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Sexual harassment law

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Paper Masters custom writes research papers on Sexual Harassment Law for business students or law classes. Our writers can discuss any aspect of the law, including various harassment topics or more specifically, sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment law entails the examination of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states that discrimination of the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin cannot be leveled against a potential employee in the terms, conditions or the privileges of employment. Thus, sexual harassment is considered a form of discrimination based on gender and is therefore prohibited.

Harassment Law and Title VII

Currently the provisions of Title VII are used to distinguish between two types of sexual harassment:

  1. Unwelcome sexual advances and demands (QPQH)
  2. Sexual conduct that interferes with work or creates a hostile environment (HEH)

The operative word in both distinctions is "unwelcome" and consequently a great deal of subjectivity is bound to occur in cases of allegations of sexual discrimination/harassment. In some cases the courts have put the burden of proof on the plaintiff and have gone so far as to suggest that she/he may have invited the comments through her dress and/or demeanor.

Issues of Sexual Harassment

This kind of thinking is based in the very assumptions that prompt the comments in the first place. Thus, the issues of sexual discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace are complex and the laws embrace enough ambiguity to make some cases impossible to indict. When a law attempts to control behavior that to some people is natural, then the law will come up against a legal wall at times. These laws are good because they support a woman's or man's right to work in an unhindered environment; however, they simply cannot change human nature on the whole.

There are both state and federal laws concerning sexual harassment issues. In short, sexual harassment is defined as an abuse of an employer's power. Sexual harassment defined under the law: quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment sexual harassment.

The first type, Quid pro quo harassment, has to do with an employer asking an employee for sexual favors in exchange for any term of employment. Examples of this may be a supervisor asking an employee top perform a sexual act in order to get a promotion. Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase that means "something for something". In this type of harassment there has to be an implied exchange.

The second type of sexual harassment, the hostile working environment, can take on a couple of forms. In one form an employer creates an environment where conduct of a sexual nature is tolerated or encouraged. The second form is a more encompassing type of hostile working environment. In this scenario an employer's conduct unreasonably interferes with an employee's performance in the workplace. This is accomplished by making the employee feel uncomfortable in the workplace. Acts such as dirty jokes, sexual comments and unwanted physical contact come under this type of sexual harassment. This type of hostile working environment can take the form of racial, sexual orientation, religious, disability or even age discrimination.

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, states that Title VII protection applies to workplaces where there are 15 or more employees employed. It also provides protection for state, local, and federal governments as well as employment agencies and labor organizations. The EEOC defines sexual harassment under quid pro quo and hostile working environment terms. (2005,EEOC) Sexual harassment and Title VII have their roots in the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. In the 14th amendment it states:

"no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of the citizens of the United States."

Therefore no one shall be discriminated against in the workplace. Sexual harassment violates this amendment by perpetrator discriminating against victim through sexual and unwanted conduct.

Sexual harassment conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the act it does not directly address sexual harassment. Instead it deals with the issues of discrimination based upon a person's sex. It was the supreme court in Clark County v. Breeden in 2001 that sexual harassment was defined under the terms of the Civil Rights act of 2001. In their decision they quote 2000e-2(a)(1).It states that it is an unlawful employment practice to "discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms conditions, or privileges of employment."

In 2000e-2 (a)(2) it also talks further about discrimination based upon sex by stating it is unlawful ,"to limit , segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in anyway which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee." Both of these sections could speak to hostile working environment or quid pro quo sexual harassment.

While Title VII does not specifically have sexual harassment defined the Supreme Court has upheld sexual harassment cases based upon its contents. The courts have a high standard for which it upholds the title VII violation and make a ruling of sexual harassment. In 1997 there was a case of Clark County School District v. Breeden. The case was that Breeden stated that comment by a male coworker lead to her being demoted. The district court granted judgment in favor of the school district. The court of appeals overturned it.

Finally the Supreme Court ruled April 23, 2001 in favor of the school district. The conclusion was based upon it being an isolated incident. It did not meet the level of hostile working environment as defined in Title VII. They stated it needed to be extremely serious in order to support the allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination.

The Supreme Court held the decision in Faragher V. Boca Raton that there was basis to claims of sexual harassment and held the city liable for charges. In this case Faragher was a lifeguard. She resigned stating that her supervisor had touched her and made comments and remarks in a sexual way that made the work place hostile. The city did not feel they were liable for because they stated that the supervisors had acted outside the realm of their employment. The district stated that the city was liable. The court of appeals concluded that the supervisors were not acting in the scope of their employment. The Supreme Court stated that an employer is liable under Title VII. They went on to say that the city did not fully disseminate their sexual harassment policy. They stated that the city did not exercise reasonable care to prevent the sexual harassment by the supervisor from occurring.

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