Same-Sex Sexual Harassment—Is it Actionable Under the Civil Rights Act?

Donald J. Petersen
Douglas Massengill

DOI: 10.2190/XB5D-D4CG-C08X-4YG1


The federal courts are presently divided concerning the issue of whether or not same-sex sexual harassment is actionable under Title VII. Those courts considering such harassment not to be actionable have maintained that sexual harassment was intended by the Civil Rights Act to apply only in situations involving a dominant gender [males] against a vulnerable gender [females], i.e., gender-based discrimination. On the other hand, the courts favoring Title VII coverage have reached their conclusion based upon the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court in Meritor did not limit sexual harassment to those situations occurring between males and females, that the EEOC's Compliance Manual favors such coverage, and that recent court decisions have repudiated court precedents denying coverage. It is the purpose of this article to review the respective courts' positions and to argue that same-sex sexual harassment should be actionable under the Civil Rights Act.

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