Texting: A New Form of Sexual Harassment

While texting may be fast and convenient, its casual culture creates a false sense of security that lulls people into making careless statements. As a result, more and more text messages are surfacing in sexual harassment cases and making their way to court.

Testosterone-charged messages from bosses to their female employees top the chart of offensive texts. They typically involve persistent requests for dates and quid pro quo offers of promotion in exchange for sexual favors. 

You’d think that after all these years of sexual harassment training in the workplace, employees would be more aware of the do’s and don’ts.  Maybe it’s something about the fleeting nature of a text message that causes otherwise savvy business people to foolishly throw caution to the wind.  Or maybe it’s the hormones. After all, e-mail has been around longer than text messaging and most users know that e-mail has a radioactive shelf life. Other fingertip technologies, like texting, are no different.

Take, for example, the case involving Central Michigan University’s head soccer coach. Two women on the team, a senior and a freshman, alleged he coach engaged in inappropriate communications and sexual relationships with them. The text messages from the coach proved to be the achilles heel of his defense, causing the case to settle for $450,000 before a suit was actually filed.

Proper training can help avoid texting headaches. Be sure to include texting in your company’s sexual harassment training if texting is a commonly used in your business environment. 

All employees need to know that text messages don’t disappear once you hit delete. They also need to appreciate that the text messages contain a time stamp and so while offensive messages are inappropriate at any time of day, sending them late at night only makes a bad thing worse.