Gender Myths v. Working Realities: Using Social Science to Reformulate Sexual Harassment Law

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NYU Press, Jan 1, 2005 - Law - 262 pages
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Both the courts and the public seem confused about sexual harassment—what it is, how it functions, and what sorts of behaviors are actionable in court. Theresa M. Beiner contrasts perspectives from social scientists on the realities of workplace sexual harassment with the current legal standard. When it comes to sexual harassment law, all too often courts (and employers) are left in the difficult position of grappling with vague legal standards and little guidance about what sexual harassment is and what can be done to stop it. Often, courts impose their own stereotyped view of how women and men “ought” to behave in the workplace. This viewpoint, social science reveals, is frequently out of sync with reality.

As a legal scholar who takes social science seriously, Beiner provides valuable insight into what behaviors people perceive as sexually harassing, why such behavior can be characterized as discrimination because of sex, and what types of workplaces are more conducive to sexually harassing behavior than others. Throughout, Beiner offers proposals for legal reform with the goal of furthering workplace equality for both men and women.


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What Law Can Learn from Social Science about Workplace Sexual Harassment
1 Making a More Realistic Assessment of What Is Sufficiently Severe or Pervasive to Constitute Sexual Harassment
Much Ado about Nothing?
3 The Conundrum of Unwelcome Sexual Harassment
4 Conceptualizing Sexual Harassment as Because of Sex
5 Reality Bites the EllerthFaragher Standard for Imputing Liability to Employers for Supervisor Sexual Harassment
6 Making Targets Whole and Deterring Defendants
7 The New Sexual Harassment Claim
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Page 18 - A professional football player's working environment is not severely or pervasively abusive, for example, if the coach smacks him on the buttocks as he heads onto the field — even if the same behavior would reasonably be experienced as abusive by the coach's secretary (male or female) back at the office.
Page 17 - 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,
Page 18 - But we can say that whether an environment is "hostile" or "abusive" can be determined only by looking at all the circumstances. These may include the frequency of the discriminatory conduct; its severity; whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and whether it unreasonably interferes with an employee's work performance.
Page 17 - For sexual harassment to be actionable, it must be sufficiently severe or pervasive "to alter the conditions of [the victim's] employment and create an abusive working environment.

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About the author (2005)

Theresa M. Beiner is professor of law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, William H. Bowen School of Law.

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