As an at-will employee (with no employment or union contract), it will be difficult to file a cause of action against your employer if you are not a part of a protected class and you are being harassed because of that. Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from making job decisions based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), or national origin. Additional federal laws prohibit discrimination based on age (if the employee is at least 40 years old), disability, or genetic information. Employers with at least 15 employees are subject to these laws (for age discrimination, employers with at least 20 employees must comply with the law). Employers may not discriminate in any part of the employment relationship.
Pennsylvania law also protects employees from discrimination based on these traits. In addition, employees in Pennsylvania are protected from discrimination based on their use of a service animal or their possession of a GED rather than a high school diploma. Employers with at least four employees are subject to Pennsylvania’s state laws that prohibit discrimination. To file a complaint or learn more about Pennsylvania’s laws prohibiting discrimination, go to the website of the Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission.
Harassment based on any of these protected traits is also illegal. The law defines harassment as unwelcome comments or actions that create a hostile or offensive working environment or that the victim must endure as a condition of employment. Sexual harassment is the most familiar type of harassment, but harassment might also be based on disability, race, and other protected traits. If you complain about workplace harassment or discrimination, you are protected from retaliation (this means to your OSHA complaint cannot have negative consequences on you). Your employer may not discipline, fire, or take other negative action against you because you complain within the company, to a government agency (like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission), or in a lawsuit.
Under federal law, harassment of employees based on race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity and pregnancy), national origin, age, disability, genetic information, sexual orientation, or parental status is prohibited.
Prohibited workplace harassment may take either of two forms. It may entail "quid pro quo" harassment, which occurs in cases in which employment decisions or treatment are based on submission to or rejection of unwelcome conduct, typically conduct of a sexual nature. Workplace harassment may also consist of offensive conduct based on one or more of the protected groups above that is so severe or pervasive that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as being fired or demoted).
Unfortunately without harassment based on you being a member of a protected class, you probably do not have a valid claim against your employer. In order for a “bullying” claim to be actionable in Pennsylvania, it must constitute harassment. This means that the bullying must be based upon an individual’s protected classification (i.e. race, gender, national origin, religion, disability, age, genetic information, etc.). If an employee comes to an employer with an allegation of bullying, the employer should investigate the claim as it would any other issue. While the underlying bullying claim may not be actionable, allowing bullying to permeate a workplace will lead to other issues, such as poor productivity and low employee morale. So if your employer does not properly investigate and deal with your claim under its own policies and procedures, you could have an action for your employer not provide a safe and proper environment.
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