In the present climate of the current sexual harassment charges in Hollywood and the subsequent #MeToo campaign, what rights do remote or freelance workers have should they find themselves involved in a sexual harassment charge.
In the traditional workplace, should a colleague make an unwanted advance or sexual comment, there’s typically a protocol: You report the incident as sexual harassment to your Human Resources department, and look to them to help to ameliorate the situation. But as the freelance economy continues to grow, more freelance employees face incidents of sexual harassment involving colleagues or supervisors while working remotely, usually via email, text message or social media. And in remote workplaces, the sexual harassment protocol isn’t always so clear.
Reporting harassment and sexist behaviour as a remote freelance employee is challenging in many of the same ways that it is for employees in brick-and-mortar workspaces. In both traditional and remote workplaces, victims often struggle with the fear of repercussions for speaking out or disbelief. However, unlike many employees who work with their businesses in person, freelancers don’t necessarily have access to corporate resources, which can make harassment feel like an even more isolating or hopeless experience.
But what can you do – as a freelancer you are reliant on your reputation to continue getting work. Do you want to be that person that complains to your clients HR department every time someone tells you a dirty joke? Obviously, I am not advocating in being compliant against someone asking to look down your blouse or sticking their tongue down your throat, but the freelance community does need to know what actions to take should they find themselves in a situation that they are uncomfortable with.
So, what can you do?
Report to HR
Even though you may not be a full-time employee, if someone has sexually harassed you during ‘company time’ they may still be in violation of their company policy. If for some reason there is no HR person in place, identify who the next person in command is and report the incident to them directly.
File a Police Report
If you really feel violated, you can always file a police report against the person who sexual harassed you. While this probably means you will no longer be able to work for this person you can ensure that they won’t have the option to harass you again.
Once you have filed a police report it may not be enough for your abuser to get the hint. You may have to take it a step further by pressing charges depending on how bad the sexual harassment incidents are.
End the Contract
While no one likes to lose money, no client is ever worth it if they make you feel devalued emotionally and physically. Don’t ever be afraid to end a contract because you ‘need the money’. There’s always some other client who can fill this gap.
Despite the lack of statistics and visibility, remote workplace sexual harassment of freelancers is a real problem that will only become more important as the freelance economy continues to grow. While legislators work to protect freelancers, those who work from their living rooms, coffee shops, libraries, and remote offices across the country can know that they are not alone, and while they are somewhat limited for now, there are resources on their side.