Hostile Work Environment: According to the 1993 decision of the United States Supreme Court in "Harris v. Forklift Systems Inc.," hostile environment harassment occurs when "the workplace is permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim's employment and create an abusive working environment" (Cross and LeRoy Miller 497). Facts of the Case: In 1986, Teresa Harris, who was employed as a rental manager with Forklift Systems, Inc., complained about comments and behaviors directed to her by Forklift's president, Charles Hardy. She claimed that Hardy's sexually harassing conduct caused her to suffer PTSD-like symptoms and that she was ready to resign when Hardy apologized and claimed he was only kidding. Later, after concluding that the harassment would not stop, she left Forklift and filed her complaint with the EEOC. The case was eventually heard by a U.S. magistrate judge whose report and recommendations were adopted by the district court. The district court concluded that Hardy was crude and vulgar, that Harris was the subject of a continuing pattern of sex-based derogatory conduct by Hardy, that Harris had been offended by the conduct, and that the conduct would have offended a reasonable manager. Nevertheless, the court concluded that Harris did not suffer serious psychological injury and therefore, Hardy's conduct did not create a hostile work environment. Based on this finding, the case was dismissed. Harris appealed to the Sixth Circuit which affirmed the district court. The Supreme Court granted certiorari (American Psychological Association "Harris v. Forklift Inc.")
Issue of the Case: Whether a sexual harassment plaintiff must prove not only that the conduct complained of would have offended a reasonable victim, and that the plaintiff was in fact offended, but also that the conduct caused the plaintiff to suffer serious psychological injury. Rule: The U.S. Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, reiterated its earlier decisions that conduct which is merely offensive does not violate Title VII. Title VII comes into federal law that prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion. In certain instances, differential treatment is allowed, for example in the area of gender, if it is a bona fide occupational qualification. Currently, the Title VII doesn't include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, federal legislation adding sexual orientation as a protected class against discrimination (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), has been proposed in recent years. Many states have employment discrimination and harassment laws as well and may include even more protected classes -- such as marital status and sexual orientation -- than Title VII covers (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - Title VII 1).
Works Cited List
American Psychological Association "Harris v. Forklift Inc." 2011.
Accessed 3 December 2011.
< www.apa.org > About APA > Directorates and Programs>
Cross, Frank. B, and LeRoy Miller, R. "Employment Discrimination." The Legal Environment of Business. Mason: South- West Cengage Learning, 2011
493-512. Print version taken from Amazon "Books": Look Inside: The Legal Environment of Business. 493-512. Accessed 3 December 2011
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