Pennsylvania Human Relations Act doesn’t protect nonemployees from sexual harassment

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

The Pennsylvania Human Rela­­tions Act (PHRA) makes it illegal for employers to subject employees to sexual harassment.

But what if an employee harasses someone who does not work for the company? Does that make the em­­ployer liable? One court says no.

Recent case: Carolyn Oravitz went to the Saxonburg Borough Police Department to obtain a document. According to her lawsuit, she got more than that.

In her lawsuit, Oravitz alleged that the officer who assisted her shortly began serially sexually harassing her. She says he repeatedly phoned her, asked for sexual favors and visited her home. When she complained, the officer was put in charge of his own internal investigation. That’s when she sued under the PHRA.

Oravitz lost because she was not an employee of the borough, and thus was outside the PHRA’s protection. (Oravitz v. Saxonburg Borough, No. 404-CD-2011, Commonwealth Court of PA, 2011)

Final note: Ironically, employers do have to protect employees from harassment by customers. Plus, an employee assigned temporarily to another work site who is harassed by an employee at that work site is also covered. It’s the employment relationship that counts.

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