WorkSafeBC Occupational Health and Safety policies under the Workers Compensation Act (Bill 14). Businesses must have a procedure laid out for responding to reports and incidents, whether it’s harassment or sexual harassment in the workplace, in order to prevent, address, and minimize the occurrences. The protocol must include:

  • How and when an investigation will be conducted
  • An outline of the roles and responsibilities of employees, supervisors, and other workers in relation to the investigation
  • A follow-up to the investigation

If supervisors in upper management are participating in workplace harassment, there are some steps employees can follow, depending on their situation. According to British Columbia’s website, employees can speak with Human Resources and arrange a meeting to discuss the supervisor’s actions, for example.

Get in Touch with Sicotte & Sandhu

While we specialize in DUI and other legal offences, our experienced lawyers can represent you if you’ve been charged with workplace harassment. Our firm has over 50 years of combined practice, proudly serving British Columbia. We know how stressful legal procedures are, so Sicotte & Sandhu tries to make the process go as smoothly as possible. We’re with you every step of the way.

Don’t hesitate to contact us during the COVID-19 lockdown!