What Are The Penalties for Sexual Harassment?

When sexual harassment happens in the workplace, the employers may be liable for the harms caused to the victims rather than the perpetrators. When employers are found to have failed to stop harassment that is occurring or to take steps to prevent it, they may face penalties that are imposed by the courts. In many cases, the harassers will not be legally liable to pay damages, but they may face consequences that are imposed by their employers. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler help victims of workplace sexual harassment to recover monetary compensation for their harms while also helping to ensure that their employers are appropriately punished for their failures to act or their illegal retaliation.

What penalties might employers face for workplace sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is a prohibited type of illegal sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, meaning that it is illegal under both state and federal laws. When employers are found guilty of not stopping sexual harassment that they know or should have known about, the following penalties may be imposed:

  1. Payment of lost wages to the victim – These are the benefits and wages that the victim would have earned from the date when the harassment occurred to the date of the settlement or trial.
  2. Payment of future lost wages to the victim – These are payments to the victim of the wages and benefits that the victim would have earned if the sexual harassment had never happened.
  3. Compensatory damages – These are payments that the employer may be ordered to pay to the victim for the emotional pain and anguish that the victim has suffered.
  4. Punitive damages – These are payments that are above and beyond the economic and noneconomic losses that were suffered by the victim and are designed to punish the employer.
  5. Legal fees – These are payments to the victim for the court fees and attorney costs that the victim incurred as a result of the sexual harassment case.
  6. Job reinstatement or promotion – This is an order to reinstate the victim to his or her job or to give the victim a promotion.

Under federal law, public and private employers that have 15 or more employees must comply with federal law. In Pennsylvania, all employers who have four or more employees are covered under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. In New Jersey, employers must follow the state’s sexual harassment law regardless of the employer’s size.

Employee penalties for sexual harassment

Under federal and state law, employers must take action to stop or prevent sexual harassment. If an employee is found during an investigation to have committed sexual harassment, the employer may institute discipline against the employee. In most cases, the punishment will be proportionate to the seriousness of the conduct. Potential job penalties against a sexual harasser might include the following:

  • Reprimands or warnings
  • Mandatory training and counseling
  • Transfers or demotions
  • Reductions in salary
  • Suspensions or terminations

What to do

If you have been the victim of a sexual harasser at your job, you should promptly complain to your company according to its sexual harassment complaint procedure. If the company fails to act, contact Swartz Swidler for further help with your case.