Cyberstalking at work – what can you do?

People at work in the office

Stalking is an issue which can affect woman and men in the workplace, and which can be distressing and devastating to those affected.

As the type and variety of online communications tools continue to grow, our employment lawyers at Digby Brown are seeing an increase in employment cases which involve cyberstalking at work.

What is cyberstalking at work?

Cyberstalking involves electronic communication from a colleague to stalk and harass another employee or group of employees at work.

The electronic communications can cover a spectrum, from inappropriate posts to social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp etc. to sending emails and text messages.

Cyberstalking can be carried out in a variety of ways including threats, false accusations slander and identify theft.

Why does online stalking at work happen?

It may be that the employee is angry with management or a co-worker, or perhaps they were fired, or not hired by the company in the first place.

Some cases of online stalking occur because employees feel they have been treated unfairly, for example, they were not promoted or given a pay rise and this leaves them wanting revenge or wishing to establish control over an individual or group of people. 

Cyberstalking can encompass a number of motivations, including:

  • Frighten or harass another employee
  • Embarrass or humiliate an individual or group in the workplace
  • Extract money from another
  • Isolate someone from their friends, family and employer

Identifying stalking or harassment at work

It can be difficult to determine whether a situation is truly stalking but it is important to be able to identify communications from work colleagues which are red flags for cyberstalking at work.

Stalking is often repetitive and obsessive behaviour and will continue even when the person asks the perpetrator to stop. Employees should ask themselves whether their colleague is being malicious or planned in what they doing.

It may simply be that they have sent you an odd email which asked inappropriate personal questions and made you feel uncomfortable, which you dismiss. However, this can often be the prelude to stalking or harassment.

So if you start receiving Facebook posts from an admirer at work enquiring about your whereabouts or how you are dressed - please be aware that this is red flag behaviour.

Forms of cyberstalking:

  • Damage employee’s reputation: A cyberstalker may try to damage the employee’s reputation by posting fabricated information on social media platforms.
  • Using information to manipulate employee: A cyberstalker may try to gather as much information as possible to use this to their advantage such as finding out if you have strayed outwith company policy at all.
  • Monitoring employee’s online activities: A cyberstalker may hack into the employee’s social media accounts and emails to learn more or monitor what they are doing online.

What can you do if you are a victim of cyberstalking?

The default response for many people it to ignore the stalking and hope it will go away. However, these individuals will not stop and if you believe you are being stalked online at work, we recommend that you:

  • Save electronic copies of all communications including emails, text messages and any screenshots of other online activity.
  • Retain a record of any threats - keep a log with dates and times of any threats or if written, retain a copy.
  • Immediately report this at work – you should notify either a line manager, or a person in the Human Resource (HR) department, of the situation.

What should you do if you employer is unable to help?

If your employer does not address the stalking or harassment issue, we would recommend that you seek early legal advice from employment solicitors.

There are a range of legal options available to you.