With the office gone virtual, employee trolling and harassment has too.
44% of US professionals complain of experiencing online abuse. The growth in social media and internet have also triggered trolls and mudslingers who misuse them to harass coworkers and even others. And the most infamous “zoombombing,” where hackers gatecrash ongoing video meetings and share explicit content, is a whole new level of challenge.
An employee subject to abuse can display high levels of frustration, which may eventually impact their performance at work. A prolonged period of abuse can even affect their mental and physical health.
As an employer, you have a responsibility towards the welfare of your employees. The law holds employers accountable if employees suffer abuse at work, especially if the abuser is a colleague or anyone working in the same company.
In another context, an employer may still be held accountable if the an employee is abused by someone who doesn’t belong to the company.
Harassment and cyberbullying crimes include stalking, hate crimes, provoking, threatening, annoying, and any other actions that may cause emotional or physical distress.
When a – mental or physical – harm is done and the troll is revealed as a part of your workforce, it can have repercussions. Additionally, there will be reputational issues, since every employee is considered a brand ambassador of your organization.
What the law states
The US Federal Government laws force a person convicted of stalking or online harassment to face a prison sentence of 5 years, or a fine of $250,000, or both. In case of death or physical injury to the person, the convict may receive a life sentence too.
According to the UK Protection from Harassment Act 1997, the abuser could be handed a brief prison sentence, or a fine of £5,000, or both. This punishment might also get extended to the employer if it is found that they failed to take the correct measures or disciplines to prevent the mishap from occurring.
Equality and Human Rights Commission instructs that employers are,
“legally responsible for acts of discrimination, harassment and victimization carried out by employees in the course of employment.”
Now that you have completely understood the scenario, let’s look at some ways you can act on as an HR to prevent these vulnerable situations from taking place.
Take these key steps to prevent employee trolling
You might have a policy in place, and the necessary guidelines as well, but here are some other necessary actionable items.
#1. Investigate the matter
Instead of taking such matters lightly, spend some time thinking and investigation about it. Find the necessary evidence related to the case, such as, which social media channel or internet medium was used to harass, was the target trolled using a fake account, etc.
#2. Address the matter case-by-case
You don’t need to expel the employee or treat every employee the same way, if the harm was not too major.
An unintended comment can be perceived as rude also, but such cases will be better dealt with if you give the employee a formal warning.
In another case where the trolling was violent or aggressive, you must consult a lawyer and take rightful guidance.
It is important to understand between cases that require serious actions and cases that can be managed internally.
#3. Follow a structured procedure
Take a step-by-step approach and give every involved person the opportunity to express and explain. Understand if there is literally a need to involve the government, because such actions will have a direct impact on your company’s years of hard-built reputation.
Online harassment is a serious offense, and both the employee and employer can face legal consequences. It is highly important that you take necessary steps to prevent employees from trolling or even get trolled during their tenure.