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Cyberstalking: The Online Risk That Every Employer Faces

A former employee is suing an electric car manufacturer for sexual harassment and wrongful termination. The lawsuit alleges the employer failed to take steps to prevent sexual harassment, and terminated her because of her complaints.

The plaintiff, who worked as a security guard, claims an employee in the IT department harassed her multiple times, including suggestive comments, leering stares, and even squeezing himself into her tiny "one-person" guard station and blocking her from leaving.

The lawsuit states the harasser illegally obtained her personal information and accessed her emails and personal accounts. He used the information to send multiple text messages and track her location.

After making numerous complaints, the plaintiff alleges the employer dismissed the harassment as a "crush," and even suggested that the plaintiff provoked the harassment. The employer gave the plaintiff a written reprimand, then terminated her a month later.

None of the defendants or their representatives have commented on the case. Sean O'Kane "Faraday Future employee accused of sexual harassment and cyberstalking," www.theverge.com (Dec 4, 2017).


Commentary

The above matter references in-person harassment, but also cyberstalking. Cyberstalking generally refers to internet behaviors targeting a specific person that would cause a reasonable individual to feel fear.

Behaviors that are considered cyberstalking can include repeated texts or emails; monitoring activities using spyware, webcams, or GPS tracking; posting false statements or pictures; assuming another individual’s identity in chatrooms or on websites; or disclosing another person’s personal information online.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports more than three million U.S. adults are victims of stalking behavior, with 25 percent reporting having experienced some type of cyberstalking. The above article is just one example of an unfortunate growing trend. In 2016, police in Oregon charged a man with cyberstalking several coworkers after he repeatedly sent them threatening emails.

Cyberstalking is harassment and is a real risk for employers. It is important to include cyberstalking in your anti-harassment policies. Be sure to discuss cyberstalking in employee training, providing examples of inappropriate online behavior.

In addition, make sure you take any report of harassment seriously, including harassment via the internet. Limit your risk by responding promptly with a thorough investigation and resolution.

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