10 Harv. Women's L.J. 203 (1987)
Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson: Sexual Harassment at Work

handle is hein.journals/hwlj10 and id is 211 raw text is: MERITOR SAVINGS BANK v. VINSON:
SEXUAL HARASSMENT AT WORK
GRACE M. DODIER*
I. INTRODUCTION
Male sexual harassment of working women,' sometimes char-
acterized as natural, acceptable, and even humorous behav-
* Student, Harvard Law School. I dedicate this piece to the memory of my beloved
grandfather, John Whitlock Hernandez.
IWomen can sexually harass men and either sex can be victimized by harassers of the
same sex. A 1980 government study of sexual harassment in the federal workplace found
that women typically are harassed by men, and that men typically are harassed by women.
U.S. MERIT SYS. PROTECTION BD. OFFICE OF MERIT REVIEW AND STUDIES, SEXUAL
HARASSMENT IN THE FEDERAL WORKPLACE: IS IT A PROBLEM? 58-60 (1981) (85% of
23,000 male and female federal employees surveyed responding) [hereinafter MERIT RE-
PORT]. The study also found that men are the victims of homosexual harassment more
often than women: 22% [of male victims] reported being harassed by one or more men,
while only 3% of the women reported harassment by one or more women. Id. at 60.
For the purposes of this Comment, however, sexual harassment refers to the harass-
ment of women by men. Specifically, this is because this Comment discusses Meritor
Savings Bank, FSB v. Vinson, 106 S. Ct. 2399 (1986), a case involving the harassment of
a woman by a man. Generally, this is because the historically inferior position of women
in a male-dominated work force ... has resulted in the disproportionate exposure of
women to heterosexual sexual harassment. Note, Sexual Harassment Claims of Abusive
Work Environment Under Title VII, 97 HARV. L. REV. 1449, 1449 n.1 (1984) (citing B.
BABCOCK, A. FREEDMAN, E. NORTON & S. Ross, SEX DISCRIMINATION AND THE LAW:
CAUSES AND REMEDIES 192, 195-99 (1975)) [hereinafter Note, Sexual Harassment].
Despite some evidence indicating that women are harassed by co-workers more fre-
quently than by supervisors, this Comment focuses on the sexual harassment of women
by their male supervisors. Some believe the vast majority of sexual harassment cases
involve male bosses making advances to the women who work for them. Lewin, A
Grueling Struggle For Equality, N.Y. Times, Nov. 9, 1986, at F12, col. 1. But the Merit
System study found that male and female employees reported harassment by co-workers
more often than by their supervisors: 65% of female employees and 76% of male em-
ployees reported harassment by co-workers or other federal employees lacking supervi-
sory authority over them. MERIT REPORT, at 59-60. These percentages were surprising
because before the study, most sexual harassment was thought to be perpetrated by the
more powerful supervisors against their more vulnerable employees. Id. at 10. Still, in
37% of the incidents, women reported harassment by their immediate supervisors or
higher level supervisors. Id. at 59.
In addition, this Comment will not specifically address the issue of employer liability
for co-worker sexual harassment. See generally Note, Employer Liability for Coworker
Sexual Harassment Under Title VI, 13 N.Y.U. REV. L. & Soc. CHANGE 83, 86 (1984-
85) (discussion of employer liability for the absolute sexual harassment by a female
employee's supervisors, co-workers, clients and customers that, unlike quid pro quo
harassment, is not harassment conditioned upon receipt of tangible job benefits) [here-
inafter Note, Employer Liability].

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