January 21, 2019

Social Media Harassment in the Workplace

Social Media

Harassment of any kind does not belong anywhere, especially in the workplace. As use of social networking sites grows, it is unfortunate, but not surprising, that incidents of social media harassment in the workplace are also on the rise.

Every Wisconsin employer should have anti-harassment policies, prohibiting workers from engaging in harassing behavior online through social media. Such policies should also address how the employer will handle violations. Unfortunately, even with the best policies and intentions, harassment can still occur. If you were the victim of social media harassment in the workplace, working with a skilled Wisconsin employment law attorney can help protect your rights. It can also send a powerful message, holding wrongdoers accountable for their actions.

Examples of Workplace Social Media Harassment

Social media harassment can take a variety of forms. Some examples include the following:

  • An employee “friends” a co-worker, supervisor, or subordinate on a social networking site such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snap Chat, or others, and then posts offensive or harassing messages through the site.
  • Using the private message feature in social networking sites, one employee sends videos, photos, or text messages the recipient feels are offensive.
  • A worker “cyber stalks” another employee’s online presence, obsessively following everything the employee does or posts online.
  • A group of employees create an online website or blog that makes harassing and disparaging comments about another employee.

When such messages or posts are sent from one employee to another, it generally doesn’t matter whether they were sent during business hours or not – especially if the employer was aware or should have been aware of the activity. In many cases, it also doesn’t matter whether or not the employees used company-provided computers, tablets, or laptops to send or access such messages.

Understand Your Rights as the Victim of Harassing Social Media Posts or Messages

When a supervisor or co-worker’s comments, posts, or actions on social media rise to the level of harassing behavior that threatens other employees or somehow makes them feel unsafe, not only should you tell someone about it at work, you should also call the police.  Harassment, including harassment on line, is unlawful it if is directed at you because of your membership in a protected class.  Some examples include racial or sexual harassment, or harassment on the basis of age, disability or religion.

If you were the victim of social media harassment, the employee who harassed you should be responsible for his or her own activity, of course. In addition, your employer may have some liability for your co-worker’s, supervisor’s, or supervisee’s activities. Simply having social media policies and anti-harassment policies in place does not automatically absolve an employer of its responsibility.

You should always feel safe and comfortable reporting any type of harassment to your employer – including social media harassment. Legally, your employer is prohibited from retaliating against you for making such a report in good faith.

Contact Gingras, Thomsen & Wachs, LLP

If you were harassed by another employee’s social media activity but your employer did not address the matter or committed illegal retaliation against you after you filed a complaint, an employment law attorney from Gingras, Cates & Wachs may be able to help. To learn more about your rights and how we can help you protect those rights, contact us today in Madison, Milwaukee, Waukesha or Eau Claire.

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