Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act and by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has defined sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment in the workplace can occur in a variety of different circumstances including conduct that affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. If you think you may have been a victim of sexual harassment at your job, an employment discrimination attorney can help.
Recognizing Sexual Harassment At Work
Sexual harassment generally falls into two categories: (1) quid pro quo harassment; and (2) hostile work environment.
Quid Pro Quo
Quid pro quo harassment is an overt form of sexual harassment in which direct sexual demands are made by an employer or by a coworker in a supervisory position. The demand threatens an adverse employment action such as withholding a raise, or promises unearned benefits, depending on whether the employee complies. The victim of quid pro quo harassment often feels intimidated and may feel that he or she must submit to the demands in order to avoid negative employment consequences.
For an employee to have a claim for quid pro quo sexual harassment, an employee must demonstrate that the harasser has authority over him/her and over the employee’s employment opportunities. If the demand for sexual favors is made by a co-worker with no power to affect employment opportunities, an employee cannot claim quid pro quo harassment, but may be a victim of hostile work environment sexual harassment. Both the harasser and the victim may be a man or a woman and both can be of the same sex.
Hostile Work Environment
A hostile work environment occurs when an employee is subjected to unwelcome sexual behavior, whether verbal or physical, that creates an offensive work environment. An employer is not permitted to create or permit a sexually offensive or hostile environment that interferes with an employee’s ability to do his or her job. In order to have a hostile work environment claim the harasser need not be a supervisor or owner of the employee’s workplace; the harasser may also be a coworker or subordinate employee.
In a hostile work environment claim the harassment need not be overt in order to be actionable. Sexual harassment can take more subtle forms, including, but not limited to, sexual jokes, pornographic materials, suggestive comments about appearance, whistling or catcalls about appearance or dress, using inappropriate terms such as honey, baby, darling, and sweetheart, and inappropriate questions or references to an employee’s sex life.
It is important to note that victims of sexual harassment do not need to be female and harassers are not always male. Sexual harassment may be committed by a female against another female, a female against a male, or a male against a male.
What to do if You are a Victim of Sexual Harassment
If you have been a victim of sexual harassment at work you should immediately report the behavior to a supervisor or to the human resource department. You should also contact an experienced employment discrimination attorney in order to ensure that you protect your rights and preserve your claim pursuant to the strict time limits under the law.
Philadelphia Employment Discrimination Lawyers of The Ezold Law Firm, P.C. Help Victims of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Sexual harassment can make your employment environment intolerable and make it impossible for you to perform your job. If you believe that you have been the victim of sexual harassment, review your situation with an experienced Philadelphia sexual harassment attorney at The Ezold Law Firm. Our employment lawyers will advise you on how to handle conditions in the workplace and determine if the facts justify a claim for sexual harassment against your employer. If they do, we will fight diligently for you.
We represent employees throughout Pennsylvania and the United States. Our office is located in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, easily accessible from Philadelphia County, Montgomery County, Chester County, and Bucks County. Call us at (610) 660-5585 or submit an online contact form to schedule a confidential consultation.