What to do if third-party harassment occurs during a video conference call

What to do if third-party harassment occurs during a video conference call


As a growing number of organizations have rapidly moved to remote work for the first time, many teams are relying on video conferencing (and often multiple virtual communication tools) to connect with others. While it is easy to overlook these work communication platforms as avenues for harassment, it is now more important than ever to be aware of the ways in which harassment can take place, and to ensure our teams are prepared to prevent and report this kind of behavior.

Recently, harassment via virtual channels has affected schools and businesses around the country. Third-party bad actors have broken into virtual meetings and harassed participants with racial slurs, hateful imagery, and threatening language.

At Kantola, we care deeply about making workplaces safe and equitable for everyone, so during this time of social distancing, we want to ensure your teams are adjusting to remote work and virtual communications safely and conscientiously. Here you’ll find tips on how to protect your employees as they work remotely and what actions to take should harassment occur virtually.

As HR professionals, legal counsel, and managers, we need to take steps to protect our employees and organizations. When security incidents occur, service providers will make incremental privacy and security improvements, but no one should have to wait for updates or the next security threat to be protected. Even though these tools will never be perfect, that doesn’t mean you can’t have peace of mind – there are steps you and your teams can proactively take.

Here are helpful steps your employees can start implementing today to use your company’s virtual communication platforms securely and safely:

  • Make sure employees, and especially meeting hosts, are trained in using the platform securely. Always create meetings that require a password or participants to log in.
  • Create a unique meeting number for each conference. Don’t publicly post meeting links; share meeting IDs, links and phone numbers directly via email or an internal communication tool.
  • Limit who can share content and use chat features.
  • Know how to remove uninvited guests, and if unwelcome behavior occurs, how to end the meeting immediately for all participants.
  • Check attendee lists during the call and verify who is in attendance.
  • Immediately report any incident of harassment to the meeting host, a supervisor, and Human Resources Department. Follow steps indicated by your HR.

If your organization faces online harassment, you should take steps similar to those you would take if it were a claim of in-person harassment:

Because this type of harassment occurs online, that does not mean you should take it any less seriously than an in-person incident – it is important that you respond effectively and expeditiously as you would with harassment in any other workplace setting. If you don’t deal with online harassment with remote teams, you allow a hostile work environment to exist in your workplace. Ensuring your teams have the tools to communicate with internal and external counterparts is essential to doing business; ensuring they are empowered with the resources to address third-party harassment is just as crucial to the safety of your employees and to the operations of your organization.

Let your employees and managers know that any occurrence of harassment online, whether in a virtual meeting or through other online channels, must be reported immediately.

  • Document the complaint.
  • Gather all the information and specifics of the incident; collect any documentation or records of the incident that may exist.
  • Notify your service provider about the incident, documenting any security vulnerabilities that may have contributed to the incident.
  • Contact law enforcement, if appropriate.
  • Work with your IT department or provider to ensure your teams are using proper security settings.
  • Take steps to prevent a similar incident in the future by training on virtual communication security features, passwords, and authentication across the channels your teams are using.

Take all of these steps promptly following the incident.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be updating you with additional harassment prevention tips for remote work.

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