Gender Myths v. Working Realities: Using Social Science to Reformulate Sexual Harassment Law

Gender Myths v. Working Realities: Using Social Science to Reformulate Sexual Harassment Law

Gender Myths v. Working Realities: Using Social Science to Reformulate Sexual Harassment Law

Gender Myths v. Working Realities: Using Social Science to Reformulate Sexual Harassment Law


"Concentrating on contentious issues such as severity and pervasiveness, reasonableness standards, unwelcomeness, causation, employer liability, and remedies, Beiner highlights the mismatches between the law and empirical research and suggests both legal reforms and research questions to close the gap. Written in clear, compelling prose, the study will enlighten readers curious about contemporary questions in sexual harassment law as well as specialists interested in the intersection of law and social science. - Choice, highly recommended "Fortunately, Beiner is not only a law professor: she also has practiced law and is clearly well acquainted with the difficulties of getting these cases before a jury. Her book seeks to help plaintiffs survive summary judgment so they can prove their cases in court." - Trial Magazine

"Beiner's book is a striking example of the thoughtful and clever use of social science research findings to point to changes that will improve the operation of an important US social institution." - Labour/Le Travail

"A readable synthesis of legal rules and real life, accessible to both lawyers and non-lawyers--for all those interested in reducing sexual harassment on the job. Beiner makes a crucial contribution to the discussion of sexual harassment by demonstrating the relevance of social science research to legal doctrine. She convincingly exposes the limited effectiveness of current case law in preventing sexual harassment and demonstrates that federal judges often make decisions based on myths and stereotypes about how people behave, not on the reality women face in the workplace."- Martha S. West, University of California Davis, co-author of Sex-Based Discrimination "In this timely and important book, Beiner explores the growing disconnect between judges' unfounded assumptions about how people respond to sexualized conduct in the workplace and what empirical research in the social sciences is telling us about the same subject. In many arenas, the antidiscrimination doctrine emerging from the federal courts is being built on a foundation of 'junk social science.' Beiner shines a light on this problem as it has manifested in the evolving law of sexual harassment." - Linda Hamilton Krieger, Professor of Law, University of California at Berkeley, School of Law

"Beiner has done a superb job of reviewing the social science research that applies directly to the law on sexual harassment. Beiner suggests reforms to the legal standard and provides sensible recommendations for interpreting the law to be more compatible with the way people behave when they are sexually harassed." - Barbara A. Gutek, Professor and Eller Chair in Women and Leadership, University of Arizona

"Gender Mythis v. Working Realitiesis an innovative and fresh approach to a complex problem. The concept for the book is both fascinating and intriguing." - The Law and Politics Book Review

Both the courts and the public seem confused about sexual harassment- what it is, how it functions, and what sorts of behaviors are actionable in court. Theresa M. Beiner contrasts perspectives from social scientists on the realities of workplace sexual harassment with the current legal standard. When it comes to sexual harassment law, all too often courts (and employers) are left in the difficult position of grappling with vague legal standards and little guidance about what sexual harassment is and what can be done to stop it. Often, courts impose their own stereotyped view of how women and men "ought" to beha


Sexual harassment is a persistent workplace problem that is experienced by working women and, to a lesser extent, working men. For example, in its last study of sexual harassment in the federal workplace, the United States Merit Systems Protection Board (USMSPB) found that 44% of women and 19% of men reported having experienced some form of unwanted sexual attention at work in the two years prior to the survey. Other studies support the continued persistence of sexual harassment in the American workplace, with estimates that anywhere from 40% to 80% of working women have experienced sexually harassing behavior at work. In addition, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has seen a consistent rise in the number of charges of sexual harassment being filed, although this trend has leveled off recently. Just this past year, the EEOC leveled charges against Procter & Gamble for sexual harassment at a Dial soap factory. The irony in this case is that the EEOC recently had commended the company for its equal opportunity practices.

Aside from its prevalence, sexual harassment costs both businesses and its targets considerably. For example, the USMSPB estimated that sexual harassment cost the federal government alone $327 million during the period April 1992 through April 1994. Its targets incur costs not only to their careers but also to their personal lives as well as their physical and psychological well-being. Thus, even though the Supreme Court recognized sexual harassment as a viable theory of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in 1986, it persists as a costly and disturbing workplace phenomenon.

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