Women and Justice: Court: Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

Domestic Case Law

Raya & Haig Hair Salon v. Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania (2007)

Sexual harassment

Aida Armani worked as a hairstylist at Raya and Haig Hair Salon.  One of her customers, Kadyshes, began verbally and physically sexually harassing Aida by telling sexual jokes, commenting on her breasts, telling her she would be good in bed, and touching her rear and shoulders.  The Salon eventually hired Kadyshes as a business manager, and he became Aida’s direct supervisor.  Aida complained on at least six occasions but no action was taken to stop Kadyshes’s conduct.  Eventually Aida decided to open her own salon but before she could resign the Hair Salon learned of her plans and fired her.  The Commission found that the Salon unlawfully discriminated against her by subjecting her to a hostile work environment and constructively discharging her because of her sex.  The Salon challenged the decision on multiple grounds.  First, it argued that Aida was not discharged because of her sex but because she opened her own salon.  The court found that Aida established a prima facie claim for hostile work environment and that the evidence supported the conclusion that the Hair Salon violated the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act by allowing the existence of a hostile work environment.  In order to establish a prima facie claim for hostile work environment, a complainant must prove that she (1) suffered intentional discrimination because of her race or gender; (2) the harassment was severe or persuasive and regular; (3) the harassment detrimentally affected the complainant; (4) the harassment would detrimentally affect a reasonable person of the same protected class; and (5) the harasser was a supervisory employee or agent.  Constructive discharge occurs when an employer knowingly permits conditions of discrimination in employment so intolerable that a reasonable person subject to them would resign.  The fact that Aida stayed at her job did not preclude a finding of constructive discharge—she was the sole source of income for her family and she endured the treatment as long as she could take it.  Second, the Salon argued that it was improper to admit testimony about Aida’s work conditions that predated the time frame for which she alleged discrimination.  But the entire scope of a hostile work environment claim is permissible for assessing liability, including behavior alleged outside the statutory time period.  Third, the Salon challenged the determination that Aida attempted to mitigate her damages.  While a plaintiff has a duty to mitigate her damages, the burden of showing that she did not exercise reasonable diligence in seeking comparable employment lies with the employer.  Aida’s self-employment constituted mitigation because she took immediate steps to open her salon after she was fired.