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Harassment Guidelines For Remote Work

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom...

The rise of the virtual workforce due to #Covid has transformed the way we do business and also provided some great comic relief as a result of the many zoom fails plastered all over the internet.

Unfortunately remote/telework brings unique challenges for ensuring employees don't violate state and federal discrimination and harassment laws.

We'll go over some critical considerations and guidelines to make sure your people are staying safe and avoiding any activity that could be seen or construed as harassment or discrimination.

First, some quick definitions:

Harassment must be unwelcome and based on a protected class (i.e. race, religion, nationality, age, gender, disability)

Unlawful harassment is when: enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment or conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create work a environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.

Some states use lower standards of harassment - so don't turn a blind eye to any reports even if the issue seems insignificant.

Keep in mind harassment or discrimination could be visual, physical, or verbal in nature.

NOTE: if any of this information seems unfamiliar we recommend taking a harassment course. Some states require businesses to provide harassment trainings, but if yours doesn't it's something we recommend for all employees.

Now for some quick tips on decorum and remote work policies and guidelines for virtual meetings.

Virtual Meetings and Video Calls

Using video features can be a great way to have employees be more connected. But there are some pitfalls to avoid so employees don't feel uncomfortable, discriminated against or harassed in these meetings.

1. Attire

The desire to work in comfortable clothing ranges from casual to inappropriate.

We've all probably seen memes or videos of people working in their underwear not realizing their video is live :D

These situations can be awkward and embarrassing for everyone involved.

Help employees be more professional by setting clear expectations about video decorum to avoid any possibilities of technology or wardrobe malfunctions.

2. Backdrop

Also coach your employees to be aware of their backdrop during a live video feed. Train them to check for any personal items or clothing as well as the possibility of family members or roommates dashing by in the buff.

A little preparation here will prevent a lot of embarrassment or potential harassment situations if someone considers what they see in your background to be offensive.

3. Video vs Phone Call

Ensure virtual meetings are scheduled equitably.

For example if manager checkins for men in the department are over the phone but are mandatory to be on video with women, this could be cause for discriminatory concern.

4. Virtual Happy Hour

These have become a common event to keep employees connected while working remote.

Alcohol lessons, inhibitions and interactions through a screen can also negatively impact the formality.

Set expectations about appropriate behavior during these calls and identify policies about responsible drinking if allowed during happy hours.

Remind your people that harassment and discrimination policies apply during virtual meetings just as they would at any other company sponsored function.

Final Considerations

Review harassment and discrimination policies and make sure they are inclusive of and applicable to virtual meetings and remote work conferencing scenarios.

Working remotely may expose those who are more or less adept at technology. Age may or may not correlate with tech skills.

Whether it does or does not in your situation, keep an eye out for not-so-harmless age jokes to avoid any age-based harassment claims.

Whether in or out of the office your best defense is a solid harassment prevention policy and well trained managers.

If you don't have a policy in place yet, now is a great time to create one.

Don't be a zoom fail internet icon; and plan and train to avoid costly and painful harassment or discrimination claims.

If you are a Teamworks customer our HR professionals can assist you in creating a relevant policy for your industry and specific business needs.

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