Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended 'Title VII," prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace.' The courts have created two categories of sexual harassment. The first, quid pro quo sexual harassment, occurs when a supervisor requires sexual consideration from an employee in exchange for job benefits. The second, hostile work environment sexual harassment, occurs when an employee is subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment that affects a term, condition, or privilege of employment. The victim must prove that the harassment is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of hers employment and create an abusive working environment.
Any victim of sexual harassment seeking redress for the wrong committed against her must establish that sexual harassment occurred. This showing, however, may not resolve the issue in the victim's favor. For the victim to receive full recovery, the court must hold the employer liable for the sexual harassment. If the court refuses to make this finding, the victim's relief may be substantially diminished or even eviscerated by the fact that individual supervisors are not as well-situated as are their employers to provide the make- whole relief contemplated by Title VII.
Employer liability, thus, becomes the heart of a sexual harassment claim.? In addressing the issue of employer liability, courts uniformly hold employers strictly liable for quid pro quo sexual harassment., The employer is directly liable and the plaintiff need not prove an agency relationship. The rationale supporting this rule recognizes that when the employer gives its supervisors the authority to fire employees, it must also accept responsibility to remedy the harm caused by the supervisors' unlawful exercise of that authority.
Glen A. Staszewski,
Using Agency Principles for Guidance in Finding Employer Liability for a Supervisor's Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment,
48 Vanderbilt Law Review
Available at: https://scholarship.law.vanderbilt.edu/vlr/vol48/iss4/7