When we think of sexual harassment, we may typically imagine a woman being harassed by a man. Sexual harassment laws now recognize that both men and women can be harassed and that both men and women can be a harasser. Definitions of harassment have evolved to include any behavior that subtly or overtly implies a gender-based transaction is a condition of employment and to recognize that sexual harassment creates an offensive working environment. 

The laws that protect workers from sexual harassment can be complicated and are comprised of complex legalese. You can get a basic understanding of your rights and your employer’s responsibilities by researching Pennsylvania laws, and, if necessary, federal laws. 

Definition of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is unwelcome behavior directed at a person because of their gender. When it happens at work, it is workplace sexual harassment and is a kind of gender discrimination.

There are two types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo and a hostile work environment. 

Quid pro quo harassment occurs when a job decision is dependent on sexual behavior. It is an implied or stated offer in which you must give something (such as a date) in order to receive something (such as a job or a salary increase). This type of sexual harassment requires the harasser to be in a position of power over you. 

A hostile work environment is defined by intimidation, hostility, or other discriminating behavior. It occurs when you are forced to work in an offensive, hostile, or intensely uncomfortable environment. To be considered sexual harassment, the abusive behavior must be severe enough to similarly affect an average, reasonable person. This type of harassment can occur in a variety of situations. The harasser may be a coworker, a manager, or a customer—anyone at your workplace who harasses.

Pennsylvania Human Relations Act

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act makes discrimination based on gender (“sex”), race, color of skin, religion, ancestry, age, sexual orientation, national origin, handicap, and disability illegal in workplaces. It protects employees at workplaces with four or more employees. For example, if you are a male employee at a company with six people in Alice and have been taunted about your sexual orientation, the Human Relations Act protects you.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission is responsible for investigating Oklahoma complaints of sexual harassment in workplaces.

Federal Options for Sexual Harassment Complaints

Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides federal protection against workplace sexual harassment. Employers, however, must have 15 or more employees before their employees are covered by this law. When a workplace has fewer than 15 employees, employees must rely on the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act for protection.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is responsible for enforcing Title VII in workplaces.

Getting Help

Employers who are aware of the harassment and do not investigate and remedy the situation can be found liable by state and federal courts. If you have reported sexual harassment to your workplace, and the harassment has continued, you should consider getting legal help.

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