The problem of workplace sexual harassment has gone high-tech

The terms "sext" and "sexting" refer to the act of sending or receiving sexually explicit text messages. HR Professionals magazine reports that, increasingly, employers are being sued as a result of sexually explicit messages sent via text or email to employees by supervisory personnel. High tech sexual harassment-sometimes referred to as "textual harassment" -is observed to be challenging for companies since it can occur surreptitiously in a matter of seconds and yet can constitute "severe and pervasive workplace harassment" if not addressed and stopped. The recently settled high profile sexual harassment lawsuit brought against dating app start-up Tinder allegedly involved inappropriate emails and texts according to the Los Angeles Times.

It was noted in Health Canal magazine that an astonishing 50 percent of women experience some form of sexual harassment in the workplace at some point during their career. The Huffington Post reports that, of those who experience sexual harassment in the workplace, 70 percent say they never reported it. One person was quoted as saying that most people do not want to talk about it and "suffer in silence."

There are various reasons harassment is not reported according to the Huffington Post. Some people feel ashamed at having to admit that they were the victim of sexual harassment. Others believe that they will be blamed for any unwelcome advances and, perhaps, might be accused of having somehow "asked for it." There is also a fear of job retaliation. For young employees, the fear of being fired or demoted often keeps them from speaking up.

Both men and women can be subjected to sexual harassment. As observed in an article published by i-Sight, the "stereotypical" male-on-female sexual harassment is no longer a company's only concern. Increasingly, female-on-male and male-on-male harassment complaints are a growing concern of companies' human relations departments. Some suggest that sexual harassment aimed at men has long been a problem and that the increasing number of complaints merely reflects that males are becoming more comfortable in bringing these issues forward. In any event, i-Sight notes that many companies still lack proper procedures to deal with female-on-male or male-on-male sexual harassment.

According to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, sexual harassment can consist of a number of things such as unwarranted sexual advances, offering employment benefits in exchange for sexual favors, sexual comments about an individual's body and uninvited physical touching. California employers have an affirmative obligation to take reasonable steps to prevent harassment from occurring and, if it does occur, to take effective and prompt action to stop further harassment.

Dealing with harassment

The website Ms. Career Girl advises that, when sexual harassment occurs in the workplace, you should take immediate steps to object to the conduct that you find offensive. Specifically, tell the harasser what you object to and demand that they cease and desist immediately. Make it plain that you will not tolerate harassment. It is advisable to keep a diary or other written record of what happened together with dates, times and places. If a coworker is the harasser, tell your supervisor about the harassment. Inc. magazine adds that, if the harasser is your supervisor, you need to talk to the company's human resources department without any unnecessary delay.

Seeking legal help

Unfortunately, some employers remain tone deaf to complaints about workplace sexual harassment. If you believe that you are the victim of workplace sexual harassment, you should contact a California attorney experienced in handling sexual harassment cases. No one should silently suffer as the victim of workplace sexual harassment.