Phillips & Associates

Supervisor Sexual Harassment in Philadelphia

Knowledgeable Employment Attorneys Serving the Philadelphia Area

Philadelphia has the eighth-largest metropolitan economy in the nation and hosts a wide range of companies and industries. Unfortunately, sexual harassment by supervisors as well as coworkers can happen at any job. Workplace sexual harassment can consist of any unwelcome sexual advances, innuendoes, jokes, touching, groping, sexual violence, or slurs. They may be of a sexual nature, or they may be comments directed toward a worker due to his or her sex. There is a pronounced power difference between a supervisor and an employee. It can be very challenging to complain about a supervisor’s sexual harassment if you have been victimized. If you were subjected to supervisor sexual harassment, you should consult the Philadelphia sexual harassment lawyers at Phillips & Associates.

Quid Pro Quo Vs. Hostile Work Environment Harassment

Supervisor sexual harassment is prohibited under both federal and state laws. It can take the form of either quid pro quo harassment or a hostile work environment. Quid pro quo harassment occurs when a supervisor or other authority figure conditions employment or employment benefits, either explicitly or implicitly, for the exchange of sexual favors or submission to sexual advances. Hostile work environment harassment exists when sexual conduct is either so severe or so pervasive that it alters the terms and conditions of employment. Sexual harassment can be perpetrated by a man or a woman against a man or a woman. Men and women can be victims of quid pro quo sexual harassment or a sexually hostile work environment.

Protections Under Title VII

The primary federal law prohibiting sexual harassment is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII only applies to employers with at least 15 employees, so employees who work for smaller companies in Pennsylvania do not have this federal law’s protections. Moreover, Title VII caps compensatory and punitive damages based on the size of the employer.

Sexual harassment is quid pro quo harassment under Title VII if a tangible job decision follows your refusal of, or submission to, a supervisor's sexual demands or advances. You would not need to show that your supervisor's actions were pervasive or severe because any threat carried out would be considered an actionable change in the terms or conditions of your employment. Therefore, if your attorney can prove that a tangible job decision arose from a refusal to submit to a supervisor's sexual advances, the job decision is a change in the terms and conditions of employment that is actionable under Title VII.

In order to pursue damages under Title VII for supervisor sexual harassment, you will first need to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You will only have 300 days from the date of the harassment (or from the date of the last harassing act) by your supervisor to file a charge with the EEOC. Under Title VII, the remedies available can include injunctive relief, lost pay, emotional harm, and out-of-pocket costs. In cases of egregious misconduct in the workplace, punitive damages may also be available.

Protections Under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act

The state law prohibiting sexual harassment is the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA). As with Title VII, supervisor sexual harassment can be actionable if submitting to sexual conduct is made a term or condition of someone's employment, or rejecting the advances is the reason for termination or other adverse employment decision. The Pennsylvania law covers all private and public employers in the Philadelphia area that have at least four employees.

Employers may be held liable for the sexually harassing acts of supervisory employees, in certain situations, regardless of whether those acts were authorized or expressly prohibited by the employer or whether the employer knew or should have known that they had occurred. However, it is a wise idea to report supervisor sexual harassment to HR or by using the procedures that are laid out in your employment manual. Although an employer is strictly liable under Title VII for supervisor sexual harassment that ends with a tangible employment action (i.e., termination, demotion, suspension, etc.), the situation is murkier when there is no adverse action. The employer may argue that it took reasonable steps to stop the sexual harassment, but you did not accept or take advantage of those steps. In one case, the Supreme Court held that an employer is not strictly liable for supervisor harassment in constructive discharge lawsuits.

Hire a Knowledgeable Sexual Harassment Lawyer in Philadelphia

It can be challenging to try to hold an employer liable for supervisor sexual harassment or for retaliation for reporting harassment. If you are facing this situation in Philadelphia, you can consult the experienced employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates. 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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