Editor’s Note: In the November/December 2017 print issue of Church Law & Tax Report, this Recent Development misstated the employer that was sued in the court case and the name of the case. The employer should have been identified as a “denominationally affiliated hospital” and the case should have been named Peacock v. UPMC Presbyterian, 2016 WL 890574 (W.D. Pa. 2016). These corrections have been made in the version below.
Key Point 8-12.5 Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It consists of both "quid pro quo" harassment and "hostile environment" harassment. Religious organizations that are subject to Title VII are covered by this prohibition. An employer is automatically liable for supervisory employees' acts of harassment, but a defense is available to claims of hostile environment harassment if the employer has adopted a written harassment policy and an alleged victim fails to pursue remedies available under the policy. In some cases, an employer may be liable for acts of sexual harassment committed by nonsupervisory employees, and even nonemployees.
A federal court in Pennsylvania dismissed a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by a former religious hospital employee on the ground that the alleged offenses were not sufficiently severe or pervasive. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits covered employers (i.e., those with 15 or more employees that are engaged in interstate commerce) from discriminating against any employee or applicant “with respect to compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s sex.” Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII.