In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson approved the
Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII of the Act specifically stated that discrimination in employment
based on sex, race, creed, national origin is illegal. Although sexual
harassment was not specifically included, subsequent case law made these
In 1976, in the case of
Williams vs. Saxbe, the Supreme Court ruled that if a female employee could prove that by
rejecting a boss’s advances she was negatively impacted, the incident
would be considered sex discrimination.
In 1980 and 1981, the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (an organization created by the original Civil Rights Act of 1964), established
guidelines regarding the definition of sexual harassment. These guidelines
included to sexual harassment as a violation of Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964.
Also in 1981, in
Bundy v. Jackson the Supreme Court upheld the idea of a sexually hostile environment as
a cause of action in sexual harassment.
In 1986, in
Meritor Savings Bank vs. Vinson, the Supreme Court determined that even if a woman consented to having
sex with her boss, the incident would be considered sexual harassment
if the boss’s advances were not welcomed. The Court also ruled that
the employer could be held liable if it knew about the harassment and
did nothing to stop it.
In 1991, the Civil Rights Act of 1991 allowed for jury trials and increased
damages in sexual harassment suits.
In 1995, The Congressional Accountability Act applied the same guidelines
to members of Congress as it did to employers.
By 1999, however, the Supreme Court began cutting back on sexual harassment
law. In its decision of
Kunin vs. Sears Roebuck, the employee had to make sure the employer was aware of any sexual harassment
in the work place.
By the early 2000s, court cases regarding sexual harassment issues continued
to whittle away at the employees’ rights to relief.
Now in the fall of 2018, the United States Senate Judiciary Committee is
in the process of choosing the next Supreme Court justice. With the majority
members looking for a more-conservative legal point of view, will the
next justice (who will tip the majority of the current Court) also whittle
away employee rights in sexual harassment cases?