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What to Do If You Receive Inappropriate Text Messages from Coworkers or Bosses

Founding Member of Moshes Law, P.C.
During his years of practice, Yuriy has concentrated in litigation and real estate transactions as his areas of expertise.

While many things about business as usual have changed during the course of the global pandemic, Sexual Harassment and Employment laws have not changed. Employees of companies of every size have a right to expect a working environment free from sexually aggressive behavior, language, jokes and inappropriate text messages. It is NOT ok to receive unwanted inappropriate text messages at work or inappropriate text messages from co-workers. 

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    Every time an employee receives unwanted inappropriate text messages from their co-workers or their boss, it impedes their ability to do their work properly. Inappropriate texts and sexual harassment via smart phones not only hurts the productivity of the victim, but also that of the aggressor and, ultimately, the company’s bottom line. Instead of paying attention to the work at hand, employees caught in sexually inappropriate, toxic work environments often find that gossip and unprofessional conduct permeates the work environment and eventually hurts the finished product. 

    Some employees, foolishly, believe that if they are using their personal phone that it is personal time and they are off the clock. Not necessarily if you are using that personal phone to converse with a fellow employee or subordinate. 

    What is Workplace Harassment?

    Sexual harassment by text message is still sexual harassment. Sexual harassment via text is still sexual harassment. Even if you found a fellow co-worker on a dating app, such as Tinder or eharmony, it is still sexual harassment. Is a former employee sending harassing text messages? That is still workplace harassment that the employer needs to investigate and end.

    Whether at a physical brick and mortar office space, or from the comfort of home via zoom and other video conferencing platforms, work environments still have to follow the rules, regulations and laws of employment and HR law. Hostile work environments should be cut out of the company as quickly as possible, and oftentimes, it is the victim of these sexually explicit and harassing behaviors that can make that happen.

    Workplace harassment is broadly defined, leaving a lot of interpretation for attorneys and courts to decide when and how harassment has occurred. Typically, harassment cases take the form of verbal/written, physical, and/or visual. 

    According to Black’s Law Dictionary, Sexual harassment is “a type of employment discrimination consisting in verbal or physical abuse of a sexual nature, including lewd remarks, salacious looks, and unwelcome touching.”

    inappropriate text messages at work

    With the advancement of technology and the explosion in popularity of real time phone apps and programs, co-workers are only a message or notification away from impeding into the lives of a victim to their sexually explicit inappropriate text messages. 

    What is an Inappropriate Text?

    Harassment through the medium of SMS (Short Message Service), text messages or even direct messaging through apps can and does take many forms. The common themes of the many different forms however are typically:

    1. They are unwanted. 
    2. The victim has expressed that they feel offended or that they feel the behavior is inappropriate.
    3. They are often quid pro quo, in that a sexual response would elicit some positive job occurrence if the victim plays along. 

    Whether sexually aggressive or not, really, any non-work topic that makes a co-worker or subordinate feel embarrassed, threatened or uneasy. 

    Examples of Inappropriate Texts

    • Vulgar jokes.
    • Sexually explicit images
    • Photos of the senders’, or another person’s, genitals
    • Requests for pictures of the recipient’s private parts
    • Requests for sexual favors in return for career advancement (quid pro quo)
    • Unwanted flirting or teasing
    • Sexually threatening messages
    • Incessant requests for a date, even after denying previous requests.

    What to Do When You Receive an Inappropriate Text at Work?

    1. Save The Message
      1. Take a screenshot.
      2. Save the email.
      3. Print out the email.
    2. Report it to HR
      1. Use the company’s claim process and save a paper trail.
      2. Summarize all conversations into an email after the fact and email it to HR as well, documenting your conversation.
    3. Contact a Lawyer
      1. Consult a lawyer and find out if you have a case.
      2. If you retain their services, do not speak with HR without speaking with your attorney.
    4. Follow up on Your Claim
      1. Your attorney should keep you informed.
      2. Follow up with them if you have any updates on information.   

    How to Protect Yourself

    Follow the call to action steps listed above. Make sure that your claim has a paper trail; a way of verifying and proving that you reported the issue. The best form for this is through an email, or if you verbally or telephonically report the claim, send a follow up email to HR summarizing EVERYTHING you stated in the verbal conversation and send it to HR.

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      After reporting the claim of sexual harassment to HR, it is so important that you get an attorney that will serve at your side as a friend and an advocate at your side to help you through this difficult time.

      Have Questions? Get an Attorney’s Free Consultation

      For those that live in the New York area, contact the attorneys at Moshes Law, P.C. for all of your sexual harassment and inappropriate text messages at work claims. 

      It is so important for this area of law to get a firm that is experienced in labor and employment law. For example, Moshes Law focuses in many areas of employment discrimination: pregnancy, race, age, disability, national origin, hostile work environment, religious, unpaid wages and whistleblowing.

      For readers outside of the New York area, we strongly encourage you to find a similar law firm that not only has the experience and expertise, but also makes you feel like you are “gaining a friend who will fight tirelessly to ensure that your case has a successful outcome.” 

      We suggest you find a firm, like Moshes Law, that prides themselves on being “champions for our clients’ rights.”

      Contact one of their incredible and highly rated attorneys today for a free consultation to discuss your inappropriate text at work and sexual harassment claims. You have rights and your voice needs to be heard.

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