Golden Gate University Law Review


Suzanne Egan


In Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson,! the United States Supreme Court addressed the issue of sexual harassment for the first time. The Court held that when sexual harassment creates a hostile or offensive working environment, it is actionable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Court interpreted Title VII as demonstrating a congressional intent to preserve the economic, psychological and emotional benefits of employment. This interpretation has been advanced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and in lower court opinions. The Supreme Court rejected the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that an employer is strictly liable for hostile environment sex discrimination regardless of the circumstances of the case. Instead, the Court stated that courts must look to agency principles for guidance in determining employer liability, and must examine the totality of the circumstances. Notice or absence of notice to the employer of the harassment will not be dispositive of the liability issue.