Reconceptualizing Sexual Harassment, Again

45 Pages Posted: 6 May 2018 Last revised: 16 Aug 2018

Date Written: April 19, 2018


Sexual harassment has always been more about sexism than it is about sex. Nearly twenty years ago, Vicki Schultz pioneered a new understanding of sexual harassment that recognized and theorized this empirical reality. The framework she developed in two articles published in the Yale Law Journal—Reconceptualizing Sexual Harassment and The Sanitized Workplace—still holds important lessons for today. The emergence of the #MeToo movement has brought about a welcome, renewed focus on sexual harassment and motivated long-overdue terminations of accused harassers across industries. Yet pervasive narratives still narrowly emphasize sexualized forms of harassment and assault—at the expense of broader understandings of harassment and its causes. This Essay revisits and expands on Schultz’s previous work in the contemporary context, drawing on the technology and film industries as case studies and showing that sex segregation and unchecked, subjective authority are central institutional causes of sex-based harassment. To end harassment will thus require more than firing individual harassers. It will require structural reform to eliminate arbitrary authority and sex segregation at work. Bold solutions are needed if we are to ensure sexual harassment isn’t still prevalent twenty years from now.

Keywords: Discrimination, Discrimination Law, Women's Rights, #MeToo, Workplace Harassment

JEL Classification: J7, J71, J70

Suggested Citation

Schultz, Vicki, Reconceptualizing Sexual Harassment, Again (April 19, 2018). Yale Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 647, Available at SSRN: or

Vicki Schultz (Contact Author)

Yale Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

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