Sexual Harassment

No one should have to endure sexual harassment in the workplace. Not only can it leave you feeling violated, humiliated, and distressed, but it can also affect your ability to carry out your employment duties. Unfortunately, some people wrongly blame themselves or tolerate the harassment for fear of retaliation. All too frequently, employees decide to quit their jobs altogether.

If you were subjected to unwanted remarks, offensive touching, unsolicited requests, or other inappropriate behavior at work, it’s crucial to take action. Pennsylvania and federal law prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace and offer strong legal protections to victims. At Stember Cohn & Davidson-Welling LLC, we provide compassionate counsel and experienced advocacy to employees and workers who experience sexual harassment — and aggressively pursue the justice and compensation they are entitled.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is a type of gender discrimination that violates federal, Pennsylvania, Allegheny County, and City of Pittsburgh law. These laws apply whether the victim is male or female, regardless of the gender or sexual orientation of the harasser and victim. Conduct that constitutes sexual harassment may be physical or verbal, overt or subtle. In addition to suffering loss of dignity at work, sexual harassment can impact various other aspects of an employee’s life, including their emotional, psychological, and financial wellbeing.

There are two types of sexual harassment in the workplace: quid pro quo harassment and that which creates a hostile work environment.

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

“Quid pro quo” means “this for that” in Latin. This form of sexual harassment occurs when an employer, supervisor, or manager demands sexual favors in return for a job-related benefit. The employer might also condition some aspect of your employment on compliance with the demand, such as a promotion, more favorable working conditions, a raise, or protection from an adverse employment action. Similarly, quid pro quo harassment can arise if an employer threatens termination, denial of benefits, or demotion for refusal to submit to their request.

A single incident of quid pro quo sexual harassment is typically enough to commence legal action. Critically, if you feel that you have no choice but to comply with the employer’s demands, you can still assert your legal rights. Under the law, it is irrelevant whether you went along with a request or rejected it, as long as the conduct was unwanted.

An employee should not have to fear that they will lose their job because they refuse to submit to their employer’s advances — and they should never be subjected to this type of illegal conduct. The attorneys at Stember Cohn & Davidson-Welling will walk with you through every step of the legal process to ensure your employer is held accountable for their unlawful actions.

Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment

Hostile work environment sexual harassment occurs when an employer engages in or condones conduct so severe or pervasive that it creates a workplace a reasonable person would consider intimidating, abusive, or hostile. A hostile work environment can substantially interfere with your job performance. It can also affect your overall mental health — both at work and home.

A wide range of conduct can give rise to a hostile working environment, including the following:

  • Offensive sexual comments
  • Sexual innuendo
  • Obscene humor
  • Lewd remarks and language
  • Unwanted touching
  • Displays of explicit materials
  • Unwelcome sexual advances

To rise to the level of a hostile work environment, the conduct has to occur frequently. However, just one severe incident can sometimes be sufficient to bring a claim. Importantly, an employer might also be liable if an employee, supervisor, or manager is the source of the harassment — and they failed to take measures to prevent or stop it.

You should not be made to feel degraded and uncomfortable in your place of employment. At Stember Cohn & Davidson-Welling, we are dedicated to helping you take action to restore your dignity and recover the compensation you deserve for the wrongs you faced in the workplace.

Dedicated Sexual Harassment Attorney Helping You Obtain the Justice You Deserve

If you are a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, there are a few steps to take before you can file a lawsuit. First, you will need to clearly inform the harasser that the conduct is offensive and must stop. While it’s best to do this in writing, it can also be done verbally.

You must also report the harassment in writing to your employer. Your employee handbook should outline the specific procedures regarding the steps to take. Otherwise, you can make a complaint to Human Resources or the harasser’s supervisor, depending on the circumstances of the case. Importantly, it is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you in any way for reporting the harassment.

It is important to act quickly to protect your rights under Pennsylvania law (the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act) and federal law (Title VII). You have the legal right under Pennsylvania law to file a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission (PHRC) or the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days of the discrimination. You can still file a claim for violation of Title VII with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission if you act within 300 days, but after 180 days you may lose rights under Pennsylvania’s anti-discrimination law. It is typically a requirement that you bring your case to an administrative agency before you can file a complaint in court — a positive outcome can sometimes be reached through mediation. However, if your case is not resolved through the administrative process, you may commence a lawsuit.

By filing a lawsuit, you might be entitled to recover your economic damages, including past and future lost earnings, as well as compensatory damages for the emotional distress you suffered. In particularly egregious cases brought under Title VII, punitive damages may be awarded. These types of damages are not meant to compensate a victim, but to punish the employer and deter others from engaging in similar wrongful conduct.

If you’ve been a victim of sexual harassment at work, you’ve been through enough. At Stember Cohn & Davidson-Welling, we will take the burden off your shoulders. Providing each client with the attention they deserve, our attorneys take the time to carefully evaluate the evidence in your case and develop a solid strategy to achieve favorable results.

Contact a Pittsburgh Sexual Harassment Attorney

If you have experienced sexual harassment at work, it is imperative that you seek legal guidance from a knowledgeable employment law attorney who can advise you of your rights and remedies. Located in Pittsburgh, Stember Cohn & Davidson-Welling LLC has extensive experience handling workplace sexual harassment matters on behalf of men and women — and securing favorable outcomes in their cases. Call (412) 338-1445 or contact us to schedule a complimentary consultation.