Philadelphia Sexual Harassment Lawyers
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
In Philadelphia, in addition to the federal law protection, victims of sexual harassment may also seek justice under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) and the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance (PFPO). Employees in nearby cities, such as Camden, Cherry Hill and Atlantic City in New Jersey, and Newark and Wilmington in Delaware, can look to the New Jersey Law against Discrimination (LAD) and the Delaware Discrimination in Employment Act (DDEA) respectively for recovery of damages for sexual harassment in their workplace.
Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C., represents clients in the states of PA, NJ, NY and Delaware and we are well-versed in the federal and local laws. We have the experience and expertise necessary to determine the validity of a sexual harassment claim under the applicable laws. We are well-equipped to file and pursue all appropriate sexual harassment claims and to recover all remedies and/or monetary compensation available under the applicable laws.
Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to:
- The victim and the harasser may be male or female, and they may be the same sex.
- The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
- The victim does not have to be the person harassed but may be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
- The victim does not need to suffer economic injury or be fired from his/her position to bring a sexual harassment claim.
A victim of sexual harassment must prove that the conduct was unwelcome. A plaintiff may demonstrate that the conduct was unwelcome by showing that he/she:
- told the harasser directly that the conduct was unwelcome;
- reported the sexual harassment to other company representatives;
- utilized the employer’s complaint mechanism or grievance system;
- discussed the sexual harassment with friends and/or family ;
- suffered emotional distress;
- experienced deteriorated job performance;
- avoided of the harasser; and/or
- did not engage in conduct that would support a contention that the conduct was welcome or encouraged.
There are two types of sexual harassment. “Quid Pro Quo” sexual harassment occurs when an employer, or an employer’s agent, implicitly or explicitly, attempts to make submission to sexual demands a condition of employment. Therefore, employers improperly attach terms of employment, such as promotions or raises, to the exchange for sexual favors. “Hostile Work Environment” sexual harassment results from verbal or physical conduct that creates such an intimidating, hostile, offensive or sexually charged work environment for employees of particular gender that it interferes with the employees’ ability to perform their jobs.
“Quid pro quo” literally means “something for something.” In a sexual harassment scenario, the term “Quid Pro Quo” essentially describes a situation where the employer pressures an employee, implicitly or explicitly, for sexual favors in exchange for favorable treatment in the workplace – raises, better working conditions, promotions. As a result, an employee may perceive that he or she must tolerate sexual advances or engage in a sexual relationship in order to continue employment, to achieve advancement, or to avoid adverse employment consequences such as poor evaluations or demotions. In essence, an individual is intimidated and is forced to choose between suffering an adverse employment action, such as not getting a promotion or possible demotion or termination, and submitting to sexual demands.
Because “Quid Pro Quo” sexual harassment directly links the granting or withholding of employee benefits to compliance/non-compliance with sexual advances, only someone in a supervisory capacity with the authority to grant and withhold such benefits can engage in “Quid Pro Quo” sexual harassment. Therefore, for a “Quid Pro Quo” harassment claim to be successful, an employee must demonstrate that the harasser has authority over him/her and the employee’s employment opportunities. If the demand for sexual favors is made by a co-worker with no power to affect employment opportunities, an employee cannot claim “Quid Pro Quo” harassment, but may be a victim of “Hostile Work Environment” sexual harassment.
“Hostile Work Environment” sexual harassment occurs when an employee is subjected to sexual, abusive, or offensive conduct because of his or her gender. A “hostile environment” can be created by anyone in the work environment – supervisors, other employees or customers. “Hostile Work Environment” harassment of a sexual nature can be physical or verbal – the passing or posting of unwelcome sexual materials such as cartoons or posters of a sexual nature, vulgar or lewd conduct or language, and unwanted touching or fondling all fall into this category. However, unlawful “hostile work environment” conduct does not have to be sexual in nature nor does it not have to involve physical contact. Offensive conduct creates an unlawful work environment when it is severe or pervasive enough to make a reasonable person of the employee’s gender believe that the conditions of employment have been altered and the working environment has become hostile or abusive. An employer may be held liable for “Hostile Work Environment” sexual harassment as a result of the conduct of its employee if the employer knew or should have known of the offensive employee’s conduct and failed to take prompt remedial action to stop the harassment.
To determine whether an environment is hostile, EEOC investigators look at:
- whether the reported harasser is an employer, employer’s agent, supervisor, co-worker or customer;
- whether the conduct was verbal or physical or both;
- whether the conduct was hostile or patently offensive;
- how frequently it occurred;
- whether others joined in perpetrating the harassing conduct;
- whether the harassment was directed at more than one employee; and
- whether the offensive conduct was dealt with and immediately ended or condoned by senior management when it was reported to them.
No one factor controls whether a plaintiff has suffered from “hostile work environment” sexual harassment. Instead, an assessment is made based upon the “totality of the circumstances”. The objective gravity of harassment is determined from the perspective of a reasonable person in the plaintiff’s position, considering all the circumstances.
If you feel you have been sexually harassed as related to your employment, contact our office to discuss your concerns. With an understanding of your allegation and the supporting facts, our attorneys will advise you whether the conduct requires further inquiry. We have successfully prosecuted several hundred sexual harassment claims. The results we achieved in each of those cases not only involved trial courts but also appellate practice, which required us to devote thousands of hours in researching, drafting, litigating, and processing sexual harassment claims that were significant and, in certain instances, cases of first impression.
The litigation, appellate and trial preparation involved in these cases are very complex. We have a significant understanding of what sexual harassment represents and the effect it can have on a victim. As a result of our in-depth and unique involvement in the field of sexual harassment, we consider ourselves well-trained, experienced and competent in this major area of the law.
Call Philadelphia Sexual Harassment Lawyers of Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C., today for a free assessment of your sexual harassment claim.