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Harassment Prevention Considerations With a Remote Workforce

There’s been a surge in employees working remotely since COVID-19 hit the US. With a remote workforce comes new and unique challenges for ensuring that employees don’t violate federal or state anti-discrimination and harassment laws.

A few quick reminders:

  • Unlawful workplace harassment must be unwelcome and based on a protected class such as race, gender, age, religion, national origin, or disability
  • Harassment only becomes unlawful when tolerating it is a condition of continued employment. Or it’s so severe or pervasive that a reasonable person would find a hostile, intimidating, or abusive

A big change for many companies with a newly remote workforce is the increase in virtual meetings using the video features in these meetings can be a great way to have employees be more connected but there are some pitfalls to avoid so employees don’t feel uncomfortable, harassed, or discriminated against in these meetings.

First, when working from home the desire to work in comfortable clothing could tip from casual to inappropriate.

There are numerous memes and stories about mistakes like this, employees with professional tops but no bottoms or family members dashing by in the buff. You can help employees out by being explicit about expectations and making sure they plan accordingly for the possibility of technology or wardrobe malfunctions.

Happy business man using smartphone over white background

Next ensure that employees also take stock of what’s in their background before turning video on.

Could there be inappropriate personal items or art that some might consider offensive.

Another consideration ensure that virtual meetings are scheduled equitably.

For example if managers meetings with men are over the phone but video is mandatory for one on one’s with the women. That would be a cause for concern.

Finally virtual happy hours have become a common event to keep employees connected while working remotely.

Keep in mind that alcohol lessens inhibitions and interactions through a screen can also decrease the formality. Set expectations around respectful behavior and encourage employees to drink responsibly if allowed during happy hours. Remind employees that harassment and other conduct policies apply just as they would at any other company sponsored function.

Here are some additional considerations.

  • Review your company harassment and discrimination handbook policies and ensure they’re inclusive of and applicable to remote work and interactions
  • Working remotely may expose who is more or less adept with technology and age may or may not correlate with tech skills whether it does or not. Keep an eye out for not so harmless jokes about employees ages to avoid age based harassment

Whether in or out of the office your best tool and defense is a solid harassment prevention policy and well-trained managers. If you don’t have a policy in place already, now is a great time to create one.

About Alliance

For over 30 years, Alliance has worked with the unique needs of our clients to ensure we provide the highest quality solution and service.

Inspired by the American dream of business ownership (and also the need to eat!), Randy and Terri Norwood set up a dot-matrix printer on a folding table in their Houston living room and declared Alliance Payroll Services open for business in September, 1989. Trying to never lose sight of the fact that business should always be fun, Randy incessantly knocked on doors of businesses while Terri keyed, processed and delivered whatever payrolls Randy sold. Fast forward over three decades and, thanks to our hard working team of “Warriors,” Alliance has grown into one of the largest privately-held human capital management (HCM) software providers in the nation.

But many things have not changed. We still try to under-promise and over-deliver our products and services, not the other way around. We keep our pricing transparent and simple. We refer to our clients around the nation as our partners and friends. And we still think business should be fun!

Alliance HCM delivers advanced technology to streamline all of your Human Capital Management needs in one powerful, intuitive online system.

Talent Acquisition​

Deliver the best employees to your team.

Time Management​

Increase efficiency and profitability.

Payroll & Tax​

Streamlined payroll processing.

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Human Resources​

A complete Human Resources solution.


Easily plan and administer benefits.

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