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Watch out for 'textual' harassment in the workplace

Sexual harassment may be illegal, but it's been in the workplace forever. With the rise of smartphones and social media, though, experts warn that another emerging trend is harassment that takes place through text messages. They're often calling it "textual harassment."

It can take on many forms. A co-worker may not stop texting someone and asking him or her out. That worker could send sexually explicit photos or videos to the coworker. A supervisor could use text messages to make explicit jokes that have no place in the office.

On social media, this type of harassment could also include online stalking and other such issues. Social media also changes the game because more information is made public.

In the past, a worker who didn't want to be contacted by a co-worker simply didn't give out his or her number. Now, people can use social media to track co-workers down and contact them anyway. Privacy can be violated. When workers have multiple profiles -- Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, for example -- this can just make things more complicated.

One of the problems with this type of harassment is that people may think they can do things on the Internet, in relative privacy, that they wouldn't do face to face. This also opens up the door for interactions that take place outside of work hours -- perhaps after someone has been drinking.

If you've been victimized by sexual harassment via text message or on the Internet, it does give you easy access to evidence. Be sure you know how to use it and what rights you have in Michigan.

Source: Academy of Management, "Sexual Harassment Versus Workplace Romance: Social Media Spillover and Textual Harassment in the Workplace," Lisa A. Mainiero and Kevin J. Jones, accessed July 06, 2016

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