PHILADELPHIA SEXUAL HARASSMENT LAWYERS

Philadelphia Sexual Harassment Lawyers follow Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits a broad range of sexual harassment. Civil claims can be filed against churches, schools, and workplaces. Employment discrimination in the form of workplace sexual harassment includes both overt and subtle types of harassment, made by both supervisors and co-workers. Sexual harassment can also occur when general derogatory remarks are made about a particular sex. Overt workplace sexual harassment, including conditions of employment, decisions made about an employee, and a hostile work environment, are illegal.

Hostile Workplace Environment

Work environments are considered hostile when an employee is subjected to unwelcome and/or intimidating verbal or physical sexual behavior that interferes with the job. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute a hostile work environment.

Examples of Workplace Sexual Harassment

Sexual assault, sexual gestures, remarks, touching, grabbing, groping and unwanted sexual advances are all examples of sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual jokes, pornography, touching, inappropriate names such as baby, sweetheart, and darling, comments about appearance, and questions about sex life, are also considered workplace sexual harassment. Threats of firing, or asking for sexual favors in exchange of a promotion, raise, bonus or other benefit, are all against the law.

What do I do if I am sexually harassed at work?

  1. Report the sexual harassment to a supervisor or to human resources.
  2. If you are part of a union, report it to your union representative.
  3. Speak to an Sexual Harassment Lawyer.

How long do I have to file a sexual harassment civil lawsuit?

A civil lawsuit may be filed against a church, school, or workplace, where the victim may be compensated for economic and non-economic damages, including pain and suffering. Pennsylvania law requires that sexual harassment lawsuits are filed within 2 years of the incident for an adult, and if the victim was a child, 12 years after the child's 18th birthday.

Workplace sexual harassment under federal law must file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 300 days of the incident. If the EEOC decides not to litigate your claim, a Right to Sue letter will be issued to you, at which time you will have 90 days to file a lawsuit.

Sexual Offense Civil Lawsuits

Sexual abuse victims may also hold their perpetrator accountable through a civil lawsuit in which they may receive monetary compensation from their perpetrator. The standard of proof is lower in a civil lawsuit than in a criminal lawsuit.  In a civil lawsuit, proof must be made by a preponderance of the evidence. Civil lawsuits may be handled on a contingency fee basis.

How long do I have to file a sexual harassment civil lawsuit?

A civil lawsuit may be filed against a church, school, or workplace, where the victim may be compensated for economic and non-economic damages, including pain and suffering. Pennsylvania law requires that sexual harassment lawsuits are filed within 2 years of the incident for an adult, and if the victim was a child, 12 years after the child's 18th birthday.

Workplace sexual harassment under federal law must file a complaint with the EEOC within 300 days of the incident. If the EEOS decides not to litigate your claim, a Right to Sue letter will be issued, at which time you will have 90 days to file a lawsuit.

PENNSYLVANIA SEXUAL ABUSE LAWS:

LEGAL DEFINITIONS:

I.  RAPE

In Pennsylvania, rape is considered a felony of the first degree and is defined as when a person engages in sexual intercourse with a victim by way of force or threat of force and the victim is incapable of giving consent (i.e., victim is unconscious or the perpetrator knows the victim is unaware of his/her surroundings; the perpetrator diminished the victim’s ability to control his/her own conduct by administering intoxicants to the victim without the victim’s knowledge or consent; the victim suffers from a mental disability).

18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3121 (LexisNexis)

II.  SEXUAL ASSAULT

Sexual Assault is a 2nd degree felony and is defined as when a person engages in sexual intercourse or deviate sexual intercourse[1] with a victim without the victim’s consent.

18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 124.1 (LexisNexis)

Note:  The difference between rape and sexual assault is that Rape requires the use or threat of force, whereas sexual assault refers to any act of intercourse without consent.

III.  INDECENT ASSAULT

A person is guilty of indecent assault if the person has indecent contact with the complainant, causes the complainant to have indecent contact with the person or intentionally causes the complainant to come into contact with seminal fluid, urine or feces for the purpose of arousing sexual desire in the person or the complainant and:

(1) the person does so without the complainant’s consent;

(2) the person does so by forcible compulsion;

(3) the person does so by threat of forcible compulsion that would prevent resistance by a person of reasonable resolution;

(4) the complainant is unconscious or the person knows that the complainant is unaware that the indecent contact is occurring;

(5) the person has substantially impaired the complainant’s power to appraise or control his or her conduct by administering or employing, without the knowledge of the complainant, drugs, intoxicants or other means for the purpose of preventing resistance;

(6) the complainant suffers from a mental disability which renders the complainant incapable of consent;

(7) the complainant is less than 13 years of age; or

(8) the complainant is less than 16 years of age and the person is four or more years older than the complainant and the complainant and the person are not married to each other.

18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3126 (LexisNexis)

Note:  Depending on various factors, indecent assault can be a 2nd degree misdemeanor, 1st degree misdemeanor, or a 3rd degree felony.

IV.  SEXUAL HARASSMENT

According to the Pennsylvania Administrative Code, sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal, visual or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

(1)  Submission to or rejection of the conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment.

(2)  Submission to or rejection of the conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting the individuals.

(3)  The conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.

Prohibited sexual harassment may include actions by members of the opposite sex of an employee as well as members of an employee’s own sex. Prohibited sexual harassment may include actions which are overtly sexual or facially neutral if the actions constitute gender-based discrimination.

4 Pa. Code § 7.592 (Lexis Advance through the January 2018 supplement Changes effective through 47 Pa.B. 6918 (November 4, 2017))

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act prohibits employment practices that discriminate against applicants, employees, or independent contractors on the basis of sex, including sexual harassment (PA Stat. Tit. 43 Sec. 951 et seq.). The Act covers all public employers and private employers with four or more employees.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), when there are 15 or more employees:

  • “…it is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.
  • Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.
  • Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex.
  • Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).
  • The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.”

[1] “Deviate sexual intercourse.”  —Sexual intercourse per os or per anus between human beings and any form of sexual intercourse with an animal. The term also includes penetration, however slight, of the genitals or anus of another person with a foreign object for any purpose other than good faith medical, hygienic or law enforcement procedures.18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3101 (LexisNexis)

What to Expect in a Sexual Offense Criminal Lawsuit:

Criminal lawsuits are filed through the Criminal Justice System.  In a criminal lawsuit, the state steps in as the plaintiff and police and lawyers work together to prosecute the defendant on the behalf of the State. The victim takes on the position of a witness. The lawyers representing the state against the alleged perpetrator (also called the defendant) are called prosecutors.  Criminal prosecutors specialize in the prosecution of criminals who they believe are guilty of criminal acts, such as sexual abuse. In the United States, everyone has the right to an attorney, including the defendant. The defendant may pay to retain his own criminal defense attorney or he/she may be represented by a public defender. In a criminal court of law, the defendant may be found guilty and their freedom may be taken away by serving time in jail.

Is there a time limit to bring a lawsuit against a perpetrator?

Yes, there is a limited amount of time victims have to bring a lawsuit against their perpetrator, called the Statute of Limitations. The Statute of Limitations varies significantly from state to state. To preserve your case, you should notify the police of a criminal act as soon as possible. This allows police and prosecutors the opportunity to perform a timely investigation and gather the necessary evidence to prove their case. The following link provides State-by-State Statute of Limitation Laws for Sexual Assault as of 8/21/2013.  Check with your State for updated Statute of Limitations.

6 Steps to a Criminal Lawsuit

 1.  Reporting Sexual Abuse

It is a personal decision to report a crime. The following information provides some general legal considerations in making your decision.  If you have been assaulted you may report it to the authorities in one of 3 ways:

  • contact your local police
  • visit a medical center
  • call 911

2.  The Investigation and Pressing Charges

After you report your assault, a preliminary investigation will begin to determine if there is enough evidence to move forward with a lawsuit. During the investigation, police and lawyers will work together to determine if there is enough evidence to prove their case. If they feel there is not enough evidence, they may decide not to file a lawsuit at that time. If they believe that there is enough evidence to prosecute the alleged perpetrator, they will move forward with the criminal charges.

3.  Plea Bargains

If the police and prosecutors feel that they have enough evidence to move forward with your case, they will begin to prepare for a criminal trial. During this time, plea bargains are often reached between the prosecuting attorney and the defense attorney. Plea bargains usually require the perpetrator to either plead guilty to the charge, or plead guilty to a lesser charge, or to plead no-contest, in return for a lighter sentence.

4.  Going to Trial

If the perpetrator does not agree to a plea bargain, a trial will be held in a criminal court of law. During the trial, victims will generally be asked to testify. There are some laws that protect victims during the testimony phase of a trial, by limiting the questions defense attorneys may ask about their prior sexual history. Prosecutors may also file other legal motions limiting the amount of personal information victims must disclose while testifying. These laws vary from state to state.

5.  Your Day in Court

Your role in the criminal trial will be as the victim and as a witness in the State's case against the defendant.  This does not minimize your importance in the process, as your testimony will be an important part of the prosecution's case against the defendant.

Testifying Tips

  • Take your time. If you need a break, ask your attorney or the judge.
  • Stay hydrated and nourished.
  • Stay calm.
  • Keep your eyes on the person asking you questions.
  • Tell the truth. If you're not sure, don't guess.
  • If you feel you need to clarify something you said, ask the judge.
  • Answer the questions you are asked and stop.
  • If you don't understand something, ask for the question to be repeated or re-phrased.

6.  The Sentencing Phase

After all testimony is completed by witnesses, and attorneys have made their closing arguments, the judge will schedule a sentencing hearing. Criminal trials require the highest level of proof in finding the defendant guilty because they may be taking away the defendants civil liberties by incarceration. Criminal cases must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. At the sentencing hearing, the decision will be announced. If you prefer not to attend, you do not have to attend the sentencing hearing of the trial.

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Philadelphia Sexual Harrassment Lawyer

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