Defining sexual harassment in the workplace

Sexual harassment occurs in the workplace when comments or advances are made that are unwelcome and harmful to others.

In workplaces in Pennsylvania and throughout the U.S., it is against the law for employees to harass their co-workers because of their sex, states the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The harassment can include actual sexual harassment or requests for sexual favors, sexual advances that are unwelcome and any other type of physical or physical harassment that is sexual in nature.

What constitutes harassment?

It is important to note that the harassment does not always have to be sexual in nature, and it can include making remarks about another person's sex in general. For instance, employees cannot make offensive comments to a man about men. Sexual harassment can also occur in a variety of circumstances, such as the following:

  • The agent of an employer, a co-worker, a supervisor in another department or the supervisor of an employee can all be considered a harasser.
  • Those who commit sexual harassment may be male or female. Additionally, victims do not necessarily have to be the opposite sex of their harasser.
  • Anyone who is affected by harassment that has occurred can be considered a victim.
  • Sexual harassment is unlawful even if victims do not experience economic harm or if they remain in their current position at work.

In addition to these circumstances, the conduct by the harasser must be unwelcome to the victim and anyone else affected.

How to handle a harassment problem

Although every situation is different, victims of sexual harassment should follow a few guidelines. First, employees should consult their employment policies or handbook to see if there is a policy about sexual harassment already in place. If there is, employees should put all of their complaints in writing and follow this policy.

Second, victims who feel comfortable confronting their harasser should explain to them why their behavior is bothersome, and request that they stop the behavior. Third, victims of sexual harassment should tell their supervisor about what is occurring and let them know what steps they have taken to put an end to the harassment. Finally, victims should file an official complaint with the EEOC.

Contact an attorney

When sexual harassment victims in Pennsylvania complain about harassment and do their best to apprehend the situation, they may find that their complaints are ignored or not taking seriously. To prevent further emotional and psychological harm and to prevent the harassment from continuing, victims should contact an attorney in their area for legal assistance and guidance.