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Reporting Workplace Sexual Harassment in Pennsylvania

Reporting Workplace Sexual Harassment in Pennsylvania

Experiencing workplace sexual harassment — whether it is verbal or physical — is never your fault. You have options. You do not have to go through this alone.

81 percent of women and 20 percent of men experience sexual harassment in the workplace.

This guide brings together information and resources on how to identify and report workplace harassment.

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Be Informed

The best way to be able to speak out against sexual harassment when it happens to you or someone around you is to be informed.

Workplace sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and/or other verbal, visual or physical conduct of a sexual nature where:

  • Submission to or rejection of such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment;
  • Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting that individual; or
  • Such conduct has the purpose of or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

Know Your Rights

There are many laws that protect victims of sexual harassment. Knowing your rights is an important step in taking back control of the situation.

The Crime Victims’ Rights Act outlines the rights afforded to victims in federal criminal cases, including the right to be reasonably protected from the accused and the right to be reasonably heard.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, ancestry, age, sex, national origin, handicap and disability. The PHRC’s jurisdiction covers complaints of sexual harassment both in the workplace and as related to public accommodations. This includes access to all commonwealth facilities and services. You must file a complaint with the PHRC within 180 days of the alleged act of harassment.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits workplace discrimination of many forms and requires employers to investigate all complaints and take action if they find that sexual harassment has occurred.

Chapter 62A of Title 42 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes , also known as the Protection of Victims of Sexual Violence or Intimidation Act, provides victims of sexual violence or intimidation a civil remedy that requires the offender to stay away from the victim regardless of whether the victim seeks criminal prosecution. This is applicable only to victims who do not have a family or household member relationship with the defendant.

Title 18 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, Section 3104 , commonly referred to as “The Rape Shield Law” limits a defendant’s ability to introduce evidence or cross-examine rape complainants about their past sexual behavior that might undermine their credibility during proceedings.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal funding.

Take Action

There is no easy first step to dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace. Experiencing sexual harassment — whether it is verbal or physical — is never your fault. You have options. You do not have to go through this alone.

If you believe you have been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, you should report the behavior immediately to your supervisor or to your human resource office. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits workplace discrimination of any form and requires employers to investigate all complaints and take prompt remedial action if they find that sexual harassment has occurred.

You also have a right to file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission if you believe you have been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace.

All victims can also reach out to their local victim services provider for help . You will find trained victim services staff who can talk with you about common reactions, the options you have and facilitate referrals as appropriate.

If you have been the victim of a crime, immediately contact your local police.

Submit a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of their race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.

The EEOC has authority to investigate charges of discrimination against employers with greater than 15 employees (state and local government included). All complaints to the EEOC must be made within 300 days of the incident.

Submit a complaint to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) was created to enforce the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) and the Pennsylvania Fair Educational Opportunities Act (PFEOA). The PHRA prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, ancestry, age, sex, national origin, handicap and disability. The PHRC’s jurisdiction covers complaints of sexual harassment both in the workplace and as related to public accommodations. This includes access to all commonwealth facilities and services. If you believe you are the victim of sexual harassment, you may file a complaint with the PHRC within 180 days of the alleged act of harassment.

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