Workplace Sexual Abuse and Harassment Lawyers in Pittsburgh
Have You Been Sexually Assaulted at Work? Ask Our Lawyers for Advice.
Discrimination based on sex has been illegal in workplaces since 1964, when Title VII of the Civil Rights Act became law. This includes sexual harassment of any sort. Complainants can bring sexual harassment cases of two types:
- Hostile Work Environment harassment refers to a culture of negativity or violence toward certain protected classes. This could refer to constant verbal attacks (slurs, mockery, etc.) or physical aggression.
- Quid Pro Quo harassment takes place any time someone is expected to perform sexual favors in return for a job, raise, promotion, or other workplace benefits. This can be either an outright ask or an implied one.
Facing sexual assault on the job is a serious problem. A 2011 analysis found that between 2005 and 2009, 2.3% of workplace attacks that did not result in death were either rapes or sexual assaults. Though women are more likely to be the target of this violence, men can be and are victimized as well.
How Harassment and Assault Hurt Employees
Being sexually abused has both physical and emotional effects that can cause lasting pain among victims. It can also affect their ability to perform their work. A study found that 8 in 10 women who experienced sexual harassment at their job left for another opportunity within the next 2 years. In some cases, abuse victims quit their job without a replacement lined up or left the field altogether. Financial stress is therefore added to the ongoing burden of sexual abuse.
The physical and mental impacts of sexual assault may not pass quickly, either. One in 10 women developed PTSD after being harassed; presumably, the ratio would be similar for men. These victims may need extensive therapy and/or medication to overcome to ill effects of the trauma. Anyone who deals with long-term sexual harassment is also more likely to develop physical health problems in the future, though they may not seem directly connected to the assault.
Finding Recourse After Harassment
Dealing with workplace sexual harassment is difficult, to say the least. Many people fear reporting the incidents because their harasser is in a position of power over them and/or is friendly with other higher-ups. Or, they may assume their report will be disbelieved or ignored—especially if they have seen other cases of harassment swept under the rug. It is true that many companies fail to deal with harassment and discrimination complaints as they are legally obligated to. If you have your report ignored, you might be able to take legal action.
Understanding When Your Employer Is Liable
Not every instance of harassment can be blamed directly on the leadership of your company right away. If you plan to take action, you must first make sure you have standing to bring a case. In most cases, you will need to ask for a remedy inside the company before you can file an official complaint. If you can prove your employer was aware (or reasonably should have been aware) of the situation and failed to fix it, you have created a situation where they can be held responsible.
Retaliation Is Illegal
There’s a reason many sexual assault victims fear retaliation from their employers, should they report it: Many people are fired, demoted, or intimidated after coming forward with a story of sexual harassment. Employers are not legally allowed to use punitive measures against anyone who reports discrimination, but many attempt to disguise the retaliation. Taking notes about the way you are treated, your employee reviews, and workplace interactions both before and after you make the report can help you argue you faced illegal retaliation.
Filing an Official Complaint
After attempting to solve the problem with internal processes, your next step will be to complain to the Equal Employment Opportunity Council (EEOC) or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC). You cannot file a lawsuit before taking this step. However, bringing an attorney on to help you file your complaint on time and represent you during the investigation can be helpful.
You may also request permission to sue and, when it is granted, can begin the legal process. Our attorneys can take over the hard work of preparing a lawsuit for you and advocate for your interests should the other party offer a settlement. We are not afraid to take a case to court if needed. You have the right to tell your story and receive justice, and often the settlement process does not allow you to do so.
If you have been sexually abused in the workplace, we are on your side. Our Pittsburgh team offers free and confidential consultations to learn your story and help you decide what to do next. Call us now at (844) 383-0565 to schedule a meeting with our attorneys.