Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act protect employees in Pennsylvania from sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment is when someone makes unsolicited sexual advances to another either explicitly or suggestively. It can happen in two significant ways: Hostile workplace sexual harassment and quid pro quo sexual harassment.
What are they and how are they different?
Hostile workplace sexual harassment
Hostile workplace sexual harassment is when someone uses verbal or physical contact with sexual overtones to demean, tease, pursue, insult or humiliate another person in the workplace. The actions and words are unwelcome. As a result, the victim does not feel safe in the workplace. It is emotionally abusive and derogatory. The harassment can be subtle, making it difficult to report or recognize. They can also be outright lewd and lascivious remarks or touching.
Quid pro quo sexual harassment
The most significant difference between the two classifications is that quid pro sexual harassment is an attempted exchange. It happens when a supervisor or anyone in a higher position uses their authority to solicit sexual favors from an employee in exchange for workplace benefits. Quid pro quo harassment can also transpire when the supervisor threatens to fire or demote the employee if they do not perform a sexual act.
To pursue a quid pro quo sexual harassment case, the victim must prove that the supervisor fired them or did not give them benefits because of their refusal. A threat may not be enough to hold up in court.
Regardless of what kind of sexual harassment you experienced, you should not stand for it. Your workplace should never feel hostile. You should not have to do unreasonable things to get a promotion. Sexual harassment is an abhorrent and illegal form of discrimination.