Sexual Harassment on Social Media and the #MeToo Movement

Over the past three years, I’ve had about a dozen people reach out to me about being sexually harassed relating to their social media businesses and platforms. With more and more brave victims coming out to share their #metoo experience, I thought this post needed to get written.

Social media conference attendees have contacted me about after hours “one on one” business meetings turning into sexual assaults. Two spouses have reached out for help in protecting their rights after finding out their husbands went “Weinstein” at a conference. On the other side of the coin, I’ve also had multiple people reach out who were wrongfully accused of sexual harassment and assault at social media conferences.

While names like Weinstein, Franken, Moore, Trump, Louis C.K., Ratner, and Spacey (just to mention a few), are what most people hear each night on the evening news, I believe we have similar problems in our social media communities. Although I haven’t heard about anyone I know on social media being banned from the local mall, I am seeing some bad dudes doing bad things to women. I have a feeling you have too.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a big deal. I also think it’s a problem for many people doing business on social media. Although the offline laws do not apply in the same way to this online misconduct, I do think it’s difficult to avoid noticing the similarities. Because I’ve always thought that having a conversation about problems is good, I want to start a conversation and encourage more dialog with you about sexual harassment on our social media business platforms.

One more thing. Almost all of the incoming calls I get concerning sexual harassment involve female victims. As such, I’m writing this post with them in mind. Please keep in mind that sexual harassment can happen to anyone and it’s never OK to be a direct or indirect participant in this kind of activity. Because of this, my thoughts are premised and my post is written with female victims in mind.

Also, please note that while I am a California lawyer, I’m not your lawyer. No legal advice is being given in this post. What I am trying to do is give you something to think about. I want to give you some ideas and tools to be part of the solution and to help fix this problem.

In California, sexual harassment in the workplace might involve one or more of the wrongful acts I discuss below. What you may find interesting is that “sexual motive” isn’t required for conduct to be deemed “sexual harassment” in traditional workplace claims. I think the same applies online.

It doesn’t take much effort to see how the conduct I describe below is as unacceptable in our social media business relationships as it is in our offline worlds. Despite this, sexual harassment online happens daily. Nobody should have to experience the loss of reputation, opportunity and financial losses because she was sexually harassed.

At the state level, California has adopted the Fair Employment and Housing Act (commonly called “FEHA”), which expressly prohibits sexual harassment. Case law has evolved and interpreted how FEHA applies in different factual situations. On the federal level, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes discrimination on the basis of a person’s sex unlawful. Many states have similar laws.

Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment

Offline: A quid pro quo work-related sexual harassment case happens when a victim’s employment is conditioned on submission to unwelcome sexual advances. A hostile work environment sexual harassment claim happens with the sexual harassment is made hostile, offensive, oppressive, intimidating, or abusive due to pervasive and ongoing sexual harassment.

Online: I’ve been online since 1996 and frankly, have seen just about all there is to see. Recently with live video, there have been too many times where I’ve watched women on a livestream being placed in uncomfortable situations. I’ve watched and even counseled a few friends with ways to deal with inappropriate sexual remarks and comments so that these professionals can continue participating in the business-oriented online activities and streams.

Along those same lines, I’ve also observed and tried to stop sexually focused comments in live chats and blog posts that derailed any value the female participant was trying to originally convey in the post. These women shouldn’t have to deal with this. With the #metoo movement, maybe things will change.

In many of these cases there are no formal employer/employee relationships but I believe the result is the same. The online female business owner’s credibility and ability to build meaningful business relationships is temporarily or permanently derailed, and that’s wrong!

Unwelcome Sexually Derogatory Comments

Offline: This includes harassing behavior in the workplace using, sending or otherwise communicating “epithets, derogatory comments, or slurs.” In California, this includes the use of demeaning, gender-specific terms and cruel practical jokes.

Online: Far too many times during live chat, video, and comments on social media and blog posts, the existence of derogatory comments highjack the conversation. The fact of the matter is that anytime sexual derogatory comments or demeaning gender-specific jokes are used on these platforms, there’s a very good chance that you may be interfering with a female participants ability to make a point, share her products, and build relationships.

You may also, at best, make her uncomfortable. At worst, you may be causing emotional harm to the recipient of your comments and anyone else reading the comments. While I understand you believe you have First Amendment Rights to say what you want, please refrain from doing so when doing business on social media. More often than not, you’re going to be interpreted as an asshole (it’s a legal term- Google it).

Supervisors or Employers May Not Condition Employment on Sex

Offline: Using different levels of power and authority to gain sexual favors is illegal. Consent given by a victim in these situations is invalid. It’s also noted that in California, employers and supervisors may not require employees to submit to or tolerate unwelcome sexual advances as a condition of their employment.

Online: I’ve been contacted by women who shared similar stories about speaking at conferences. They were told that to be considered for a speaking gig, dinner and drinks at a hotel were required (the other speaking spots were filled online).

Another potential client reached out after being offered to be profiled in a chapter of a social media expert’s business book in exchange for spending the weekend at a resort destination. She shouldn’t have ever been put in this position. She declined, took the high road and has gone on with her career. My gut feeling is that she wasn’t the first to be approached by this author.

Each of these instances was business related. Because each of these women declined to accept the conditional business opportunities, we’ll never know how this impacted their companies and careers. The bottom line is that these women should have never been put in these positions in the first place.

There are many other forms of sexual harassment in the workplace that also apply online. I’ll stop with these examples because I think you get my drift.

When doing business online, we all need to be aware of what we say and do. Use my “Deflect, Reflect and Select” approach when engaging with others.

We need to lead by example, be respectful to others, and avoid saying or doing anything that would make someone else, especially a woman, feel uncomfortable or threatened.

What can you do when you’ve been sexually harassed online? What can we all do, as a community, when we see this happen?

Document the Wrongdoing: The first thing I recommend is to document what happened. Screenshots are an excellent way to do this.

Report the Wrongdoing: Report the inappropriate behavior to the platform. If the sexual harassment was made by someone employed by a large company, reach out to the company executives or human resource department and report the conduct. Don’t text or email. Send your complaint in writing via FedEx or UPS. This way they will know you have documentation that your complaint was received. This is called “legal notice,” and it’s a big thing in the legal world. It requires companies to take action.

Block The Wrongdoer: Use technology to delete this person from your life. I don’t care who the person is or how important he or she thinks they are. Get them out of your life and report the wrongdoing as I mentioned above.

If the online business related sexual harassment has caused you or your business harm, think about lawyering up. In addition to sexual harassment claims, there are many related causes of action that you may be able to assert against the wrongdoer such as interference with economic relationships, defamation, fraud and emotional distress. I’m only licensed in California so if you’re in another state, click here to find a good lawyer in your state (my recommendation).

Conclusion

Doing business on social media is new to many people. During a recent interview, I even referred to doing business online as being similar to doing business in wild west. On almost a daily basis I find myself rolling my eyes  because of what I see or hear.

But here’s the deal. Regardless of whether doing business online is new or not, the fact of the matter is that common courtesy and being respectful to others is still mandatory. Free accounts, anonymity and immediate access to others do not give someone the right to be disruptive and cause harm.

I’d like to wrap up this post with the following quote. It really hits home for me.

“Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught.” J. C. Watts


Mitch is a California lawyer and a contributing expert to Sue Scheff’s new book, “Shame Nation.”

You can connect with Mitch on most social media platforms at Mitch.Social and here at his blog Streaming.Lawyer

Related posts: “Do The Right Thing In Your Social Media Community” by Mitch Jackson and “After Weinstein, don’t forget about online sexual harassment” by Kelly Wallace

Mitch Jackson Profiled at INC.com

“Mitch Jackson leveraged the power of social media and live streaming to take his brand from local to international. Here’s what you can learn from it.”

by Dakota Shane

When you hear the word ‘law’, a lot of things come to mind. More than likely, none of those things are the phrase ‘social media’, but that didn’t stop this California lawyer from using the power of social to take his firm from a local to an internationally recognized brand, and it shouldn’t stop you either.

Click here to read the full article at Inc.com

Just Out! The New 6th Edition of “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” by David Meerman Scott

I’m honored to be profiled in Chapter 5 of David Meerman Scott’s 6th edition of his best-selling book, “The New Rules of Marketing and PR.” The chapter is titled, “Blogs: Tapping Millions of Evangelists To Tell Your Story” and frankly, it shares some of my favorite approaches to building your brand and creating global top-of-mind awareness and influence. I know you’re going to like all of the tips, information and stories found in David’s updated book!

To put the value of David’s book into context, it’s important to know that the first edition of “The New Rules of Marketing & PR” was published in 2007 and was six months on the BusinessWeek bestseller list. Since then the book has sold more than 375,000 copies in English in the various editions and is now available in 29 languages from Albanian to Vietnamese. Hundreds of colleges and universities around the world use it as a text in class and many companies require all marketing and PR staff to read a copy.

The newly updated 6th edition is out in the USA and will soon reach other countries around the world. It includes a dozen fresh new examples of success. Click here for more information and to place your order!


Update: I’ll be sharing the stage with David in Las Vegas later this month at the Tony Robbins Business Mastery Event. Look for our updates and livestreams during the upcoming event and click here or on the image below to watch a short live video of David sharing my newsjacking efforts at the recent Florida event 😉

Don’t Look The Other Way On Social Media

“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” -Oprah Winfrey

When you see something bad happen to someone else on social media, do you look the other way or do you do the right thing and help?

Most people pretend not to notice when others behave badly. They ignore the problem. They look the other way.

I see this a lot on social media.

When the digital fox is allowed inside the social media hen house, people get hurt. Wrongdoers are not held accountable. Ignoring the problem makes it worse for everyone.

Protecting each other is not always easy, but it is always necessary.

Have integrity, promote high standards, and act ethically in your online community. Stand tall and do the right thing.

Doing so will help make our online communities, and the world, safer and better places.

Mitch

Related: “Do The Right Thing In Your Social Media Community”

If You’re Into Tech, Then You’re Going To Enjoy This Week’s Two Live Video Shows!

This week on TheShow.live we have two special episodes that will dive deep into social media, AR, VR, and MR.

Cathy Hackl

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On Tuesday, we’ll be chatting with AR, VR, and MR pro, Cathy Hackl, who just finished up a week in Las Vegas at #CES2017. She’ll be sharing her “Top 10” take-a-ways from the big event.

Kim Garst

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On Wednesday at 4 pm ET, we have Forbes Top 10 social media Influencer, Kim Garst, joining us and sharing her thoughts about the platforms she believes we should all be focusing on in 2017 and beyond.

We’ll be live on Huzza and simultaneously stream to Facebook Live at http://TheShow.today

Direct links to this week’s episodes and all past and upcoming shows can be found at TheShow.live

How To Protect Your Digital ASS(ets) With Estate and Business Succession Planning

Estate planning

What will happen to your Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram accounts when you die? Who will have access to your online business website or professional blog?

If you suffer from a serious illness or temporary incapacity, what will happen to all the domain names you have registered or use? If your incapacity is permanent, who has the legal right to access your personal and business documents on Google Drive or Dropbox?

After your death, incapacity or disability, who can access and control all of your pictures and videos on Shutterfly, Periscope, and Youtube? Will anyone need to access, for any reason, your PayPal and Stripe accounts?

Don’t forget about your smartphones, tablets, and laptops? If the FBI finds it challenging to access the iPhone of terrorists, do you think your family or business partner will be able to gain access to information they stored away on your digital devices?

Valuable Assets Most People Don’t Think About

All of the above are important and potentially valuable digital assets that should be taken into consideration in both estate and business succession planning. According to McAfee, the average Internet user has over $37,000 in unprotected digital assets. As we move from building digital footprints to digital billboards, I think this number is going to continue growing at an exponential rate.

The fact of the matter is that 60% of Americans do not have a Will or Trust. For those that do, few have thought about including their personal and professional digital assets into their estate or business succession plans.

Making sure your digital assets are part of your estate, and business succession plans is necessary for two reasons:

  1. It will help minimize and possibly even eliminate probate, avoid probate fees and estate death taxes.
  2. It will help protect valuable business assets and prevent the chance of your business being disrupted by claims and lawsuits involving domains, websites, and challenges regarding intellectual property rights.

From both a personal and business perspective, being able to control how your digital assets should be handled after death (maintained, moved and even deleted) avoids misunderstands and really will help your legal heirs settle your affairs. Planning ahead and giving access to all your digital assets including online merchant account and bill payment services will allow executors, trustees, and family members to locate and settle these accounts. In the business world, it may allow your business to move forward and thrive rather than come to a screeching halt and disappear. Continue reading “How To Protect Your Digital ASS(ets) With Estate and Business Succession Planning”