Phillips & Associates

Philadelphia Hostile Work Environment

Employment Attorneys Assisting Workers in the Philadelphia Area

While the leading employers in the city of Philadelphia are various government entities, many people are employed by private employers as well. Some of the city’s leading employers include universities such as Drexel, Temple, and Thomas Jefferson, as well as hospitals like the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Albert Einstein Medical Center. Workplace harassment can happen at any public or private employer. It can involve harassment based on sex, national origin, religion, race, pregnancy, disability, or age. The harassment may consist of words, innuendoes, jokes, derogatory remarks, images, threats, or physical violence. If workplace harassment based on a protected characteristic creates a hostile work environment, it may be possible to recover damages through litigation. At Phillips & Associates, our Philadelphia hostile work environment lawyers can represent you in a lawsuit.

Common Grounds for a Hostile Work Environment Claim

Both federal and state anti-discrimination laws prohibit workplace harassment in Pennsylvania. Harassment that happens because of an employee's color, race, sex, age, national origin, disability, or religion, etc. may be actionable.

One form of workplace harassment is called a hostile work environment. The most common hostile work environment claims are based on sex or sexual harassment, but they can be based on other protected traits as well. For example, if your coworkers mock you because you wear a hijab or call you a terrorist because you are Muslim, and you have let your employer know, but the harassment continues, you may be able to bring a religious hostile work environment claim As another example, if your coworkers email you images of lynchings and monkeys, but your employer ignores your complaints, a hostile work environment attorney in Philadelphia may be able to help you bring a racially hostile work environment claim.

Hostile work environment harassment happens if harassment is so pervasive or severe that it alters the terms and conditions of the job. The court will look at multiple factors to determine whether the actions have been severe or pervasive to have so altered the workplace environment.

The Severe or Pervasive Standard

Factors to determine if conduct is severe or pervasive are how often the conduct happens, how severe it is, whether it is humiliating and physically endangering, would other reasonable people find the conduct harassing, and whether it unreasonably affects the worker's job performance. In most cases, a trivial or one-off comment or action will not constitute a hostile work environment unless that comment or conduct is very severe.

A federal district court that has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania workplaces has found that a single act of offensive behavior can support a hostile work environment claim under Title VII. As our Philadelphia hostile work environment attorneys can explain in more detail, the correct standard under federal law is whether the conduct is severe or pervasive. The plaintiff does not need to show that it was both severe and pervasive, but only show that it was one or the other. A supervisor's single mention of a racially charged slur was considered severe enough based on the total circumstances claimed by the plaintiffs to state a claim for a racially hostile work environment.

Reporting Harassment

If you are subject to harassing behavior, you should use any grievance procedures specified in your employment handbook, or you should report the behavior to HR. An employer may have created grievance procedures in order to detect and provide remedies for harassment. If you fail to take advantage of those procedures, the employer may be able to avoid liability for hostile work environment harassment. In that case, you might not be able to recover damages.


If you can successfully establish your employer's liability for a hostile work environment, you should be able to recover damages. These damages may include lost back pay, lost front pay or reinstatement, and emotional distress damages. In some cases involving egregious misconduct, it may be possible to recover punitive damages. However, a plaintiff cannot recover punitive damages under the Pennsylvania Human Rights Act. The state Supreme Court has concluded that punitive damages are not a type of relief that can be awarded under Pennsylvania law.

Retain a Hostile Work Environment Lawyer in Philadelphia

It can be challenging to file a harassment complaint against your employer. However, if you have been a victim of a hostile work environment, you should consult the employment litigators at Phillips & Associates. You can contact us at (215) 315-7694 or via our online form for a free consultation.

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

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I was a client with this law firm. I can't stress enough how awesome and professional the people are here. Silvia & Erica made me feel so comfortable and welcome. I never had to guess anything. Anytime I call, emailed, or even texted. They were always there. If not they would get back to me as soon as possible. My case was not an easy situation for me but I tell you these guys made it seem like it was. I'm so glad that I use Phillip & Phillip. I thank you guys from the bottom of my heart. I am so grateful to have met such awesome, honest, and caring people. Thank you again. Djuana
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