The Supreme Court's Decisions from 1998
In 1998 the Supreme Court rendered four decisions about issues relating to sexual harassment--more than it had issued in all previous years combined. Three of the decisions dealt with issues relating to sexual harassment in employment; the other decision addressed sexual harassment in the context of education.
The first of the decisions handed down by the Supreme Court resolved the issue whether same-sex harassment in employment can constitute illegal sex discrimination under Title VII. (For a discussion of this issue, see Documents 36-37, above). In Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc. (Document 93), the Court held unanimously that such harassment can be illegal. It reasoned that it is possible for members of a particular group (like men) to discriminate against other members of the same group.
In order to prevail in such a lawsuit, the plaintiff must establish that he or she is being targeted because of his or her gender. A plaintiff may do this by establishing that the harasser is homosexual and therefore is directing his or her sexual attentions only at people of the same sex. Or, if a female harasser's comments demonstrate that he or she is hostile to the presence of women in the workplace, that would be sufficient. Similarly if, for whatever reason, the harasser has been confining his or her objectionable behavior to other workers of the same gender, that would constitute sexual harassment.