Employment Law

Women & Employment Law Issues: Sexual Harassment, Pregnancy Discrimination & Unequal Pay

Despite decades of federal and state legislation intended to prohibit gender or sex-based discrimination, women still face an uphill battle in employment. In this employment law article, our Philadelphia employment lawyers discuss three of the most common employment law issues women face today: sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination and unequal pay.

Employment Law Protections Only Apply to Employers of Certain Sizes

Pennsylvania and federal laws that prohibit gender discrimination only apply to employers with a minimum number of employees—4 employees under PA law and 15 employees under federal law. The discussion below will therefore NOT apply to smaller employers.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment typically involves unwelcome sexual comments, requests for sexual favors, and/or physical harassment. An employee may face a hostile work environment or a quid pro quo, where an employer offers a job, promotion, pay, etc., in exchange for a sexual favor.

Employers in Pennsylvania may be liable for sexual harassment committed by supervisors, managers, co-workers and even other parties, such as clients, customers, etc.

For example, an employer may be liable where a female worker is continually harassed by an important client. Despite repeated complaints to her supervisor, the harassment continues.

It’s important to note that gender-based harassment is not always sexual in nature and may involve offensive comments about women.

Pregnancy Discrimination

In our employment law practice, we often see women punished for getting pregnant and taking parental leave.

Under Pennsylvania and federal law, employers are barred from making any employment decisions due to an employee’s pregnancy, related medical conditions or parental/maternity leave. This applies to employment actions such as failing to hire, firing or demoting or changing work assignments, hours, schedules, etc. Read more about pregnancy discrimination laws in Pennsylvania.

Unequal Pay & Treatment

It’s a fact that women are grossly underpaid compared to men. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020, women’s annual earnings were 82.3% of men’s earnings.

This is true of all industries, whether it’s retail, service or office/professional work. Women who are minorities are especially underpaid.

Because pay rates and salaries are for the most part, a taboo topic at work, these claims typically arise when a female worker discovers that a male colleague with substantially the same education and experience is receiving higher pay. In addition to pay discrepancies, gender-based discrimination claims might involve preferential treatment, such as additional paid time off or desirable work schedules, arrangements or assignments.

For example, a female worker is hired along with 2 males at a restaurant in Philadelphia. Despite the fact that all 3 workers have the same level of experience and education, the male workers receive the better, higher paying shifts, i.e., nights and weekends. The female worker requests a weekend or night shift and is continually denied.

In gender discrimination cases, circumstantial evidence may be sufficient to show unequal treatment – meaning, the difference in pay, shift assignment, etc., would be enough, with all other things being equal.

Koller Law Firm -Philadelphia Employment Lawyers

At Koller Law our passion lies in representing people from all walks of life who have experienced gender-based discrimination including sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination and unequal pay.

We have been handling employment discrimination cases throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, just like yours, for many years. Koller Law is not run like every other firm – we provide the compassionate, individual attention employees need and deserve.

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