Criminal and Sexual Harassment

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Criminal Harassment

Harassment is defined as the following: a person commits the crime of harassment when, with the intent to harass, annoy or alarm another, the person: 

  1. strikes, shoves, kicks or otherwise subjects the other person to physical contact, or attempts or threatens to do the same;
  2. follows the other person in or about a public place or places;
  3. engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts which serve no legitimate purpose;
  4. communicates to or about such other person any lewd, lascivious, threatening or obscene words, language, drawings or caricatures;
  5. communicates repeatedly in an anonymous manner;
  6. communicates repeatedly at extremely inconvenient hours; or
  7. communicates repeatedly in a manner other than specified in paragraphs (4), (5) and (6).

*Pennsylvania General Assembly

Cyber Harassment of a Child

Cyber harassment of a child is defined as the following: A person commits the crime of cyber harassment of a child if, with intent to harass, annoy or alarm, the person engages in a continuing course of conduct of making any of the following by electronic means directly to a child or by publication through an electronic social media service:

  • seriously disparaging statement or opinion about the child's physical characteristics, sexuality, sexual activity or mental or physical health or condition; or
  • threat to inflict harm.

*Pennsylvania General Assembly

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is defined as the following: unwelcome advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, such as lewd comments, touching or sexual penetration. It can also be conduct that is not sexual in nature but is based on one’s sex, such as physical aggression, intimidation, and hostility or unequal treatment based on sex. Examples of such conduct include repeated physical aggression or verbal abuse.

*Women's Law Project

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

The courts and agencies who enforce the laws generally find sexual harassment in the workplace to violate the law when:

  • submission to sexual activity is made a term or condition of employment (quid pro quo) and/or
  • the sexual harassment is so frequent and offensive that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment (hostile environment).

The law also prohibits sexual harassment that may occur while an employee is working off the worksite. This protection also extends to sexual harassment not only by a coworker or manager but also by a client or customer if the employer is aware of it and does not take steps to protect the employee.

*Women's Law Project

Find Help

If you believe someone is sexually harassing you, or that you have been sexually assaulted, it is recommended that you:

  • Keep a written record of the sexual harassment with dates, places, and details of who did or said what and who witnessed it.
  • Keep any written or oral communications (texts, emails, note, letters, voicemails (transcribe them with dates) and any objects, clothing, bedding or any other objects that might be evidence.
  • If you were sexually assaulted, you may want to have a rape kit done, which must generally be done within 72 hours to successfully find biological evidence. Depending on where you live, you may have a kit done in a hospital. In Philadelphia, the rape kit is completed at the Philadelphia Sexual Assault Response Center. You do not have to report to police to get a rape kit done.
  • If you think you were drugged or were too intoxicated to consent, you can be tested for intoxicants as well. Substances leave your body within 12-72 hours, so you will want to get tested as soon as possible.
  • Take care of yourself by seeking support from trusted friends, family or co-workers. You may want to talk to someone who will keep your conversation confidential. Communications can be privileged or simply confidential. Privileged communications have greater protection than confidential ones. Pennsylvania law makes communications between lawyers and clients, physicians and patients, and sexual or domestic violence counselors and clients privileged.
  • Be aware of any requirements or time limits you have for reporting what happened to an employer, school or the police.
  • Educate yourself about your employer’s policies and procedures about sexual harassment. Does the employer provide a complaint procedure for sexual harassment? To hold your employer responsible for sexual harassment, the employer must know about it and have an opportunity to remedy the harassment. Consider what you want to achieve and file a complaint.
    • However, if your employer’s harassment policies and procedures are unreasonable, it is reasonable not to use them. For example, if the policy requires reporting the harassment to your immediate supervisor and the immediate supervisor is the harasser, you are not expected to file a complaint with that person. Also, if your employer does not respond within a reasonable time to your complaint, you are not required to wait before taking other action
  • You may want to discuss the situation with a lawyer.

*Women's Law Project



Last Review and Update: Oct 11, 2023
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