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Is sexting in the workplace considered sexual harassment?

If you have a general understanding of employment law, then you know that there are state and federal laws in place that prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace. Despite this fact, and the harsh penalties that oftentimes are associated with a sexual harassment claim, there are people here in Florida, as well as across the nation, who continue to violate this law by saying inappropriate things to their coworkers or making unwanted sexual advances.

In some cases, sexual harassment is intentional and directed. In cases like this, the offender is aware that they are breaking the law but proceed anyway. But sometimes, sexual harassment can occur completely by mistake. This oftentimes happens because a person is unfamiliar with the law or is ignorant about how their actions are being perceived by others.

In today's post, we'd like to help our readers understand the law better by answering a question you might find yourself asking down the road: is sexting in the workplace considered sexual harassment? Let's take a look.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, defines sexual harassment as any "unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature." Because sexting is the sending of sexual explicit material through a cellphone, it could be construed as unwanted advances by a coworker, which could then lead to a sexual harassment claim.

Instances of sexual harassment in the workplace via cellphone messages do happen. In fact, if you follow the news in other states then you know that a former athletics director with the University of Minnesota recently resigned over accusations of sexual harassment. This case illustrates one of the steepest penalties associated with a sexual harassment claim: the possibility the accused could lose their job.

Sources: The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Sexual Harassment," Accessed Aug. 12, 2015

The Star Tribune, "Norwood Teague resigns as athletic director at University of Minnesota," Amelia Rayno, Aug. 8, 2015

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