Protecting your rights in the workplace.

Frequently Asked Questions About Email Harassment

Our Los Angeles Email Harassment Attorneys Can Help

Modern technology has revolutionized our lives and our methods of communication. Our laws, however, are only slowly catching up with all of these changes. Since online harassment laws are fairly new, our Los Angeles email harassment attorneys can guide you through the claims process in the employment context. We have compiled a list of questions to help you better understand email harassment at work.

What Is the Definition of Email Harassment in the Workplace?

Email harassment is when your coworkers or supervisors use email or other forms of electronic modes to send you unwelcomed, offensive, or intimidating communications. To constitute actionable harassment under the law, the harassment must be substantially motivated by one of your protected traits such as your gender, religion, race, or national origin. Not all communications constitute actionable harassment. In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act the “(FEHA”) defines actionable harassment as “conduct [that] sufficiently offends, humiliates, distresses, or intrudes upon its victim, so as to disrupt the victim’s emotional tranquility in the workplace, affect the victim’s ability to perform the job as usual, or otherwise interfere with and undermine the victim’s personal sense of well-being.”

Are There Email Harassment Laws?

Email harassment can fall under many different types of harassment. Under California employment law, it can be of a sexual or non-sexual nature. Emails which allude to engaging in sexual activities may fall under “quid pro quo” sexual harassment or “hostile work environment” sexual harassment.

Emails that intend to harass or bully the recipient fall under “hostile work environment” harassment. Emails which contain threatening messages or content that causes the recipient distress, fear or anger may also qualify as email harassment.

Furthermore, California online harassment law states that it is illegal to use an electronic device to repeatedly contact someone with the intention to harass or annoy them. A singular message that contains obscene or threatening language is also illegal.

Depending on your specific situation, certain laws may apply. You should discuss your situation with a Los Angeles workplace harassment lawyer. An experienced employment attorney can help you understand your legal options.

How Many Threatening Emails Does It Take to Be Considered Email Harassment?

Under California law, it is illegal to make contact with another person with the intention to threaten them. This means that one email containing threatening language may qualify as electronic harassment. A Los Angeles email harassment lawyer can help you determine if a specific email is harassment.

How Do I Determine the Difference Between a Negative Email and Email Harassment?

Not all email exchanges will qualify as harassment. Sometimes, email messages contain simple, petty annoyances. Other times, they may contain critical information about your performance. However, there are other emails that are illegal under the law.

There are a few obvious signs to look for to determine whether a particular email has crossed the line:

  • It contains a threat to you, your family or your property
  • The sender emails you repeatedly against your wishes
  • It contains obscene or offensive language, images and/or videos
  • It contains offensive information about your protected traits, like your pregnancy, gender, race, disability or national origin.

Our work harassment lawyers in Los Angeles can help you assess an email. We can also help you determine whether you should pursue legal recourse.

How Do I Report Email Harassment in the Workplace?

There are a few things you can do if you receive threatening or harassing emails at work:

  1. Let the harasser know that the emails are unwelcome. Though uncomfortable, it is important for your potential claim. You should do this in writing or through email so there is a paper trail.
  2. Review and follow your employer’s anti-harassment policies. Then, speak with a supervisor or the Human Resources (HR) department about the emails. Submit your email harassment complaint or concerns in writing.
  3. Give your employer a chance to act. If your employer does not take action, then you should consider filing a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). The DFEH will review your complaint and decide whether to pursue an investigation.
  4. Consider filing a lawsuit. You may also be able to file a lawsuit against the offending supervisor or coworker for damages. You can only do this once you have received a right-to-sue letter from the DFEH. If you choose to file a lawsuit for damages, speak with an experienced attorney. A Los Angeles employment litigation lawyer can help you develop a clear plan for each phase of your harassment claim.

How Do I Prove That I Am the Victim of Email Harassment at Work?

You must show that the sender wrote the offending email(s), or allowed it to be sent. You can do this by saving or printing off a copy of the email(s) with the relevant information displayed. You should also take steps to preserve the electronic version of the email. It contains valuable metadata about the sender.

You will also need a strong argument for why the message involved is either:

  • Obscene, hostile, offensive, oppressive or intimidating; and
  • Substantially motivated by your protected traits.

Proving these elements is up to the details of your individual case. Because of this, it is important to discuss your case with an email harassment lawyer.

Contact Our Los Angeles Email Harassment Attorneys to Learn More

No one should live in fear of harassment, whether it be in-person or online. Unfortunately, it still happens all the time. If you are experiencing harassment through email at work, then we encourage you to seek help.

Contact our employment lawyers in Los Angeles for work-related harassment. We can help you explore your legal options. You can call us at (310) 499-0140 or contact us online to schedule a free evaluation.