Evolution of Sexual Harassment Prevention Law
Today we have Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and others allegedly sexually
assaulting their employees or associates.
Sadly, their actions were not unusual, but only until the mid-1980s, did
it become against the law. (Obviously, rape and assault were always a
crime, but other aspects of sexual harassment such as continuous requests
for sex, were not.)
In the case of Bundy vs. Jackson, in 1970, Sandra Bundy was hired as an
employee at the District of Columbia Department of Corrections [DCDC].
She was continuously promoted until she reached the position of vocational
rehabilitation specialist. From 1972, however, she was sexually harassed
(keep in mind, the term did not exist) by other employees and supervisors,
including Delbert Jackson. Jackson later became the director of the DCDC.
Bundy was regularly harassed by her bosses and supervisors wondering about
her sexual habits and wanting her to have sex with them. She complained
to the harassers’ supervisors about their behavior, but was told,
"any man in his right mind would want to rape you" and then
propositioned her himself. And, that wasn’t the end of it. Because
she complained, now her supervisors were providing her with unacceptable
work performance evaluations. Bundy filed a complaint with Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission. Their response to Bundy: don’t bother filing
unwarranted complaints. Bundy filed anyway. She lost. Upon appeal, she
won. The court stating: “…conditions of employment' include
the psychological and emotional work environment.”
The court also provided definitions of unlawful sexual harassment:
To establish a prima facie case (overall view of the case) of illegal denial
of promotion in retaliation against the plaintiff's refusal of sexual
advances by her supervisors, the plaintiff must show (1) that she was
a victim of a pattern or practice of sexual harassment attributable to
her employer…; and (2) that she applied for and was denied a promotion
for which she was technically eligible and of which she had a reasonable
expectation. If the prima facie case is made out, the employer then must
bear the burden of showing, by clear and convincing evidence, that he
had legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons for denying the claimant the
Next up came Meritor Savings Bank vs. Vinson.
In the 1974, Vinson was hired by Sidney Taylor a vice president at Meritor
Savings Bank to be a clerk teller. She was a good worker, and was promoted
often during her years with the bank. She reached the level of assistant
branch manager. In 1978, Vinson, told the bank that she was going on indefinite
extended sick leave. The bank fired her for excessive use of that leave.
Vinson filed a complaint claiming that she had been the victim of continuous
sexual advances by Taylor, and was only able to keep her job was by responding
to his advances. She claimed he made her have sex with him over 50 times,
was constantly fondling her in public, and would follow her in to the
ladies’ room at work (when no one else was around). Taylor and the
bank denied the allegations.
Vinson’s case went all the way up to the United States Supreme Court,
and relying on the case of Bundy vs. Jackson, not only agreed with Vinson
that she had been sexually harassed in violation of the law, but that
her employers at Meritor Bank were also responsible for Taylor’s action.
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