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.
The plaintiff in the case filed a two-page sexual harassment claim with the EEOC. Half of the document, the part describing the quid pro quo allegation, was lost, but the plaintiff was given leave to bring a lawsuit. The trial court used the half-missing document to reason that the plaintiff had not made sufficient effort to remedy his quid pro quo claim via the administrative process.
However, the appeals court found that any claim of sexual harassment was sufficient notice to the employer. In other words, the employer could have followed up on the claims to have suffered a hostile working environment and retaliatory firing and discovered the other charge of unwanted sexual advances by the employee's supervisor. The case has been sent back to trial court.
Any form of sexual harassment in the workplace can damage a person's health, career, relationships and financial stability. The victim of harassment may find it difficult to change the situation when facing the possibilities of demotion, worse work hours, firing or other unlawful retaliation. Addressing sexual harassment and the hostile working environment it causes requires evidence and a defined procedure, but most importantly it requires courage. An experienced attorney may be able to help guide the victim of harassment through the process and provide protection from fear and retaliation.