Though sexual harassment has long been a problem, in the last several years, more victims are feeling emboldened to step forward and demand that perpetrators be held accountable. Though federal laws exist to address discrimination and harassment, individual states have done so too. In Pennsylvania, discrimination and harassment are addressed by The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, which prohibits specific acts that are based on race, color, religion, ancestry, age or national origin by employers, employment agencies, and others. The Act also covers harassment on the basis of sex and specifically makes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other spoken or physical acts of a sexual nature a violation of the law when they are either explicitly or implicitly made a condition of employment. It is also illegal to hold rejection of this type of conduct against a person or let that rejection impact any employment decisions. Importantly, the act also prohibits this type of conduct if it interferes with the target’s ability to do their job, offends them, or makes them feel intimidated.
When sexual harassment takes place within the workplace, the state of Pennsylvania looks closely at the circumstances and nature of the violations that the perpetrator is accused of, but it is notable that if an accusation of sexual harassment is made, it is the organization for which the perpetrator (or perpetrators) work that are held responsible for the wrongdoing. The law specifies that when it comes to sexual harassment on the part of an agent or supervisor within an organization, an employer, employment agency, and similar organizations are responsible for the actions of their agents and supervisory employees, and that whether they were aware of the actions being taken place or not doesn’t matter: it is their duty to be aware and to protect all employees and prevent sexual harassment from taking place. As for sexual harassment between colleagues, the employer remains responsible for acts of sexual harassment unless they can show that they have taken immediate and appropriate action to stop it.
Interestingly, if an individual within an organization believes that they would have gotten an employment opportunity or benefit if not for an employee succumbing to sexual advances or requests for sexual favors by a supervisor or agent of their employer, that employee can pursue legal action against their employer for discrimination.
If you believe that you have been the victim of sexual harassment in Pennsylvania, your first step is to secure experienced legal representation. Contact us today to set up a confidential consultation.