Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1433875
 


 



Same-Sex Harassment, Textualism, Free Speech, and Oncale: Laying the Groundwork for a Coherent and Constitutional Theory of Sexual Harassment Liability


Charles R. Calleros


Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

1998

George Mason Law Review, Vol. 7, pp. 1-43, 1998

Abstract:     
Section 703(a)(1) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 imposes liability on employers who engage in sex discrimination that adversely affects an employee's terms or conditions of employment. In Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc., the Supreme Court unanimously held that sex discrimination consisting of same-sex sexual harassment is actionable under Title VII. The Court's opinion in Oncale may not end all facets of the current debate regarding same- sex harassment. For example, it may leave room for argument that liability for sex discrimination is based on the sexual content of harassment. When carefully analyzed with other Supreme Court precedent, however, Oncale points to a simple, coherent theory of sexual harassment that rests on proving that the harasser targeted the victim for harassment on the basis of the victim's status as male or female.

Such a theory has several virtues. It is relatively easy to apply, and it applies broadly to discriminatory harassment in a wide variety of contexts. Perhaps most significantly, it lays the groundwork for a future decision in which the Supreme Court squarely addresses First Amendment limitations on Title VII's imposition of harassment liability when an employer or its agent maintains a discriminatory work environment through abusive speech. By strengthening the evidence that the Supreme Court will embrace a content-neutral theory of liability, Oncale enhances the likelihood that objections to Title VII based on First Amendment values will be minimized. This article discusses Oncale and its implications for First Amendment challenges to Title VII liability for verbal harassment.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 43

Keywords: sexual harassment, civil rights, First Amendment

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Date posted: July 14, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Calleros, Charles R., Same-Sex Harassment, Textualism, Free Speech, and Oncale: Laying the Groundwork for a Coherent and Constitutional Theory of Sexual Harassment Liability (1998). George Mason Law Review, Vol. 7, pp. 1-43, 1998. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1433875

Contact Information

Charles R. Calleros (Contact Author)
Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law ( email )
Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States
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