woman receiving text message at work

3 Steps to Take if You Receive Inappropriate Texts from a Coworker or Supervisor

By Tom McKinney
NJ Employment Attorney

While receiving a text message from a coworker or supervisor may not immediately raise any red flags, the content of the message at hand could. There are no laws in place that explicitly forbid texting the people you work with, but inappropriate messages could be a warning sign of sexual harassment, which is illegal. 

With that being said, if you believe you’re the victim of sexual harassment, do not wait to discuss your case with an employment attorney. 

Inappropriate Texts Could Indicate Sexual Harassment

It is not illegal for a coworker to text another employee, nor is it unlawful for a supervisor to text their employee outside of work, but even so, the direction of the conversation can quickly change the circumstances and legality of the situation. 

Depending on the content of the texts, those with sexual undertones or overt sexual meaning can count as sexual harassment, which involves unwelcome sexual advances. Whether verbal or physical, these passes can make the target feel uncomfortable or unsafe. 

Sexual harassment via text messages can take any of the following forms:

  • Undesirable flirting or date requests
  • Sexual jokes
  • Sexually explicit pictures or videos
  • Requests for sexual favors or pictures
  • Sexually threatening messages

In general, trust your instincts: If you feel the contents of a text message are inappropriate and sexual in nature, do not hesitate to take action, as they may be considered to be a form of sexual harassment. 

In addition, it’s best to preserve the message(s) until you can take further action, as whether from a coworker or higher-up, they can easily make the workplace an uncomfortable or stressful environment.

However, unfortunately, there are times when the harassment doesn’t just end with text messages. The perpetrator may continue to make physical or verbal contact, making the situation worse. 

What to Do if You Receive Inappropriate Texts from Someone at Work

If you receive inappropriate texts from a coworker, it may initially come as a surprise, but regardless of your initial thoughts or feelings, it’s important to take the following steps to protect your rights:

Do Not Delete the Texts

First and foremost, it’s imperative you avoid deleting the texts. It’s not uncommon to feel uncomfortable or “spooked” by unwarranted advances and quickly delete the messages and pretend they never existed in response. When it comes to sexual harassment cases, however, evidence and documentation are essential to proving your claims. 

Therefore, no matter what, avoid deleting the messages, regardless of whether you respond or not. Having irrefutable proof is far better than not having anything to support your claims at all.

Report the Incident(s) to Your Employer

Formally report the sexual harassment to your employer as soon as you’re able. The reporting process looks different for everyone, as it is based on your company or employer’s policies and procedures, though in many cases, reporting sexual harassment involves speaking with human resources.

Your employer will take the information you give them and investigate your claims. If they believe you are, indeed, a victim of sexual harassment, they can take corrective action. However, even if your employer fails to take any action on your behalf, you have additional options to pursue justice.

Consult with an Employment Attorney

Employment lawyers have experience dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace. Your attorney can thoroughly review the details of your case and determine the best way to handle your claim. Based on the results of their investigation, that may involve filing a formal complaint with a governmental entity, like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

An Employment Lawyer Can Provide Proper Guidance and Advice

If you’re put in an uncomfortable position after receiving inappropriate text messages from a coworker or supervisor, you’re not alone. An employment attorney can help protect your rights and fight for justice on your behalf.

The employment law attorneys at NJ Employment Lawyers have years of experience representing victims of sexual harassment in New Jersey. We’re always ready to go the extra mile for our clients and pursue the most favorable result. Contact us today to request a consultation appointment.

About the Author
Tom McKinney is a skilled employment law attorney with New Jersey Employment Lawyers LLC. He has a track record of success in all areas of employment law, including sexual harassment, discrimination, harassment, wrongful discharge, whistleblower claims and hostile work environment claims. Besides litigation, Tom handles severance agreements and severance package reviews/negotiations for over 100 people each year. If you have any questions regarding this blog, contact Tom here.