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Feminist News


June-16-04

Supreme Court Rules on Sexual Harassment Liability

The US Supreme Court on Monday ruled 8-1 that workers are allowed to sue their former employers after leaving their jobs due to intolerable sexual harassment. The case before the Supreme Court involved a woman named Nancy Drew Suders, according to the Los Angeles Times, who had experienced a barrage of "sexually charged posturing, leering and remarks" from her three male supervisors at the Pennsylvania State Police barracks in McConnellsburg.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who wrote the majority opinion for the case, told the New York Times that she felt in the current case, Suders had experienced "harassment ratcheted up to the breaking point." "Constructive discharge" is the technical term used within labor law for quitting one's job in response to what the New York Times calls "unendurable working conditions." The Court's decision also protects the employer's right to defend itself against such suits by demonstrating that the employee had failed unreasonably to take advantage of whatever system the employer had set up for the reporting of sexual harassment.

Suders was supported by several civil rights groups, according to Reuters, while the Pennsylvania State Police was backed by the US Justice Department. Justice Clarence Thomas cast the only dissenting vote in the case.

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Media Resources: Reuters 6/14/04; New York Times 6/15/04; Los Angeles Times 6/15/04