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What Can I Do to Prevent Online Harassment at Work?

When I started my online campaign against sexual harassment in the workplace for The Legal Clinic I was not prepared for the almost daily onslaught of "friendly" messages I would receive from romance scammers trolling the internet looking for middle-aged professional victims.

Here is the most recent such message I received on my workplace Twitter account, by way of an example:

I'm sorry for intruding into your privacy, I was actually searching for an old friend when I came across your profile on twitter suggestion. You look nice and have an interesting profile as well. I was hoping we could be able to spend time to get to know each other better.

I am certainly not alone in experiencing sexual harassment online and, in fact, studies confirm that the incidents of online sexual harassment have increased markedly since more people have been working from home because of the pandemic. So what can be done to prevent this type of harassment in the first place?

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) recommends the following prevention measures:

-Use a gender-neutral e-mail address

-give as little personal information as possible on your signature line

-do not list your e-mail address on any Web pages

-Turn off location settings that may be embedded in your device

-Remove tags as necessary on posts or photos,

-Limit the information you share in your "out of office" message

-Use encryption, privacy settings, software, or other technological tools to increase the security

-Watch for “red flags”, for example, someone asking where you live or where you work

-Do not share personal information in public forums anywhere online

-if it is someone related to your workplace report the incident to your employer right away

For your own sake, it is best not to engage in a confrontation with a harasser online as you may say something in a moment of anger or frustration that could harm your reputation and your career. Consider doing the following instead:

-make it clear that you do not want him or her to contact you again

-Unfriend, hide, block, or mute another user from seeing your profile

-report the harasser to the platform

-don't reply to unsolicited, harassing or offensive e-mail

-don't open attachments as they may contain viruses

-Keep a log of any harassing activity

-Save all offending communications for evidence

The Legal Clinic, and many other community legal clinics across the province are offering free legal information and advice for those experiencing sexual harassment at work and public legal education for employees and employers about how to address and prevent this type of harassment in the workplace. For more information please contact The Legal Clinic at 613-264-7153 or visit our website at

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