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Monitoring digital communication to prevent sexual harassment

We've said it before on this blog and we'll say it again: no one should have to suffer through sexual harassment in the workplace. And while employer's can't monitor or control everything their workers say an do at every given moment, once there is knowledge of sexual harassment in the workplace, the employer has an obligation to put an end to it.

As society becomes increasingly more digital, opportunities for sexual harassment are becoming more frequent. From emails to message boards, employees are now finding themselves the victims of digital sexual harassment, and it's something many lawyers will say employers should be responsible for stopping.

Businesses and companies are now being encouraged by employment law experts to increase the scope of their technological infrastructure to include the monitoring of digital communications in the workplace. Such systems already exist to track productivity and enforce corporate policies and procedures; introducing a new system that would alert management to potentially offensive communications before they reach the intended recipient could decrease the chances of a hostile work environment down the road.

Many court decisions already seem to support the monitoring of digital communications in the workplace. One of the decisions, made in Blakely v. Continental, Inc., points out that once an employer has knowledge of employee-to-employee digital sexual harassment, the employer has an obligation to take affirmative steps to put a stop to the offensive behavior. By putting even the smallest of systems in place, an employer can not only protect its employees better, but prevent digital sexual harassment from becoming a potential liability risk in the future.

Source: Westlaw Insider, "Preventing Digital Sexual Harassment in the Workplace (Part 1 of 5)," Daniel Garrie, April 19, 2013

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