Nobody deserves to be sexually harassed or assaulted in a professional work environment. 60% of women have experienced sexual advances, crude or sexist language and conduct, or sexual coercion in the workplace. 38% of women experience consistent sexual behaviors qualifying as sexual harassment in the workplace. About 70% of sexual harassment cases will never be reported, even internally. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. Approximately 12 % of people who are sexually assaulted were assaulted at work. Perpetrators of unwanted sexual behavior include supervisors, co-workers, and customers or clients. Sadly, many cases of workplace harassment go unreported because victims worry that they won’t be believed, they might lose their job, or that nothing productive can be done.
The PA workers’ compensation lawyers at Pearson Koutcher Law are here to help. If you have been a victim of sexual assault or harassment at work, you may feel alone or experience difficulty returning to work. Survivors can experience depression and anxiety in addition to physical injury. If you have experienced inappropriate sexual behavior or assault at work, you are not alone. There are resources to help you recover. We at Pearson Koutcher Law can be one of those resources. We are here to support you.
Since 2011, there has been an increase in workplace violence. Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workplace violence resulting in the victim missing work, but not dying, has increased every year except in 2020 due to the pandemic. Of the 20,870 victims of workplace violence in 2019, 68% of them were women. While the official number for 2019 states only 20 workers had to miss work due to sexual assault, this is likely a gross underestimate of sexual violence due to underreporting and workers choosing to work through the trauma.
According to the Department of Justice 2019 report, 459,310 American citizens were raped or sexually assaulted. Of this number, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) estimates 55,117 American citizens were raped or sexually assaulted at work. If you’ve been sexually assaulted in the workplace, you are not alone. There are a variety of resources and means of support out there. Our law firm aims to be one such avenue that can help you receive support in your journey to recovery.
It can be hard to imagine with a number as large at 55,117 workplace sexual assaults, that it still only represents a fraction of inappropriate sexual behavior that is considered assault. Many workers, and disproportionately women, will also face varying levels of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment, as opposed to sexual assault, is any unwanted advances, requests for sexual favors and other physical or verbal harassment such as vulgar language, or obscene behavior. While sexual harassment and sexual assault are often considered part of the same spectrum, assault includes physical contact of a sexual manner without consent. Sexual assault is considered rape when it includes penetration of the victim’s body. While consent is not defined under Pennsylvania state law, most advocates for sexual violence only consider consent given with an enthusiastic “yes.”
94% of women who are raped experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms. 70% of sexual assault survivors will experience moderate to severe stress. 31% of people who are sexually harassed will develop depression or anxiety. Injuries from mental trauma can and do prevent people from working. Sexual Assault may also result in physical injuries. The mental and physical toll of sexual assault can result in expensive medical care and lost wages. According to RAINN, it is estimated that the average rape costs $122,461 in medical care and lost wages. Survivors of sexual assault may turn to workers’ compensation to cover the costs of the trauma. Workers’ compensation should cover the medical costs of both mental and physical injuries as well as wage-loss for the time a worker is out of work due to injuries from sexual assault or harassment at work.
Pennsylvania workers’ compensation considers injuries from assault while working, a workplace injury. Therefore, if a worker is sexually assaulted at work, the mental and physical injuries constitute a workplace injury. In addition, Pennsylvania workers’ compensation covers mental injuries from abnormal working conditions. Based on past precedent, harassment, from bosses and clients, may qualify as abnormal working conditions. If the harassment does qualify, mental injuries from sexual harassment may be covered by workers’ compensation. Unfortunately, insurance companies tend to deny claims from mental injuries especially when related to harassment. If you have been harassed or if your workers’ compensation claim is denied, contact the workers’ compensation lawyers at Pearson Koutcher to ensure you get the benefits you deserve.
While there is relatively little litigated precedent in PA workers’ compensation related to sexual assault, there are cases that may have an impact on your case. For example, in Commonwealth Department of Correction -SCI Chester v. C. Faison, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania decided that a criminal case is not necessary to claim workers’ compensation. This means that if you are sexually assaulted at work you are entitled to workers’ compensation even if you do not file a criminal report. Other precedent states that you cannot sue your employer for unsafe working environments if you file a workers’ compensation claim. Part of the agreement of workers’ compensation is that you will not sue your employer for fault in the injury. This rule applies to sexual assault workers’ compensation cases as well.
Other forms of recourse
You may be wondering what else you can do if you are sexually assaulted at work besides file for workers’ compensation. You may file a criminal case for sexual assault against the perpetrator, and while this may result in criminal charges for the perpetrator, it is unlikely to result in enough monetary compensation for you. You can also choose to eschew workers’ compensation and instead sue your employer directly because you believe that they are at fault for the sexual assault. This may be difficult to prove and result in further protracted litigation. There is also a state victims fund to cover medical and wage-loss costs for survivors of sexual assault.
If you have been sexually assaulted or harassed at work, make sure that you receive the benefits you deserve. Although pain and suffering are not compensable in workers’ compensation cases, you should receive medical and wage-loss benefits, so that you can focus on your recovery without worrying about the financial stresses. If you have questions about your case or workers’ compensation in general, contact Pearson Koutcher Law today for a Free Consultation.