Setting the Boundaries for Public Employer Liability for Sexual Harassment

Published date01 December 2002
Date01 December 2002
Subject MatterArticles
Setting the Boundaries for
Public Employer Liability
for Sexual Harassment
Indiana University
Afemale school district employee attends a meeting with male employees
for the purpose of evaluating reports about job applicants. During the
meeting, one of the male employees reads aloud a statement with sexual over-
tones, and the two males laugh about it. The female employee complains
about the incident to the male employees involved and to other school district
personnel. She then files a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportu-
nity Commission (EEOC) and subsequently pursues an action against the
school district in federal district court. Meanwhile, in a conversation with a
union representative, an assistant superintendent revealsthat she was contem-
plating transferring the female employee. Uponlearning this information, the
employee amends her suit to allege that her employer had taken adverse
employment actions against her in retaliation for her complaints and subse-
quent lawsuit. Under such circumstances, does the behavior of the male
coemployees rise to the level of actionable sexual harassment? And can the
employee bring a valid claim that her ultimate transfer was made in retaliation
for her complaints about the harassing behavior?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (2000) protects government
employees from sex discrimination in employment. Courts have ruled that
sexual harassment is a form of sexual discrimination. Two types of sexual
harassment exist. Quid pro quo harassment occurs when employment deci-
sions such as hiring or promotion are conditioned on demands for sex. Hos-
tile work environment harassment occurs when sexual advances or other
verbal or sexual conduct interferes with an employee’s work or creates an
intimidating, hostile, or offensive workplace. In addition, Title VII pro-
vides that it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate or retaliate against
an employee who has opposed a practice made unlawful by Title VII,
including sexual harassment.
Review of Public Personnel Administration,Vol. 22, No. 4 Winter 2002 320-325
DOI: 10.1177/073437102237815
© 2002 Sage Publications
at SAGE Publications on December 8, 2012rop.sagepub.comDownloaded from

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