Law Offices of Lauren Abrams blog

Cyberbullying in California workplaces

Some human resource management analysts believe that employers in California and around the country should specifically forbid cyberbullying and other behaviors in their anti-discrimination and harassment policies. One 2015 court case found that an account manager contributed to a hostile work environment by harassing her subordinate with sexual text messages and unwanted physical contact. Even though the behavior took place outside of employment hours, and there was some initial confusion about which manager sent the initial texts, the court decided that the employer could be held liable for a Title VII violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Another precedent-setting 2015 decision was handed down after an EMT received multiple threatening insults from an unknown Facebook user. Authorities later discovered that the messages originated from emergency management computer equipment operated by the same municipality the EMT worked for. As with the other case, at first it wasn't clear who sent the harassing message, but since it was traceable, the court could hold the employer liable.

Some attorneys say that employers should be cautious not to violate the National Labor Relations Act when they try to implement rules that prohibit cyberbullying. The Act secures employees' rights to take actions as a group, and according to the National Labor Relations Board, poorly-worded policies may compromise such rights.

In their attempts to avoid bad public relations, many employers institute rigid rules and policies that govern their workplaces and employees. Although their intentions may be good, these policies can potentially trod upon employee rights. In some cases, they don't even successfully prevent actions like cyberbullying and harassment, which may be committed by employees who think their behaviors are acceptable as long as they occur outside the workplace. Those who have been harassed at the workplace may wish to discuss their situation with an employment law attorney.

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