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Can the Company Just Ignore My Complaints about Harassment?

Although there are never any promises that your workplace will be exactly as you wish it to be, it should not be a place where you feel degraded, objectified, frightened or harassed. Unfortunately, however, that is the case sometimes. Despite state and federal laws making it illegal to engage in harassment in the workplace, it does still happen at an alarming rate. If you are the victim of harassment and you have filed a complaint with your supervisor to no avail, you may be wondering “Can the company just ignore complaints about harassment?”

Harassment in the workplace may be a violation of various federal laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). For harassment to be legally actionable, it must meet the legal definition found in one or more of those laws. First, the harassment must be based on a legally protected trait or class, including race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. In addition, the conduct in question must rise to the level where either:

  • Enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment OR
  • The conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.

Employer Liability

An employer cannot simply ignore harassment in the workplace under federal law. In fact, an employer can be held directly liable for harassment even if it is another employee or a non-employee engaging in the conduct in question. If the offender is a supervisor, the employer is automatically liable should the harassment result in a negative employment action, such as termination. Under those circumstances, the only way an employer can avoid liability is if:

  1. It reasonably tried to prevent and promptly correct the harassing behavior; AND
  2. The employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer.

An employer can also be liable for harassment by a non-supervisory employee or even a non-employee if the employer knew, or should have known about the harassment and failed to take prompt and appropriate corrective action.

A victim of illegal discrimination may be entitled to damages for both the out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of the harassment, such as lost wages, and the emotional toll the harassment took on the victim.

If you believe you have been the victim of harassment in the workplace and your complaints have not been addressed, contact an experienced Pennsylvania employment law attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options. Contact the employment law attorneys at Curley & Rothman, LLC by calling 610-834-8819