Understanding Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment occurs when an employee is treated differently because of his or her sex. An incident of sexual harassment can easily become entangled with other types of employee rights violations, such as when the victim faces retaliation for how he or she chooses to handle the harassment.
There are a number of laws aimed at protecting your rights to a sexual harassment-free workplace. These laws exist at the federal, state and local levels. If you face sexual harassment in your workplace, you have the right to file a sexual harassment claim with the federal and/or state agencies. It is critical that you contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible to determine the most effective way to proceed.
Federal and State Sexual Harassment Laws
In Pennsylvania, workplace sexual harassment is illegal under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA). Additionally, the PHRA makes it unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee who has objected to or complained about sexual harassment.
At the federal level, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes all sexual harassment in the workplace illegal. In addition to prohibiting sexual harassment, this law also makes it illegal for an employer to retaliate against a victim for objecting to or complaining about the harassment.
What Constitutes Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment comes in many forms, but is often grouped into two general categories. One of these categories is quid pro quo sexual harassment, which involves advances made against the victim in an effort to manipulate the victim into engaging in sexual relations with the harasser in exchange for favorable treatment in the workplace, such as a raise, promotion, positive performance review or a more flexible work schedule. This type of harassment is typically committed by a supervisor against a subordinate.
The other general category of sexual harassment that occurs in workplaces is hostile environment sexual harassment. This type of sexual harassment is somewhat similar to other forms of harassment in that it involves treating an individual differently in the workplace because of their membership in a protected class. Examples of this type of sexual harassment include:
- Unwanted staring, following or touching;
- Sex-based comments or jokes;
- Comments about an employee’s physical appearance, choice of dress, or actual or perceived sex life;
- Using sexually derogatory language or name calling;
- Holding employees to different performance standards based upon their sex;
- Displaying harsh or negative behavior towards individuals as a result of their sex;
- Subjecting an employee to sexually explicit imagery or conversation; and
- Prying into an employee’s relationship or sex life.
Sexual harassment is not only something men do to women or something supervisors do to subordinates – a woman can sexually harass a man, an individual of either sex can sexually harass members of the same sex, and an employee can sexually harass colleagues, subordinates or supervisors.
What to Do if you Face Sexual Harassment at Work
Contact an attorney as soon as possible in order to protect your rights and explore all avenues of potential relief.
Work with an Experienced Philadelphia Employment Lawyer
Sexual harassment in the workplace is never acceptable. It is extremely important that you fully understand how to protect your rights and prevent further discrimination or retaliation. If you have faced sexual harassment at work and you are now facing adverse treatment and damages as a result, or if you have faced retaliation as a result of your complaint of sexual harassment, you have the right to pursue a sexual harassment claim, seeking compensation for your damages. Get started on your claim with our team of experienced employment lawyers at Console Mattiacci Law today by scheduling your initial legal consultation in our office.