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How Pennsylvania Defines “Should Have Known” in a Sexual Harassment Case

In Philadelphia, an employer can only be held liable in a sexual harassment suit if they knew or should have known of the sexual harassment, according to the leading case Andrews v. Philadelphia. 895 F.2d 1469, 1468 (3d Cir. 1990). In Andrews, there were openly displayed pornographic pictures in the locker rooms and obscenities were so regular that the court held upper management had to be aware of the situation. Id.

Further, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania held that an employer may be charged with constructive notice of a supervisor’s harassment if the supervisor is vested with unbridled authority to retaliate against an employee or if the harassment was so pervasive and severe or so long lasting that a reasonable employer should have become aware of it.” Id. at *19. If the employer has power over the employee, like scheduling hours or promoting or firing the employee, they are more likely to be held liable because it puts the employee in a position where they have a hard time saying no to sexual advances. Fields v. Horizon House, Inc., the court also discussed should have known as well. Civ. A. No. 86-4343, 1987 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11315 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 9, 1987).

If instances of sexual harassment occur in front of management, they cannot claim lack of knowledge. However, the most obvious way to alert management about harassment and protect the victim is by filing a report or telling a supervisor in writing.

For more information, contact our Philadelphia sexual harassment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green at 215-574-0600 or contact us online.