Sexual Harassment in the Workplace and Your Legal Options
What Constitutes Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is any unwelcome, inappropriate sexual action, verbal or physical, inflicted upon another person. In the workplace, harassment is extended to include any unwanted sexual attention that could affect a person's career.
Most people could probably point out obvious signs of sexual harassment—inappropriate touching, unwanted sexual attention, whistling and catcalling, remarking on someone's appearance, dress, or physical attributes. But there are other subtler ways in which a person can be sexually harassed or bothered that can still contribute to a hostile work environment, and could still require a legal response. Subtle sexual harassment includes telling sexual or inappropriate jokes in a person's presence, or at someone else's expense, allegedly "innocent," but unwanted touching, unwanted affection, inappropriate nicknames like "honey" or "baby," or inappropriate questions or comments about a person's personal life.
In a workplace setting, offering promotions, raises, bonuses, career opportunities or other job perks in exchange for sexual favors is a particularly pervasive form of sexual harassment. Threatening to fire or penalize an employee for refusing to provide sexual favors or respond to sexual offers is also against the harassment laws.
What Should You Do if You're Sexually Harassed at Work?
Sexual harassment is very real, and can create a hostile, unfriendly work environment for the victim of unwanted advances and attention. Victims of workplace harassment should take action immediately to ensure that the harasser stops. The best place to start is by documenting the incident or incidents as evidence. You should also report the harassment to your boss or supervisor, unless the harassment is coming from them, and file a report with your company's human resources department, including any evidence or documentation that you have.
Once you've reported the harassment internally, you should contact a sexual harassment attorney to discuss your options for protecting yourself and ensuring that your harasser is dealt with. Whether you decide to press charges in a civil suit of some kind or not, it is worth a conversation with an experienced attorney to determine what the best course of action is. There are strict guidelines for reporting workplace harassment and discrimination—for example, a claim of discrimination must be filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission within six months of the act, so it's important to act fast.
Sexual Harassment Attorneys | Rudinski, Orso & Lynch
Sexual harassment at work can affect your job performance and your personal mental health. If you are experiencing sexual harassment—overt or subtle—you can take action to hold your harasser accountable. Reach out to one of the employee law attorneys at Rudinski, Orso & Lynch either by phone at 570-321-8090 or online to discuss your case and figure out how best to fight back.