Sexual Harassment

Andrew Abramson is a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area sexual harassment lawyer who represents employees who have been the victims of sexual harassment. Federal and Pennsylvania law prohibit sexual harassment at the workplace. Due to the nature of sexual harassment, it is critical to have the support of a caring, experienced attorney who understands the difficulties and emotional distress experienced by victims of sexual harassment. Abramson Employment Law has substantial experience in successfully representing Pennsylvania employees who have endured sexual harassment at the workplace.

The overriding principal of sexual harassment law is that anything having to do with sex has no business being at the workplace. There are generally two types of claims which may occur when an employee is subjected to sexual harassment at the workplace: Quid Pro Quo and a Hostile Environment. The difference between these two types of sexual harassment is not always clear and in many instances, both forms can occur simultaneously.

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

Quid pro quo is a Latin term that means “this for that.” In the context of the workplace and sexual harassment the term means that a job benefit is connected to an employee submitting to unwelcome sexual advances. In this type of sexual harassment in Pennsylvania, the employees who engages in sexual harassment is a person in authority such as a manager and the victim is in a subordinate position. A typical example would be where a manager offers an employee a promotion or a raise in exchange for sexual favors. This type of sexual harassment can also occur when an employee resists sexual advances and suffers, or is threatened with harm, such as a demotion or the termination of employment. The fact that an employee may have given in to a manager’s sexual demands does not mean there is no sexual harassment case; the key is that the sexual advances are unwanted.

Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment

Hostile environment sexual harassment occurs when the working environment is made hostile because of its sexual nature. A Pennsylvania employee may have a claim for hostile environment sexual harassment if the employee’s work environment is made intolerable by photographs, comments, jokes, or other acts of an offensive sexual nature, including physical touching or attempted rape. In order to establish what the law calls a prima facie case of a sexually hostile work environment, an employee must show: (1) the employee suffered intentional discrimination because of sex, ( 2) the discrimination was severe or pervasive, (3) the discrimination detrimentally affected the employee, (4) the discrimination would detrimentally affect a reasonable person of the same sex in that position, and (5) there is a legal basis for the employer to be liable for the sexual harassment (existence of what the law calls respondent superior liability)

Sexual harassment at the workplace most often involves repeated conduct over a period of time and does not typically occur on a single day or in one act of harassment, standing alone. Due to the nature of sexual harassment claims, courts recognize what has become known as the "continuing violation doctrine" in order to permit employees to present evidence of what occurred over the entire period the employee was exposed to sexual harassment, even where some of the events occurred more than 300 days from the time in which the employee filed a Charge of discrimination with the EEOC.

To establish a persistent on-going pattern of a sexually hostile work environment an employee must show: (1) that the acts constitute the same type of conduct, (2) the acts occurred frequently, and (3) whether the consequences of the acts were permanent enough that they would trigger the employee’s awareness of the employees' duty to assert rights. Evidence that other employees were also subjected to a sexually hostile work environment can be presented as evidence in many situations.

An employer is subject to liability for a sexually hostile work environment created by a supervisor with immediate or successively higher authority over the employee. A Pennsylvania employer is not always automatically liable for sexual harassment by a non-supervisory employee. In a situation where there is no adverse employment action taken against the employee, an employer may avoid liability if the employer can prove that the employer exercised reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct sexually harassing behavior, and the employee failed to take advantage of the preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer. For example, if the employer has a written complaint procedure that requires an employee to report sexual harassment and the employee fails to report sexual harassment and no action is taken by the employer against the employee who was exposed to sexual harassment, the employer may have a basis for avoiding liability.

Sexual Harassment and Retaliation

Employees often fear that employers will retaliate against them for complaints of sexual harassment. The law protects employees and provides that any employer who retaliates against an employee for a good faith report of sexual harassment has a cause of action for retaliation. Because retaliation can be dangerous, employers tend to treat complaints of sexual harassment carefully. Any retaliation by a supervisor should also be immediately reported to management.

Sexual harassment and retaliation are serious. Employees should not have to work in such an environment. If you are a Pennsylvania employee subjected to sexual harassment you need to contact an experienced sexual harassment lawyer. Abramson Employment Law represents Pennsylvania employees who have been subjected to sexual harassment and sexually hostile work environment. Call us today at 267-470-4742 or contact us online to discuss your legal options.

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