This paper addresses sexual harassment of women in employment. Within this context, discussion focuses on difficulties of legal definition, incidence, motivation (power-seeking vs. sexual attraction), women's attitudes, and managerial ignorance of women's rights on the job. The paper is divided into two sections: sexual harassment and employer liability and responsibility.
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination as defined by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,1 and the usual remedies apply--back pay, reinstatement or front-pay injunctive relief, and attorney's fees. Many, early court decisions tended to treat sexual advances on the job as harmless personal matters outside the scope of sex discrimination statutes. These early decisions were reversed on appeal as the courts gradually turned to the view that sexual harassment does constitute sex discrimination.2
As the courts recognized that sexual harassment constitutes sex discrimination, the difficulties of a legal definition became apparent. For instance, questions were raised regarding proof of sexual harassment charges, credibility, burden of proof, and legal complexities arose regarding the range of prohibited conduct.3 This significant and controversial issue received some clarification by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC):
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favor, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment; (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting the individual; or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment. (Federal Register, 1980:25025)