It can be scary to experience sexual harassment in the workplace. Just ask the 81% of women and 20% of men on Pennsylvania who have experienced this form of harassment in the last year alone.
When you are being sexually harassed on a regular basis, it may seem like your options are limited, especially if you have already discussed this situation with your employer. But you do have options: there exist several remedies under both federal and Pennsylvania law that are designed specifically to protect against sexual harassment.
But what counts as sexual harassment? Sexual harassment can be defined as any unwanted conduct directed at a person because of his or her gender. Sexual harassment generally falls into two categories:
- Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment: This is when an employer makes job decisions based on sexual conduct.
- Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment: This is when an employee is forced to work an in abusive and offensive work environment. For the environment to be bad enough to be considered sexual harassment, the abusive conduct must be so severe that it would affect the workplace for the average person.
An employee can recover for sexual harassment under both federal law and state law. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers are prohibited from discrimination based on:
- Sex; and
- National Origin.
For purposes of Title VII, sexual harassment is considered a form of discrimination based on gender and falls into the protected category of sex. Under federal law, conduct is considered sexual harassment if it is undesired, or engenders a hostile, intimidating, or uncomfortable workplace for employees. Further, when the following conduct unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment, it can be considered sexual harassment. This includes:
- Unwelcome sexual harassment;
- Requests for sexual favors; and
- Other verbal or physical conduct of a harassing nature.
Title VII applies to employers who employ 15 or more employees. For more information about filing a sexual harassment claim under Title VII, see our blog on the topic.
But if you are being sexually harassed and your employer does not meet this employee threshold, you may still have options. In Pennsylvania, employees who work for employers with four or more employees may file applicable claims under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA). The PHRA provents workplace discrimination based on a variety of factors, inclduing:
- National origin;
- Handicap; and
Like Title VII, under the PHRA, the category “sex” encompasses sexual harassment complaints both in the workplace and as related to public accommodations. Sexual harassment is considered a form of discrimination based on gender. For more information on filing with a state agency, check out our blog that covers sexual harassment claims under the PHRA.
At both the state and federal level, sexual harassment laws protect employees who are being harassed based on gender. It does not matter what gender an employee identifies as. Furthermore, it is possible to be sexually harassed by a person of the same sex.
It does not matter what your harasser’s sexuality is. If the person’s conduct is harassing in nature, it can be classified as sexual harassment.
Although sexual harassment is an overwhelming experience, you don’t have to go through filing a claim alone. J.P. Ward & Associates’s experienced employment attorneys can help you with every step of the process to ensure not only that your claim is filed, but that you are able to sue your employer. For more information on the services we provide, contact us by filing out this contact form or by calling (833)-GOT-FIRED.