Harassing 'Girls' at the Hard Rock: Masculinities in Sexualized Environments

50 Pages Posted: 28 Oct 2007

See all articles by Ann McGinley

Ann McGinley

University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law


Masculinities theory explains that masculinity is constructed in relation to a dominant image of gender difference, ultimately defining itself simply as what "femininity" is not. In the workplace, masculinities comprise both a structure that reinforces the superiority of men over women, and a series of practices associated with masculine behavior (performed by men and women) that maintain men's superior position over women at work. This article applies masculinities theory to analyze whether Title VII should protect women employees in highly sexualized workplaces from sex- or gender-based hostile work environments, created by customers and tolerated by the employer.

The author employs a case study of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Through its advertisements and policies, the Hard Rock creates a highly sexualized workplace for its female blackjack dealers, producing an atmosphere imbued with aggressive masculinities that create a stressful working environment. The Hard Rock promotes and ratifies this behavior by constructing this environment, yet instituting few safeguards to protect its women employees.

The Hard Rock case study raises serious questions concerning the application of Title VII to protect women working in highly sexualized workplaces from hostile work environments. The author reaches several conclusions. First, courts should consider the context of the workplace and the job the woman performs in determining whether her employer has violated Title VII. Second, the Bona Fide Occupational Qualification defense should not expand to defend an employer's failure to protect women employees from harassing behavior in a highly sexualized workplace. Finally, although employees should bear some responsibility to complain about harassment, the employer, who creates the sexualized environment and profits from it, rather than the individual employee, has the greater opportunity to control and prevent harassing behavior, and therefore should take extra precautions to assure employees are not suffering from harassment by customers.

Keywords: sexual harassment, hostile work environment, sexualized environments, hard rock hotel, blackjack dealers, customer harassment, third part harassment, hostile work environment, sexualized environment, employer liability, masculinities theory, Las Vegas, femininity, masculinity

JEL Classification: J00, J70, J71, J78, J79, J16, J21, J28, J53, J58

Suggested Citation

McGinley, Ann, Harassing 'Girls' at the Hard Rock: Masculinities in Sexualized Environments. University of Illinois Law Review, Vol. 2007, p. 1229, 2007, UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 07-12, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1024793

Ann McGinley (Contact Author)

University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law ( email )

4505 South Maryland Parkway
Box 451003
Las Vegas, NV 89154
United States

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