PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Half of American professionals say they’ve had an office romance with a co-worker, and nearly one out of six say they met their spouse at work, according to the annual survey of Vault.com.
But a mutually consensual relationship is a far cry from unwanted sexual harassment.
“There’s a lot of sexual harassment around the country, and Pittsburgh certainly gets its fair share,” attorney John Stember told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Wednesday.
Stember has been representing victims of sexual harassment for 40 years, and he says corporate Pittsburgh has had harassment cases that range from innuendos and nasty remarks to assault and retaliation for refusing to get intimate.
Stember: “Retaliation is very common in sexual harassment cases where women will not play the game.”
Delano: “Common in Pittsburgh?”
Stember: “I think it’s common everywhere, and it’s common in Pittsburgh. The patterns are pretty familiar.”
Many local companies say they have strong anti-harassment rules in place that encourage employees to bring forward small issues before they get bigger.
And the Pittsburgh Human Resources Association has sponsored programs on harassment for HR personnel.
But Stember says women who step forward to report a colleague take great risks.
“Coming forward can ruin your career, and it’s a big problem,” he said.
Not everyone agrees, citing anti-retaliation protections and confidentiality at many companies.
But in the end, says Stember, human resource officials work for the company, not the employee.
“While HR is at least theoretically there to provide a place for people to report sexual harassment and to get help, that’s not always the case.”
“At the last great day, HR is paid by the company, and in litigation HR is going to testify on behalf of the company,” says Stember.