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Understanding sexual harassment

Sexual harassment in workplaces in Pennsylvania and around the country is not unusual. According to a 2015 survey, out of 2,235 female respondents, one out of every three reported being a victim of such behavior.

Sexual harassment is one type of sex discrimination and is a behavior that is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1967. The law makes it illegal to discriminate against individuals in the workplace based on their race, color, sex, religion or national origin.

The United States Department of Labor recognizes two types of sexual harassment. Quid pro quo entails making an employment decision based on whether the victim submits. The decisions may include whether an employee is able to retain their job or receive a promotion. Sexual harassment that results in a hostile work environment is the other type.

Specific actions that qualify as harassment include asking for sexual favors and making unwanted sexual overtures. Victims of sexual harassment may also endure rude statements, even if the statement is non-sexual, as well as any other type of harassment related to sex. The harassment is considered to be against the law when the behavior is unsolicited and unwanted and when it is exhibited due to the protected status of the victim. Harassment is also illegal when it is intended to be abusive to the victim and when it results in a workplace that any reasonable person could consider to be hostile.

Individuals who are victims of any form of sexual harassment, including offensive sexual comments, unwanted sexual advances or sexual explicit materials in the workplace, may have legal recourse. An attorney who practices employment law may pursue financial damages on behalf of clients who were demoted, fired or otherwise retaliated against for reporting the harassment.

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