Protecting your rights in the workplace.

What Is Virtual Workplace Harassment?

Virtual workplace harassment involves any unwelcome or inappropriate behavior conducted through digital communication tools that creates a hostile, intimidating, or offensive work environment. This type of harassment can occur through various online platforms, including email, instant messaging, video conferencing, social media, and collaboration tools.

Forms of Virtual Workplace Harassment

Virtual workplace harassment can manifest in several forms:


Cyberbullying involves repeated, aggressive behavior intended to intimidate, humiliate, or harm another person. In a virtual workplace, this can include derogatory comments, spreading false information, or isolating someone from group communications.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment in a virtual setting includes sending unwelcome sexually explicit messages, sharing inappropriate images or videos, making suggestive comments, or engaging in sexually charged conversations during virtual meetings.

Discriminatory Harassment

Discriminatory harassment targets individuals based on their race, gender, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, or other protected characteristics. This can involve derogatory remarks, jokes, or slurs shared through digital communication tools.

Intimidation and Threats

Intimidation and threats can include sending menacing messages, making threats of physical harm or professional retaliation, or using aggressive language to coerce or control an individual.

Invasion of Privacy

Invasion of privacy occurs when an individual’s personal information is shared without consent or when someone is monitored or recorded without their knowledge during virtual interactions.

Recognizing Virtual Workplace Harassment

Recognizing virtual workplace harassment requires awareness of both overt and subtle behaviors. Some signs to watch for include:

  • Frequent Unwanted Communications: Receiving persistent, unwanted messages or calls from a colleague.
  • Exclusion from Communication: Being deliberately excluded from work-related communications or group discussions.
  • Hostile Online Interactions: Experiencing aggressive or demeaning language in emails, chat messages, or virtual meetings.
  • Unwanted Advances: Receiving inappropriate messages, images, or requests of a sexual nature.
  • Spread of Rumors: Being the subject of false or harmful rumors circulated through digital platforms.

Addressing Virtual Workplace Harassment

Addressing virtual workplace harassment involves several steps to ensure a safe and respectful virtual work environment:

Document the Harassment

Keep detailed records of the harassment incidents, including:

  • Dates and Times: Note when each incident occurred.
  • Communications: Save emails, messages, screenshots, and any other relevant communications.
  • Witnesses: Identify any colleagues who witnessed the harassment.
  • Description: Write down a detailed description of each incident, including how it made you feel and any impact on your work.

Review Company Policies

Familiarize yourself with your company’s policies on harassment and reporting procedures. This information is usually found in the employee handbook or on the company’s intranet.

Report the Harassment

Follow these steps to report the harassment:

  • Contact HR: Report the harassment to your Human Resources department. Provide them with your documentation and a clear account of what happened.
  • Use Reporting Channels: If your company has a specific reporting channel or platform, use it to file your complaint.
  • Follow Up in Writing: After your initial report, send a written summary to HR to ensure there is a formal record. Keep a copy for your records.

Cooperate with the Investigation

If your report leads to an investigation:

  • Be Honest and Detailed: Provide all requested information and be truthful in your account.
  • Stay Professional: Maintain professionalism and avoid discussing the case with other colleagues to protect the integrity of the investigation.

Seek External Help if Necessary

If your company does not adequately address the harassment: