Investigating the New World of Virtual Harassment


February 22, 2021

Worker in the dark Business Owners Should Expect New Forms of Virtual Harassment

COVID-19 changed the nature of work when tens of thousands of specialized workers and executives dove straight into an indefinite state of working from home. The best way to stop the spread of the virus is for society to remain distanced, and so in March of 2020, many of the world’s greatest companies sent their workers home for the uncertain future.

With that said, behavioural issues among staff have changed as well. Virtual harassment continues to persist and challenge the efforts of HR professionals who are dedicated to creating a workplace free from abuse. Misconduct has headed online, and business owners should not expect it to disappear in the new year.

Your Duty of Care Obligations Still Exist in Remote Work Environments

Business owners have a moral and legal obligation to their workforces to create a safe workplace, even if their office is online. Virtual workplaces have the same duty of care obligations as physical workplaces. Online harassment appears in a variety of different forms that sometimes have no affiliation with your business.

HR professionals should prepare to address digital forms of harassment that could bleed into other forms of social media. Documenting incidents that include public and private information will likely require the outside assistance of those specialized in workplace investigations.

HR Conference Room Virtual Harassment Will Complicate HR-Related Issues

Online bullying has grown into forms of passive-aggressive messages, emails, and standoffish commentary that only hurts a workforce’s morale. The office bully still exists; only now they are using different weapons to talk down to employees or utter threats. HR will need to respond to these digital complaints and take steps to document inappropriate interactions.

State or province privacy laws complicate these types of investigations, especially if workers use company devices for personal use. Most privacy laws state that if a worker has not consented to give their information through the fine print of employment contracts, a company has no legal right to search corporate-owned devices used for personal use.

Virtual Workplace Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment persists online, having the potential to turn ugly when social media is involved. These incidents have tremendous PR-disaster-like potential and should be stomped out immediately by qualified professionals. Documenting virtual sexual harassment incidents is a highly complex matter, and your HR team might be seen as having an inherent bias during an investigation. It is strongly recommended that business owners use outside, impartial, third-party workplace investigation services.

Senior leaders will need to adapt and take initiatives by creating new policies that address these incidents even if they occur online.

Workplace Investigations Virtual Workplace Investigations by AFIMAC

Today, employers are being challenged on their ability to maintain their operations and productivity while keeping large workforces safe and healthy. AFIMAC specializes in ensuring an employer fulfills their duty of care obligations in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. AFIMAC can offer guidance and tools for any workplace, including digital screening tools that can protect a workforce from employees that have contracted the virus.

Pandemic business continuity services give employers the unique ability to control access, screen individuals entering the job site while aiding in the procurement of personal protective equipment.

Our workforce management tool PAM™ (Pandemic Application Management) gives you the tools to protect yourself, your business, and your workforce. Learn more about the available tools provided by AFIMAC.
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