Where do you draw the line between office romance and sexual harassment? Having a crush on a colleague is by no means illegal. However, when you pressure an employee into accepting your sexual overtures, that’s sexual harassment. That’s what happened to a Pennsylvania woman named Emily Camerer, working as executive assistant to one George Hutchinson, owner of Hutchinson Cos., Northbridge Construction Management. Hutchinson started by complimenting Camerer, telling her how beautiful she was and escalated to inviting her to his home, where he forcefully kissed and fondled her. As she did not reciprocate, she was fired within a few days. Camerer filed a complaint for sexual harassment and the case was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
This type of behavior represents a clear violation of the federal Civil Rights Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, which prohibit sexual discrimination in the workplace. If you, too, are a victim of sexual harassment, you need to see a lawyer as soon as possible.
The Camerer vs. Hutchinson story is a typical case of quid pro quo. That’s when a supervisor or anyone in a management position requests sexual favors of an employee. The law doesn’t care if the perpetrator had feelings or not. You need to learn to take no for an answer and maintain a respectful and professional relation with that employee.
Sexual harassment lawyers can also help in other types of sexual harassment, like a hostile work environment. The term applies to those situations when an employee is targeted by one or more workmates and harassed with sexual innuendos, inappropriate jokes, lewd comments on their physical appearance. Any sort of unwanted touching also constitutes sexual harassment.
The question is how do you respond to unwanted sexual overtures? Many victims try to ignore the problem as they don’t want to be seen as troublemakers, as odd as that may sound. Experienced employment lawyers say that’s the wrong attitude. When you don’t say anything to your tormentors, it may look like you’re encouraging them. Or, at least, that’s what they’re going to claim if the case ever goes to trial.
You need to tell them to stop behaving like that and make it clear you find it offensive. If they don’t leave you alone, you should inform your employer. Well, not in cases like the above-mentioned one, where the woman was harassed by the business owner.
If your employer doesn’t take any action against your harassers, Pennsylvania sexual harassment lawyers can help you file a formal complaint. Maybe at state level or straight to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Such agencies have the power to investigate sexual harassment complaints and, in most cases, they will try to mediate the dispute. This can result in an out-of-court settlement, with the victim being compensated for all their suffering. A settlement will include damages for lost wages, as well as compensation for the mental suffering, including therapy and other related costs.