Phillips & Associates

Co-worker Sexual Harassment in Philadelphia

Employment Lawyer Protecting Your Rights in a Philadelphia Workplace

Sexual harassment can be divided into two types: quid pro quo and/or a hostile work environment. Quid pro quo harassment involves an authority figure in the workplace asking that an employee submit to sexual harassment or advances as a condition of employment. For example, if your supervisor tells you to sleep with him or lose your job, this would be quid pro quo harassment. Hostile work environment sexual harassment is where comments or conduct of a sexual nature are severe or pervasive enough to alter the conditions of your employment. If the sexual harassment is committed by a co-worker, an employer may be held liable for coworker sexual harassment in Philadelphia under certain conditions. The experienced Philadelphia sexual harassment lawyers at Phillips & Associates are ready to evaluate the facts of your case and determine whether you have a viable claim.

Forms of Coworker Sexual Harassment

Coworker sexual harassment can be pursued as a hostile work environment claim. Hostile work environment harassment can be the basis of a lawsuit if the harassing actions consist of unwelcome comments or conduct based on a protected characteristic, such as sex/gender, and are either severe enough or pervasive enough to create an offensive or abusive work environment. The court will look at numerous factors to determine whether a hostile work environment existed, including how frequent the conduct was, whether the conduct was patently offensive, whether the harasser was a coworker or supervisor, whether multiple people joined in harassing the victim, and whether the harassment was directed at numerous victims or targeted one worker.

To recover damages for coworker sexual harassment, your attorney will need to show that you subjectively believed that the sexual harassment was hostile and offensive. You will also need to meet an objective standard by showing that a reasonable person in your position would believe that the actions were sexually hostile or abusive.

Federal Law

Title VII covers employers with at least 15 employees. Under Title VII, an employer can be held liable for harassment by coworkers if it knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take appropriate and immediate corrective measures. However, damages for harassment are capped under Title VII, based on an employer’s size.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act also applies to employers with 15 employees or more, but it also applies to companies with fewer than 15 workers An employer is not automatically liable for sexual harassment in the workplace if a coworker sexually harasses someone, but if it has notice of the sexual harassment and fails to take action to stop it, the employer can be held accountable. In one case, a restaurant prep cook claimed that a coworker tried to grab her in the crotch and touch her breasts multiple times, and that another coworker had also tried to touch her and made sexually inappropriate remarks. She asked the coworkers to stop, but they persisted. She reported the harassment to the co-owners and managers, who said that they would speak to the coworkers, but nothing changed. The employee also provided written notice to the managers, but the managers reduced her work hours and told her to try to stop the harassment on her own.

After that, she resigned, claiming constructive discharge (being no alternative but to quit or resign), and filed a retaliation claim. The court reasoned that if the harasser and the victim are of opposite sexes, there is a reasonable inference that the harasser's motivation is the victim's sex. While simple teasing or an offhand remark is insufficient to show harassment, when there is actual or constructive knowledge about a sexually hostile environment, but managers do not take prompt and adequate remedial action, an employer can be held directly liable for sexual harassment. An employer that has knowledge of sexual harassment is supposed to take immediate appropriate actions in order to stop further harassment from occurring.

Protections Against Retaliation

Employers can also be held accountable for retaliation if they take action against an employee for reporting a coworker's sexual harassment. Retaliation can take the form of termination, demotion, reassignment to an unfavorable department, or other adverse employment decisions.

Hire an Experienced Sexual Harassment Lawyer in Philadelphia

Coworker sexual harassment can make the workplace intolerable. If you are concerned about sexual harassment at a job in Philadelphia, you should discuss your situation with the experienced employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Call us at (215) 315-7694 or use our online form to set up a free consultation.

1635 Market St #1600A
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Phone: (215) 315-7694
Fax: (212) 901-2107

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