Pennsylvania fans of NBC's "The Today Show" were likely saddened to learn that star Matt Lauer was fired by the network for alleged sexual misconduct. Lauer's firing comes as part of a wave of sexual harassment cases sweeps through the entertainment, political and media sectors.
Pennsylvania residents are likely aware that lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle have been accused of engaging in sexually inappropriate behavior in recent weeks. Republican Roy Moore's chances of filling the vacant Alabama Senate seat were damaged when several women stepped forward to say that the former state judge had propositioned them sexually when they were teenagers, and there have been calls for Democrat Al Franken to resign in the wake of groping allegations leveled by four women.
Employees in Pennsylvania who face sexual harassment on the job might wonder what their options are. Some companies might only have one avenue for reporting harassment. This could become a problem if the harasser is a manager or someone involved in HR. Some employees may go to an attorney or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but others may hesitate to do so because they worry about how it will affect their job.
Employees are protected by both federal and state laws in Pennsylvania from harassment at work. The first step an employee should take if they are harassed at work is to report the harassment to the human resources department. Many employers have a policy manual or hotline on their company website for reporting harassment.
Victims of sexual harassment in Pennsylvania or other American workplaces may be hesitant to report the harassing behavior. This is in part because they feel like the company may retaliate against them. It may also be difficult for those who witness sexual harassment to speak up about it. For some, talking about the issue is difficult because they aren't sure how to approach it without being offensive.
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.
Some women in Pennsylvania who work in technical careers may have followed the story of the Google employee who was fired for releasing a document saying that women inherently had less ability to work in tech. Several women who used to work for Google have since come forward to report facing discrimination at the company. They also say that they felt their long-term prospects for a career there were poor. Racism and ageism were issues along with sexism.
Pennsylvania employers may want to take heed and follow the outcome of a May ruling on sexual harassment by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. These types of claims generally fall under two categories, quid pro quo and hostile working environment. The ruling makes it clear that allegations do not have to specify the category in order for that category to be investigated by the EEOC. The specifics of the case may shed light on the broader meaning of the ruling.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a third of female workers in Pennsylvania and throughout the U.S. experienced sexual harassment on the job in 2016. Furthermore, 75 percent of women said they did not talk to a manager or union representative about the harassment. Professional retaliation, not being believed or being blamed for the incident were all reasons they cited for not reporting the harassment. Gender equality is an issue as well, and women report being paid and promoted less than men.
Pennsylvania workers might wonder what kinds of actions constitute illegal sexual harassment by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. A court takes a number of elements into consideration when it decides if harassment has taken place. Among these are the frequency and severity of the actions, whether the harassment interferes with an employee's performance, and if the act is humiliating or physically threatening.