Anticouni & Ricotta | Leaders In Employment Litigation Serving Clients Throughout California.

Is your employer responsible if a colleague harasses you online?

On Behalf of | Feb 21, 2024 | Workplace Discrimination |

It used to be that if you had a difficult co-worker or boss, at least once you went home at the end of the day, you were rid of them (until the next workday). Now, they can follow you into your home and other personal spaces via social media, text and other digital communications.

You might assume that there’s nothing your employer can do if the person isn’t harassing you in the workplace. That’s not the case. 

As people increasingly have a presence online, it’s become an “extension of the workplace.” That can apply whether someone is caught on video yelling racial slurs at a neighbor, storming the nation’s capital or harassing a colleague on Facebook.

Why employers can be held liable if they don’t act

All of these things can affect an employer’s reputation and bottom line. When one employee targets another, however, it can create a “hostile work environment,” even if they don’t continue the behavior at work. 

Employers are most likely to have liability when the harassment is sexual or aimed at someone’s protected characteristics like gender, race, ethnicity, age, religion, disability or sexual orientation. Some sexual harassment cases have resulted in employers who failed to stop the harassment having to pay well over $1 million. One involved sexual texts sent from a manager to an employee. Another involved the harassment of a disabled employee on their blog.

If you’re being harassed online, either sexually or because of a protected characteristic, by a colleague or even a manager, print out or otherwise save all of the messages. Report it to your employer. Don’t let them tell you it’s none of their business, there’s nothing they can do about it or you just need to block the harasser(s).

You have a right to expect them to take action. If they don’t, investigate your legal options. Everyone should feel safe from harassment and discrimination in their workplace and anywhere else.

FindLaw Network