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Can Inappropriate Text Messages Constitute Sexual Harassment?

August 9th, 2022
Inappropriate Text Messages

Many employers, managers, and workers exchange their phone numbers to communicate quickly and effectively. Your employer also might provide you with a cellphone. Whether you use your own phone or an employer-provided one, your boss, co-workers, or other parties cannot use it to sexually harass you with inappropriate text messages.

If you receive inappropriate text messages from someone at work, you might be able to take legal action. Inappropriate texts that are sexual in nature or otherwise harassing can qualify as sexual harassment.

Even if the text messages are not overtly sexual in nature, they still could create a hostile work environment. Any type of sexual harassment is subject to legal action.

Some examples of inappropriate text messages include:

  • Sending or asking for sexually explicit photos.
  • Texting jokes that are vulgar.
  • Unwanted flirtation.
  • Asking for sexual favors.
  • Sexually-threatening messages.

You might wonder whether or not a text message qualifies as sexual harassment. When a reasonable person would consider the actions of an employer, manager, or co-worker to be sexually harassing in nature, then sexual harassment has likely occurred.

It is important for employers to include texting as part of sexual harassment prevention training.

Timing of Texts Might Matter

When you are off work, you are on your personal time and should not be bothered. When inappropriate texts are sent by an offending party while you are off work, that could be evidence of sexual harassment.

Unless the text is related to work, you should not be contacted when you are off the clock. Even then, it only should be done rarely, like when a co-worker calls in sick, or a manager wants to know if you want to pick up some extra hours.

When the texts become personal or sexual in nature, a reasonable person would likely conclude that sexual harassment is happening. If that happens to you, documenting the harassing content and when it was sent could help support your case. You should save copies of all inappropriate texts, and be prepared to use them as evidence if you initiate a legal case.

What Should You Do if You Are Receiving Inappropriate Text Messages?

It is never okay for a boss or co-worker to try to obtain sexual favors or an intimate relationship with an employee. Even if the relationship is consensual, it may still qualify as sexual harassment, especially between an employee and their boss. That is because of the influence of a supervisor over their employment. Note that in this situation, it would be difficult to prove that sexual harassment occurred.

However, the more one-way the communication, the more obvious sexual harassment is occurring and is non-consensual. The harassed worker could have a claim for sexual harassment that is supported by the inappropriate text messages.

If you are experiencing sexual harassment through text messages, you have the right to reply by telling the offender to stop and that you are uncomfortable with the inappropriate communication. Sending a response via text will help document the matter and could be used as evidence against the harasser.

When you are at work, you should try to discuss the matter with the person to try to get them to stop. It does not have to be a long conversation and could simply repeat what you might have already texted that person in an effort to stop their behavior.

You also should try to discuss the matter with a supervisor or someone who has authority over the offending party, and you should document any efforts to do so. Whenever an employer receives a complaint of sexual harassment, the employer has a duty to investigate and remedy the problem.

If the employer ignores the matter, then they become liable for any ongoing harassment. An experienced lawyer can determine when an employer is acting negligently and is enabling harassment to occur.

Gathering Evidence for Your Case

Whenever someone sends you an inappropriate text, you can save that data and use it as evidence. You also should be able to obtain copies of inappropriate text messages from your service provider.

If you have any trusted co-workers, you could show them copies of the offending texts so that they could affirm that they have seen them. Corroborating witnesses can help hold liable parties accountable for their actions if the matter ends up in court.

You also should write down the dates and times of any harassing behavior from the offending person. Making notes regarding efforts to discuss the matter with the harasser could help show your efforts to end the harassment. It also helps to show that the behavior is unwanted and non-consensual.

How Can a Lawyer Help You?

A lawyer can help you document the problem, your efforts to resolve it, and any responses to your complaints about the matter. Federal and state laws protect workers against sexual harassment and other inappropriate and illegal behaviors.

When a manager or co-worker uses text messages to harass you, that behavior creates a hostile work environment, especially if there are changes to your schedule, work assignments, or other acts of retaliation.

Your lawyer can help you build and document a case that is supported by strong evidence. Your lawyer could collect witness testimony from those who have had similar experiences.

If you are targeted by a boss, there is a good chance that other workers are also being sexually harassed. Fighting back legally could be a way to hold that person accountable for sexual harassment and for creating a hostile work environment.

The evidence provided by copies of the text messages and the documentation of your attempts to stop the harassment could make your case much stronger.

Philadelphia Sexual Harassment Lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. Will Uphold Your Rights

If you are on the receiving end of inappropriate text messages that are sexual in nature, speak with one of our experienced Philadelphia sexual harassment lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. as soon as possible. Call us at 215-569-1999 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients in South Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County.

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