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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: November 21, 2017 04:21 PM
From: Representative Maureen E. Madden
To: All House members
Subject: Expanding sexual harassment protections in the workplace
In the near future, I will introduce legislation to legally protect all employees in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania from unwanted sexual harassment.

Currently, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) treats sexual harassment as a form of discrimination based on sex. Unfortunately, the PHRA only applies to employers with four or more employees. As one can imagine, this definition fails to cover all businesses in the state and thereby leaves potentially thousands of employees without legal protections against sexual harassment. Very simply, my legislation will amend the PHRA to say that for instances of discrimination based on sex, an employer is an entity that employs one or more persons.

In 2017, we’ve seen a renewed focus on the issue of sexual harassment, this includes reporting previously of previously unknown instances of sexual harassment by public figures, and an interest in both holding those guilty of sexual harassment accountable and learning how we can best address this issue more broadly.

We know that sexual harassment continues to be a problem in workplaces across this country, affecting both men and women alike. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, roughly 12,000 reports of harassment are filed annually with the Commission; however, the number of individuals who are actual victims of sexual harassment is probably much higher. Often, individuals who experienced sexual harassment in the workplace never report it. This is likely because victims fear employer retaliation, the reaction of co-workers, and stigma.

Federal, state, and local laws prohibit sexual harassment in workplaces depending on the location and the size of the employer. Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act applies to employers with 15 or more employees, and the PHRA covers employers with at least four employees. However, sexual harassment is not a problem solely confined to larger companies. Philadelphia's Fair Practices ordinance, for instance, applies to employers with one or more employees. My legislation will ensure that all employees-even those who work for employers with less than four employees- are protected from workplace discrimination.

This effort is intended to remove barriers to work by creating protections need for safe and comfortable working environments for thousands of Pennsylvanian workers. I invite all members to co-sponsor this important piece of legislation.

Introduced as HB1971