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Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a serious issue and significantly affects both the women and men who fall victim to this behavior. No one should have to experience sexual harassment. It is our mission to help you stop it and hold those responsible liable for the damages they have caused you.

Sexual Harassment is a form of sexual discrimination and is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"). Sexual Harassment generally falls under two categories: "Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment" or "Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment".

Quid Pro Quo (which is Latin for "this for that") sexual harassment occurs when an employer or one of its representatives or supervisors demands sexual favors in exchange for a specific employment benefit such as increases in pay, better work conditions, promotions or other employment benefits, favors or advancement opportunities; or threatens a negative employment consequence such as termination, demotion or any other negative action affecting the employee's employment status if the employee refuses to provide the sexual favor. The fact that you may have given in to those demands does NOT mean that you have no case. Even an employee who provides sexual favors in an effort to avoid a negative employment consequence may prevail in a case of sexual harassment. The key is that the sexual advances are unwanted.

Hostile environment sexual harassment exists when an employee is subject to sexually charged conduct so severe and pervasive that a reasonable person would find the work environment abusive or hostile. Where there is "quid pro quo" sexual harassment, there is invariably a hostile environment as well. However, the fact that an employer or a supervisor has not made a direct request for sexual favors does not mean that no hostile environment sexual harassment has occurred.

Since sexual harassment claims have a very short statute of limitations during which you must assert your claim, it is important not to delay contacting an attorney. Failing to raise your claims in a timely manner will result in your loss of rights to sue your employer for its illegal actions.

If you feel you have been subjected to sexual harassment, you probably have. Contact an attorney at Waldman Law Group, P.C. by telephone or the contact sheet to schedule a consultation to ensure that your legal rights are properly pursued with the assistance of sound legal counsel.

The experienced employee rights attorneys at Waldman Law Group, P.C. have the knowledge and experience to protect your legal rights to work in an environment free from sexual harassment.

What types of behaviors are considered to be sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment can be either explicit or implicit and direct or indirect. Any of the following types of behavior are considered sexual harassment:

  • Inappropriate attention because of sex, gender or sexual orientation
  • Inappropriate or unwanted touching in a way that may make an employee feel uncomfortable, such as patting or intentional brushing against another’s body
  • Unwanted exposure to graphic sexual discussion such as co-workers telling sexual or lewd jokes
  • Sending or forwarding sexually suggestive notes, emails or images
  • Unwanted exposure to pornography
  • Unwelcome sexual advances
  • Unwelcome requests for sexual favors
  • Making offensive remarks about looks, clothing or body parts
  • Hanging sexual posters, pictures or calendars
  • Physically threatening behavior directed towards women because of their sex or gender

Sexual harassment protections apply to a woman harassed by a man, a man harassed by a woman or someone harassed by a person of the same sex.

What should I do if I experience sexual harassment?

If you have experienced any form of sexual harassment, you should do the following:

  • Discover what your employer’s sexual harassment complaint procedure is and follow this
  • Immediately inform the offender that you do not appreciate an do not welcome his/her behavior, nor will you tolerate any further forms of sexual harassment
  • Report the sexual harassment incident to the proper management personnel
  • Document the sexual harassment incident for your own records

The employer has a legal obligation to address and investigate the sexual harassment claims and inform all parties involved that sexual harassment is not only prohibited, but illegal. If management personnel do not address or fail to investigate the sexual harassment complaint, or if the sexual harassment conduct continues, contact the experienced sexual harassment attorneys at Waldman Law Group, P.C. immediately.

I reported sexual harassment and was fired? What can I do?

It is illegal for your employer to fire you or take any adverse employment consequence against you as a result of your notifying your employer that you are being sexually harassed or your filing a sexual harassment claim against your employer. If you are, your employer will be liable not only for the sexual harassment or sex discrimination claim but also may face a wrongful termination claim or an employment retaliation claim.

I experienced sexual harassment but did not get demoted, fired or suffer adverse employment consequence. Do I still have a case?

If the harassment did not lead to a tangible adverse employment action such as a demotion or a job termination, the employer is liable unless it proves that both:

  • The employer exercised reasonable care to prevent further sexual harassment and promptly corrected any sexual harassment; and
  • The employee unreasonably failed to follow the preventive and corrective opportunities put forth by the employer.

How do I make a formal sexual harassment claim? Can I sue now?

After you addressed the harassment with your employer expecting it to stop, in order to file a sexual harassment lawsuit in federal or state court, Title VII requires that you first file a charge of sexual discrimination based on sexual harassment with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC") within 180 days of the sexually discriminatory action or sexual harassment. This strict time limit, often referred to as the "statute of limitations", applies to all charges of sexual harassment. Failing to raise your sexual harassment claim within that time will result in your loss of rights to sue your employer for its discriminatory actions. Since sexual harassment claims have a very short statute of limitations it is important not to delay contacting an attorney.

When you file a charge of sexual harassment with either of these agencies, you must allege all of the actions that you believe are harassing. Failure to do so may result in your losing the right to pursue those harassment claims against your employer with the EEOC or PHRC or in later federal and state court proceedings.

You can file a charge of sexual harassment with the EEOC or PHRC by yourself if you are unable to obtain an attorney to assist you. However, it is recommended that you consult with an attorney so that you do not mistakenly omit essential facts and allegations of harassment in such a charge, and by such omission, lose the right to pursue those claims against your employer. For more information and a more detailed explanation of the complaint process, please visit the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, website (http://www.phrc.state.pa.us/) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s website (http://www.eeoc.gov/)

The attorneys at Waldman Law Group, P.C. are familiar with the procedures and processes of both the EEOC and the PHRC and are willing to assist you in your filings with the EEOC or PHRC. Contact an attorney at Waldman Law Group, P.C. by telephone or the contact sheet to schedule a consultation to ensure that your legal rights are properly pursued with the assistance of sound legal counsel.

When can I bring a sexual harassment lawsuit in court?

After you file a formal charge with the EEOC or the PHRC, your employer will have an opportunity to respond. If your charge of sexual harassment is resolved with the EEOC or the PHRC, you will not have to file a lawsuit in court.

However, in most cases, neither the EEOC nor the PHRC resolves these cases, and you will have to decide whether to file a sexual harassment lawsuit in court if you want to continue to pursue your employer for its discriminatory practices. If neither agency resolves your claims of sexual harassment, the appropriate agency will issue what is known as a Notice of Right to Sue indicating that you have only 90 days to file a lawsuit with the federal court or Pennsylvania state court. If you do not do so, you will lose forever your opportunity to hold your employer responsible for the sexual harassment you experienced.  Since sexual harassment claims have a very short statute of limitations it is important not to delay contacting an attorney.

What types of damages are available for sexual harassment claims?

Title VII remedies include:

  • Back pay
  • Differences in pay between your current pay and the pay you could have received if your employer did not illegally discriminate against you
  • Front pay
  • Pre-judgment and post-judgment interest on the back pay awards
  • Compensatory damages (i.e. pain and suffering or mental anguish)
  • Punitive damages (meant to punish the employer)
  • Attorneys' fees and court costs
  • Employees may also obtain injunctive relief, such as reinstatement of their job, in appropriate circumstances.

If you feel you have experienced sexual harassment, you probably have. Contact an attorney at Waldman Law Group, P.C. by telephone or the contact sheet to schedule a consultation to ensure that your legal rights are properly pursued with the assistance of sound legal counsel.