Pennsylvania employers beware: The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) and Title VII require immediate action as soon as you learn about possible sexual harassment by a supervisor. That’s true even if the victim doesn’t come forward. If you wait until she complains, it may be too late.
Recent case: Tina Neupauer started work at Trinity Glass and almost immediately began receiving a barrage of sexually suggestive comments from her line supervisor. However, Neupauer didn’t file a complaint with HR until the same supervisor tried to discipline her for not working overtime.
As soon as the complaint was lodged, the company began an investigation, sending its general counsel into the plant to get the story. But this was not the first time the company had heard about the supervisor’s alleged harassment of women. Other employees had reported comments before, andhad been told of a potential problem five months earlier. Trinity argued it could be liable only if it didn’t act promptly after getting a specific complaint and failed to act in that case.
Not so, concluded the court. As soon as the employer was on notice that it might have a sexual harasser as a supervisor, it was obligated to act. It didn’t matter that the employee who sued hadn’t yet been harassed. (Link, et al., v. Trinity Glass, No. 05-6342, ED PA, 2007)