Oakland Online Harassment Attorneys

Oakland Online Harassment Table of Contents:

The number of California employees working remotely has increased significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic began. With fewer face-to-face interactions between coworkers due to office closures, employers may mistakenly think remote work has led to a decrease in incidences of workplace harassment. The reality is harassment continues to be a serious issue even in online environments.

More and more companies are using virtual platforms to manage workflow and communicate with workers, which means there is a risk of online sexual harassment and other unlawful behavior. If you have experienced online harassment at work, the Oakland employment attorneys at Erlich Law Firm are here to help you pursue the compensation you deserve and put an end to the misconduct.

What is Online Harassment?

Workplace harassment is unwanted behavior that is unlawful under federal and California law. A hostile work environment occurs when the harassment is so severe or pervasive that it harms a worker’s ability to do their job.

Although online harassment may not involve face-to-face interactions between the individuals involved, it can still create a hostile work environment and be just as offensive and distressing as in-person harassment. California’s existing employment laws protect workers from a hostile work environment even when it is virtual.

Online sexual harassment occurs when a manager, supervisor or colleague pressures a worker into an unwanted relationship or sexual favor in return for employment benefits. This is known as quid-pro-quo harassment, which means “this in exchange for that.” Online sexual harassment can also take place as a pattern of inappropriate sexual language or conduct.

Online harassment based on an individual’s membership of a legally protected class — such as age, race, gender or disability — is also unlawful. For example, an employer using racial slurs against an employee can constitute racial harassment.

An extreme example of online harassment that made headlines was an employee who was fired for exposing himself on a Zoom meeting. Online harassment, however, can take many forms and occur in more subtle ways. Here are some common examples:

  • Disparaging jokes, racial epithets, sexual comments or name-calling
  • Verbal assault, including threats, ridicule or personal insults
  • Offensive images or videos, such as sending nude photos
  • Sexual advances or requests for dates

A point to note is that a few off-color jokes or slight annoyances may not qualify as unlawful behavior. To have a valid claim for online harassment, the misconduct must create a hostile work environment that any other reasonable worker would not be able to tolerate. An experienced Oakland employment lawyer can help you figure out if you have a case.

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Online Harassment in Remote Workplaces

Online environments have a sense of informality that feeds the misconception that traditional workplace rules do not apply to virtual communications. A Deloitte survey found that 52 percent of women experienced some form of harassment, such as disparaging remarks about their physical appearance, during the first year of remote work during the pandemic.

Remote workplaces involve online tools such as Slack and Zoom. Online harassment can occur via email, messaging apps, social media platforms, video conferencing, phone calls, forums and other collaboration platforms. The channels that employees rely on for remote work often lack mechanisms that allow the reporting of inappropriate conduct.

Some employees take advantage of online platforms to harass coworkers via one-on-one interactions that are typically unmonitored. Harassers may feel emboldened knowing that nobody is there to intervene, unlike bystanders in an office environment who can stop the harassment.

Can You Sue for Online Harassment in California?

California employers have a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent and immediately address online harassment. Unfortunately, many companies are unprepared when it comes to dealing with misconduct that occurs online and in remote workplaces. They lack proper procedures for reporting harassment and investigating complaints.

Companies often buy into the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. Just because harassment occurs on a virtual platform does not make it any less real or unlawful.

Employers should have clear policies that define what online harassment looks like and how it will be addressed. Additionally, California businesses with five or more employees are required by law to provide sexual harassment prevention training.

If you believe you have been subjected to online harassment at work, be sure to submit a written complaint to your company’s human resources department and follow their reporting procedures. Document the misconduct and take screenshots of the harassing messages, emails and other virtual communications.

The evidence will support your case if you choose to file a harassment claim against your employer later. If an employer fails to take steps to stop the harassment or retaliates against you for reporting it, you have the right to take legal action.

Erlich Law Firm is dedicated to helping workers hold employers accountable for online harassment. An experienced Oakland employment lawyer can help you determine whether you have legal grounds for a harassment claim to obtain damages for lost earnings and other costs.

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Call for a Free Case Evaluation

Erlich Law Firm believes in using the power of the law to right injustices in the workplace. If you have suffered online harassment, our Oakland employment lawyers can help you understand your rights and determine your next steps. Get started today with a free consultation.


My parents were heavily involved in community organizing. Seeing neighbors and friends’ parents struggle in the workplace gave me a sense of purpose that I wanted to help others. Many employees feel helpless and powerless in the workplace, and helping them vindicate their rights is the right thing to do.

- Jason Erlich

Client testimonials
Jason took the time to explain and guide me through the challenging process, and went the extra steps in consistently providing guidance and putting my concerns and questions high on their list.

Jeff V., Oakland

Jason Erlich made me feel like I was in the right place right away.I had some serious problems with a previous employer and he took care of everything. From the start he helped with my concerns and fears going up against a big corporation.

Susan W., Pacifica

With Jason’s expertise, commitment and aggressiveness, the case is now over and it’s only been 6 months!! I would HIGHLY recommend Jason Erlich to anyone that needs an employment lawyer.

Carla, Petaluma

I can highly recommend Jason Erlich Esq. for any employment law matter. He is an outstanding lawyer, embodies a mix of honesty, knowledge, client care and tough mindset.

Roger J., Oakland

When employees' legal rights are violated, we take time to explain their legal options, listen to their goals, and aggressively argue their case until we achieve the resolution they deserve.