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A Brief History Of Sexual Harassment


Patti Perez, President/CEO Puente Consulting, former Commissioner on California's Fair Employment and Housing Commission

Doreen Mattingly, Associate Professor of Women's Studies, SDSU


The allegations against San Diego Mayor Bob Filner have been picked up by the national media and lumped into stories about other political sex scandals.

But there's a substantial difference in what's been alleged about Mayor Filner. He's not being accused of having a mistress or paid escorts. Women are accusing Mayor Filner of sexual harassment.

There appears to be some confusion about what sexual harassment actually is.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.

It's not that long ago that there was nothing illegal about this type of behavior.

Here's a look at some key dates:

  • 1964-Civil Rights Act, Title VII, included ban on employment discrimination based on gender
  • Mid-1970's, feminist activists and lawyers coined the term 'sexual harassment'
  • 1977-President Carter appoint Elanor Holmes Norton Director of EEOC. She creates policies that define sexual harassment as sex discrimination
  • 1986- Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, Supreme Court defines sexual harassment to include both quid pro quo and hostile environment, focus on unwelcomeness
  • 1988-Lois E. Jensen v. Eveleth Taconite Co., First Class Action Sexual Harassment Suit Filed
  • 1991-Anita Hill Testifies about being sexually harassed by Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas
  • 1991 – Civil Rights Act of 1991 provided the right for jury trials and for increased damages in sexual harassment suits
  • 1998-Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, Florida, and Burlington v. Ellerth courts concluded that employers are liable for harassment by their employees
  • 1998-Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, set the precedent for same-sex harassment

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