The Organization as a Gendered Entity: A Response to Professor Schultz's 'The Sanitized Workplace'

56 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2007 Last revised: 31 Aug 2010

See all articles by Rebecca K. Lee

Rebecca K. Lee

Thomas Jefferson School of Law


In "The Sanitized Workplace," 112 Yale Law Journal 2061 (2003), Professor Vicki Schultz contends that the anti-sex harassment movement, in its campaign to stamp out sexuality from the workplace, has converged with the ideology of classical organizational theorists by reaffirming the rational order of organizational life where efficiency is championed and emotions are restrained. In making this innovative connection, she criticizes contemporary sex harassment policies which she believes revive early management's agenda to overly restrict workers' freedom to engage in intimate and sexually-charged behavior within the work setting.

This response to Schultz's article contests her provocative arguments on several grounds. First, I argue that Schultz overstates the passionless character of the classic organization and also misstates the similarities between the goals of the feminist movement and that of traditional organizational thinkers. Furthermore, contrary to Schultz's depiction of the nascent organization as asexual due to its all-male labor force, I show that male sexuality thrives whether or not women are present and is institutionally expressed through sexually-oriented customs and practices.

Second, I challenge what I call Schultz's sexuality-privileged organizational model by addressing the probable harms that outweigh the possible benefits of permitting open sexual behavior at work, in light of considerations regarding the role of work, on-the-job expectations, and larger workplace dynamics.

Third, I explore Schultz's proposal to have the courts encourage gender integration within the organization through the use of differentiated employer liability rules. Specifically, I compare the advantages of judicial law-making, agency expertise and review, and legislative reform in examining how to implement her numerically-defined scheme.

Finally, Schultz's proposal concerning gender integration as the principal way through which to mitigate sex harassment is insufficient if we examine the organization as a gendered institution fundamentally shaped by conventional masculine norms. I assert that in addition to numerical gender parity, genuine organizational progress requires a re-signaling and re-making of organizational cultures to vitally improve the nature of women's work experiences.

Keywords: gender, women, work, organization, equality, sexual harassment, norms, culture

Suggested Citation

Lee, Rebecca K., The Organization as a Gendered Entity: A Response to Professor Schultz's 'The Sanitized Workplace'. Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, Vol. 15, No. 3, p. 609, 2006; TJSL Legal Studies Research Paper No. 983431. Available at SSRN:

Rebecca K. Lee (Contact Author)

Thomas Jefferson School of Law ( email )

1155 Island Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101
United States
619-961-4268 (Phone)

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