Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



Since 1980, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") guidelines have made employers liable for harassment perpetrated by their agents and supervisory employees, and, in some cases, for harassment occurring between co-workers in their employ. In 1991, Congress amended Title VII (the "Act") to provide compensatory and punitive damages for victims of sexual harassment. The increased damages heightened the stakes in lawsuits concerning employer liability for sexual harassment, and thus provided increased incentives for employers to implement sexual harassment policies and to discipline harassers.

The extant EEOC guidelines already had defined sexual harassment broadly to include "verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature . . [when] such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment." The 1991 amendments thus aimed to transform personal interaction between men and women in the workplace, not only in a supervisory context but also between fellow workers. Responding to the urgings of feminist intellectuals, Congress created a statute-driven revolution of gender attitudes in the workplace, a major victory for feminism.