Academic journal article Defense Counsel Journal

Title VII Encompasses Same-Sex Harassment

Academic journal article Defense Counsel Journal

Title VII Encompasses Same-Sex Harassment

Article excerpt

The prohibition of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against an employer's discrimination because of "sex" applies to workplace harassment that occurs when the harasser and the harassed employee are of the same sex, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled.

A male worker's complaint alleged that he was forcibly subjected to sex-related, humiliating actions by fellow male workers and threatened with rape. Despite protests, the employer took no action. Ultimately, he quit, asking that his pink slip reflect that he "voluntarily left due to sexual harassment and verbal abuse." The district court granted summary judgment to the employer on the ground that Title VII does not support a same-sex complaint. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. 83 F.3d 118 (1996).

The Supreme Court, in an opinion by Justice Scalia, first noted that it had established in Meritor Savings Bank, FSB v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986), and Harris v. Forklift Systems Inc., 510 U.S. 17 (1993), that Title VII is violated when, to quote Harris, "the workplace is permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim's employment and create an abusive working environment. …

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