Text messages are a popular and convenient form of communication even within the workplace. Many employees stay in contact with work associates or their bosses this way.
Since texting is an informal way to communicate, it often blurs the lines of appropriate professional conduct between coworkers or superiors. An increasing number of sexual harassment claims rely on text messages for evidence of insensitive or harassing behaviors.
Creating a hostile work environment
Sexual harassment takes many forms, but any activity can lead to a hostile working environment. Typically, individuals understand outright sexual advances or implications of a promotion or other perk in exchange for a sexual favor as a violation of the law. However, sexual harassment can take a more subtle form. As it relates to text messaging, the messages may start with general topics about a work assignment before moving into personal topics. When the text messaging is pervasive or severe enough to interfere with an individual’s ability to do his or her job, it creates a hostile work environment.
Receiving sexual or insulting messages
In the age of group messaging, it is possible for insensitive comments to reach you without intent. This does not affect a claim of sexual harassment, though a single inappropriate comment might not carry enough weight with a formal claim. It does provide the opportunity to report the incident. Never ignore these comments or messages, as these are subtle forms of sexual harassment.
If you are uncomfortable with the way a coworker or superior communicates with you through texting, this is a sign to take action. Consult your employee handbook for the proper channels for reporting the incident.