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Anita Bernstein*
H7 ta 5 sexual harassment? Individuis in the workforce need to know. Judicial
opinions do not fully inform them, and academic commentary has not linked doctrine tu
everyday wcrk ext erience or to an intelligible ethical philosophy that is widely
understood and shared. In this Article, Professor Bernstein undertakes to explain sexual
harassment using the concept o f respect. She arges that a defendant charged with
hostile environment sexual harassment ought to be held to the standard o f a respectful
person. This doctrinal device improves on approaches that now prevail, particularly
those emphasizing reasonableness. After detailing the shortcomings o f current law,
Professor Bernstein describes the virtues o f a legal rule that affirms respect. These
virtues which extend beyond sexual harassment include the resonance o f respect as
a valu among ordinary people, the history o f inclusin based on human dignity that
informs respect, the orientation o f respect around the conduct of an agent (rather than
the reaction o f a complainant, the focus o f current ndes), and congruence with a
tradition, foun d in many other areas o f American law, o f calling on citizens to render


ears of feminist effort created the term sexual harassment, now a

legal w rong and a cultural colossus. B ut as doctrine the phrase
remains elusive, connoting no specific type of harm. Once thought of
as a problem that has no am e,1 sexual harassment is now a term that
brings no clear image to mind a ame, as it were, that has no
problem. Decades of litigation in the federal circuits and the Supreme
C ourt have resulted in the prom ulgation of workable guidelines2 but
prompted little vivid judicial w riting and no courtroom-scene edifica
ro n : neither the H ill-Thom as pageant of 1991 or the spectacles that
followed shed much light on sexual harassment law.3

* Professor o f Law and Norman & Edna Freehling Scholar. Chicago-Kent College of Law
B A. 1981, Queens College; J.D. 1985, Yale. I acknowledge with deep thanks the inspiration. and
chalienges, of Carolvn Raffensperger. Chicago-Kent Class of 1994. who first proposed that we
write together on this subject. Carolvns commitments later precluded hcr from being co-author
or indeed sol author o f this Article. In my role of adoptive parent, I hope I have not betraved 'h? promise of her early ideas. A r other former student from the same class. John Franczyk. J .. u ad e several helpful remarks as I ;m riaxted. Thanks also to Patricia O Brien and Beth
Miller *or research assistance; Ian Ayres. Jacob Corre. Paul Fanning. Steven Heyman, Richard
Gonzlez, Herma Hill Kay, Peggie Rene Smith. and Alisen Steele for sharing their ideas abouf
respect and sexual harassment; and the Marshal! Ewell fund for financia! support.
1 See C a t h a r i n e A . M a c K i n n o n , F e m i n i s m U n m o d i f i e d 106 (19 8 7).
2 See Guidelines on Discrimination Because o f Sex, 29 C.F.R $ 1604 (1996).
J Numerou writings on sexual harassment spectacles include D a v i d B r c x k . 7 HE R e a l

n it a

H i l l (19 9 2 ); J a n e M


& J il l A

bram so n

. St r a n


J u s t ic e : T


S e l l in o


Douglas R Kay, Note, Running a Gauntlet o f Sexual A buse: Sexual

Harassment o f Female Naval Personnel in the United States Xavy, 29 C a l . VY. L R e y . 307 (19 9 2 );
C l.A R E N C E T H O M A S (19 9 4);


( ,^ 3 .




Attem pting to fill this void, legal scholars have struggled to observe
the rigors of doctrine and at the same time to understand sexual h a
rassment as it is experienced. Appropriatelv focusing on hostile en vi
ronment sexual harassment in the workplace.'* these commentators explain this phenomenon as expressions of gender hierarchy,5 econom ic
inefficiency,6 free speech,7 and m isplaced pluralism.8 But few o f these
descriptions have achieved widespread acceptance in the judicial or
academ ic communities.9 Am ong those who undertake to describe the
nature of sexual harassment,10 a divisin has emerged. One group o
writers, expressing a sunny view o f human relationships, offers a
paradigm of workplace hostile environment sexual harassment as miscommunication. These observers envision a man who provokes fear
or anger, perhaps unintentionally, when he approaches a colleague or


Profession of Packwoods?, L .A . D a i l y J., S e p t. 2 1 , 19 95. a t 6 . O n th e

Freedom o f Speech and Appellate Review in Workplace Harassment Cases, 90 N w . U . L . R e v 1009. 1 0 1 2 - 1 8 (1996).
a n d S u s a n B . J o rd n .

v a g u e n e s s o f th e term h a r a s s m e n t, see E u g e n e V o lo k h .

4 S e x u a l h a ra s s m e n t o c c u r s in a v a r ie ty o f s e ttin g s ; w it h in c a s e la w th e w o r k p la c e is th e m o st
im p o r t a n t o f th e se se ttin g s.

W o r k p la c e s e x u a l h a r a s s m e n t. a c c o r d in g to a n e a r ly m a n ife s t b y

C a t h a r in e M a c K in n o n . d iv id e s in to t w o c a te g o r ie s : q u id p ro q u o h a ra ssm e n t a n d h o s t ile o r a b u s iv e e n v ir o n m e n t h a ra ssm e n t.


See C a t h a r i n e A . M a c K i n n o n . S e x u a l H a r a s s m e n t


32 <19 79).

T h is d iv is i n , a c c e p t e d b y A m e ric a n co u rts , h a s b e c o m e less i n

f o r m a d v e s in c e its fo rm u la tio n

Q u id p ro q u o h a r a s s m e n t. o r e x p lic it s e x u a l b l a c k m a i l, o c c u p ie s

om en

a m in u s c u le f ra c t io n o f s e x u a l h a r a s s m e n t c a s e la w ; o n ly e x tr a o r d in a r ilv r e c k le s s a n d b la t a n t b e-

See S u s a n E s t r ic h , Se.x at
Work, 43 S t a n . L . R e v . 8 13 , 8 34 (19 9 1). A c c o r d in g ly , m u c h h a r a s s m e n t h a s b e e n d i v e r t e d in to

h a v i o r b y a h a r a s s e r p e rm its a p l a in t if f to p u r s u e th is c a u s e o f a c tio n .

th e h o stile e n v ir o n m e n t c a te g o r y , s.uch th a t r e fe r e n c e s to a h o stile e n v ir o n m e n t n o lo n g e r a d d

m e a n in g to s e x u a l h a ra s s m e n t in th e w o r k p la c e .

See M o r r is o n T o rrey, We Get the Xlessage Pornography in the Workplace, 22 S w . U . L .

R e v . 5 3 , 6 0 -6 7 (1992).

6 See M a r ie T. R e illy, A Paradigm fo r Sexual Harassment: Tm ard the Optimal Level o f Loss,
e v 4 2 7. 4 3 6 - 7 6 (19 9 4 ); c f G ill ia n K H a d f ie ld ; Rational Women A Test for SexRased Harassment, 83 C a l . L R e v . 1 1 5 1 . 1 1 5 7 (19 9 5 ) (d e fin in g s e x u a l h a r a s s m e n t -as c o n d u c t

47 V a n d . L . R

ut n a t w o u ld le a d a r a tio n a l w o m a n to a lte r h e r w o r k p la c e b e h a v io r [to a v o id th e c o n d u c t j i f sh e

c o u ld d o so a t little o r n o c o s t ).

7 See K in g s le y R. B r o w n e , Title V il as Censorship. Hostile-Fnvironment Harassment and the

First Amendment, 52 O h i o S t . L .J . 481 (19 9 1); M ic h a e l P M c D o n a ld . Unfree Speech , 18 H A R V.
J .L . & P u b . P o l Y 47 9 , 4 8 4 -8 5 (1995); E u g e n e V o lo k h , Comment, Freedom o f Speech and Work
place Harassment, 39 U CLA L . R e v . i 79 1 (19 9 2 ).
8 See N a n c y S. E h re n re ic h . Pluralist Myths and Powerless Men: The Ideology o f Reasonableness in Sexual Harassment Imw. 99 Y A LE T. J. 1 1 7 7 (1990).
9 l
Kaiherine M . F r a n k e , What's f* . - . -a ith Sexual Harassment? 49 S t a n L R e y . 6 9 1 .
6 9 4 (19 9 7) inoting that th e problem of saine-sex harassment reveis malaise" and laziness" in
sexual harassment jurisprudence).
lu S o m e writings on se x u a l harassment omit this description. The omission appears to be de
librate in economics-focused writings, see Reilly, supra note 6, ai 434. and consistent with ihe
general reluctance of economic analysis to judge the nrm am e valu of individual choices. see
G a r v S. B e c k e r . T h e E c o n o m i c s o f D i s c r i m i n a t i o n 1 4 - 1 5 ( d ed. 19 7 1), even the choice to
harass VVrhether intentional or accidental, the absence of a w ork in g notion o f what sexual ha
rassment means is harmfl to scholarship on the subject. On the persistence o f this om ission . sec
PP 448-49 below



[Vol. 111:445

ventures a jo k e.11 For other* writers, the paradigm of w orkplace ha

rassm ent is coercion, an obscene gauntlet forced on a wom an w ho
needs her jo b .12 A t the root o f this difference lies contention over
w hether claims o f harassment ought to be judged from the vantage
point of the object o f harassment or from the perspective of the putative harasser.
A separate divisin reveis itself in the crafting o f causes o f action
and legal remedies. Should fault be pivotal? On one hand, harass
m ent connotes w rongful conduct inflicted by one individual and suffered by another; tort remedies for sexual harassment com port w ith
this perspective. O n the other hand, Title V II of the C iv il Rights A ct
(and, as I have argued elsewhere, the approach to sexual harassment
that prevails in E urope13) takes a different approach by focusing on
atmosphere or w orking conditions rather than fault.
T h e gap between com peting perspectives on sexual harassment, so
indicative o f confusion and disagreement, has never been satisfactorily
bridged. M eanw hile, the topic expands in notoriety. W hile judges and
scholars try to define and explain hostile environment sexual harass
ment, its meaning a nimble Houdini of legal doctrine contines
to escape their chains.
E ven the redoubtable Justice Scalia could not get a lock on the
phrase, and hostile environm ent sexual harassment m ay go down in
Suprem e Court history as the subject that left him at a virtual loss for
words. In Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc.,14 the Court w as called on
to provide an explanation of this concept. Q uickly and unanimously,
the Justices acknow ledged the injury of hostile environm ent harass
m ent but could add little descriptive detail. Justice O C onnor resorted
to synonyms: a hostile environm ent is an abusive one, filled w ith
severe [and] pervasive Refusing to provide a m athematically precise test, Justice O C onnor insisted that a hostile environment
can be determined only by looking at all the circum stances.16 Justice
11 See Sara P. Feldman-Schorrig & James J. McDonald, Jr., The Role o f Forensic Psychiatry in
the Defense o f Sexual Harassment Cases, 1 9 J. P S Y C H IA T R Y & L. 5, 6 -8 (19 9 2 ); David Thomas,
Fatal Attractions, T i m e s (London), M ay 15, 19 9 4 , available in L E X IS, N ew s Library, Archives
File (referring to innocent overtures that are misunderstood); What 222,653 Teens Said, U SA
T o d a y , Sept. 3 , 1996, at 10 , 12 (noting that jokes may be misperceived as harassment and vice
12 See M a c K i n n o n , supra note 4, passim, Deborah Epstein, Can a Dumb .455 Woman"
Achieve Equality in the Workplace? Running the Gauntlet o f Hostile Environment Harassing
Speech, 84 G e o . L.J. 399, 402-08 (1996).
15 See Anita Bernstein, Law, Culture, and Harassment, 142 U. Pa. L. R ey . 1228 passim (1994).
14 510 U.S. 17 ( 1993 )
15 Id. at 21, 22.
16 Id. at 22. Though reluctant to give readers the guidance that Justice Scalia would have preferred, Harris adds emphasis to a prior Supreme Court holding that hostile environment sexual
harassment constitutes a Title VII violation when it is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter
the conditions of [the victim s] employment and create an abusive working environm ent. M eri
tor Sav. Bank, F S B v. Yinson, 477 U.S. 57, 67 (1986) (quoting Henson v. C ity o f Dundee, 682 F . d




Scalia wrote a separate concurrence, confessing that he could not de

fine hostile environment. I know of no alternative17 to this definitional void, admitted the Justice a man confident about the true
meanings of separation of powers,18 just com pensation,15 the dorm ant
commerce clause,20 substantive due process,21 national security,22 free
dom o f speech,23 and race neutrality.24
T h e w ord abusive or hostile, Justice Scalia continued, does not
seem to me a very clear standard and I do not think clarity is at all
increased by adding the adverb objectively or by appealing to a reasonable person[s] notion of w hat the vague word means.2S B ecause
courts have been unable to enuncate a clear standard, juries remain
unguided, as do men and women in the workplace. Justice Scalia
added a telling comparison to negligence.26 Although negligent, like
hostile, means w hat a ju ry says it means, at least in negligence cases
physical harm limits the number of potential plaintiffs.27 In hostile
environm ent cases abusiveness is the harm, unless plaintiffs are required to prove psychological injury or other severe detriment, a burden the C ourt rejected in Harris.2i Thus the doctrinal enigm a is to be
reiterated in an infinity of future hostile environment claim s.29
Strange to relate, the beginning of a resolution m ay be found in a
short opinion by Justice Scalia himself. In one of his early concurrences, Justice Scalia attacked the M iller v. California30 standard of
obscenity law,31 especially its search for valu by reference to comm unity standards: Since ratiocination has little to do w ith esthetics,
the fabled 1reasonable man is o f little help in the inquiry, and w ould
897, 904 ( n th Cir. 1982)). Meritor reached the Court in part because of what Justice O Connor
later called the appalling conduct alleged there, including rape. Harris, 510 U.S. at 22. But in
IJorris, Justice O Connor cbserved that egregious examples" of hostile environments udo not
mark the boundary of what is actionable. Id.
17 Harris, 510 U.S. at 22 (Scalia, J., concurring).
18 See M istretta v. United States, 488 U.S. 361, 426-27 (1989) (Scalia, J., dissenting); United
States v. Providence Journal Co., 485 U.S. 693, 708 (1988) (Scalia, J., concurring).
19 See Nollan v. California Coastal Com m n, 483 U.S. 825, 831-37 (1987).
20 See American Trucking A ssns v. Smith, 496 U.S. 167, 202-05 (1990) (Scalia, J., concurring
in the judgment).
21 See Michael H. v. Gerald D., 491 U.S. n o , 121-30 (1989).
22 See Webster v. Doe, 486 U.S. 592, 615-21 (*188) (Scalia, J., dissenting).
23 See R.A.V. v. St. Paul, 505 U.S. 377, 391-96 (1092).
24 See City of Richmond v. J A. Croson Co., 4S8 U.S. 469, 524-28 (1989) (Scalia, J., concur
25 Harris v. Forklift Sys., Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 24 (Scalia, J., concurring).
26 See id.
27 See id.
28 See Harris, 510 U.S. at 20-22.
29 See id. at 24-25 (Scalia, J., concurring).
30 413 U.S. 15 (1973).
31 See id. at 24 (holding that a court should look to whether the work as a whole appeals to
the prurient interest, whether it depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, specific sexual
conduct, and whether the work lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scienfic valu).



[Vol. 111:445

have to be replaced w ith, perfcaps, the man of tolerably good ta ste

a description that betrays the lack o f an ascertainable standard.32
Im agine the man of tolerably good taste. T hough he eludes legal
definition, this m an is more central than the reasonable person to an
understanding o f offensive conduct; in questioning the im portance o f
reason in evaluating obscenity, Justice Scalia was certainly right. T h e
reasonable m an, w om an, or person advances the analysis of conduct
w hen that conduct is challenged as wasteful, im prudent, negligent,
reckless, excessive, or inadequate. B u t reason and reasonableness have
little to do w ith offensiveness33 as it exists in our law s o f obscenity and
sexual harassm ent, and reason is especially useless in evaluating both
the conduct o f an alleged harasser and the reaction of a com plainant.34
H ow , then, to understand sexual harassment? T his Article ventures an explanation. Hostile environm ent sexual harassment, I arge,
is a type o f incivility or in the locution that I prefer d isrespect35
For purposes of doctrine, accordingly, hostile environment com plaints
should refer to respect; the p lain tiff should be required to prove that
the defendant a man, or a wom an, or a business entity36 did not
conform to the standard of a respectful person. This respectful person
standard w ould rightly supplant references to reason and reasonable
ness; respect is integral to the understanding and rem edying o f sexual
harassm ent, whereas reason is not.37
In giving content to the ideal o f equality behind Title V II as w ell as
the ideal o f individual autonom y behind dignitary-tort law, this re
spectful person standard w ould fit within the two most im portant legal
bases for redressing sexual harassm ent in the w orkplace.38 Focus on
32 Pope v. Illinois, 48 1 U.S. 4 9 7 , 5 0 4 -0 5 (19 8 7 ) (Scalia, J., concurring); see also Jeff Rosen,
M iller Time. N e w R E P U B L IC , Oct. 1 , 19 90 , at 17 (Reasonable people attacked M anets D jeuner
S u r LHerbe and Beethovens Ode to Joy as indecent.).
33 See 2 J o e l F e i n b e r g , T h e M o r a l L i m i t s o f t h e C r i m i n a l L a w : O f f e n s e t o

th ers

3 5 - 3 6 (19 8 5 ).

34 See Ehrenreich, supra note 8, at 1 2 1 4 - 3 2 ; infra pp. 4 6 7 -6 8 .

35 For one ju d ges expression of this idea, see Stephen Reinhardt, Foreword to B a r b a r a
L i n d e m a n n & D a v i d D . K a d u e , S e x u a l H a r a s s m e n t i n E m p l o y m e n t L a w at xiii (19 9 2 ).
Reinhardt arges: u[W]e [must] learn to treat all individuis with respect and afford them the per
sonal dignity they deserve. If we do, sexual harassment will largely be a thing of the past. Id.
36 Research indicates that about 90% o f workplace sexual harassment cases arise from men
harassing wom en. H e r m a H i l l K a y & M a r t h a S. W e s t , S e x - B a s e d D i s c r i m i n a t i o n 8 33
(4th ed. 1996). Accordingly, this Article, like most writings on sexual harassment, uses nouns and
pronouns consistent with this gender divisin, although other gender permutations are discussed.
37 A role remains for reasonableness. See infra pp. 498-504.
38 O f these various legal remedies, Title V II receives primary attention in this Article. I devote
little time to other devices such as workers compensation and the criminal law of extortion, because they are relatively unimportant in sexual harassment case law. Several courts have allowed
dignitary-tort remedies for sexual harassment. See, e.g., Harrison v. Eddy Potash, Inc., 112 F.3d
1437, 1439 (io th Cir. 1997) (allowing a pendent claim for battery in a Title VII action); Rudas v.
Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., No. 96-5987, 1997 U.S. Dist. L E X IS 169, at *12 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 7, 1997)
(allowing a claim for assault and battery); Ford v. Revlon, Inc.. 734 P.2d 580, 585 (Ariz. 1987) (approving a judgm ent against a defendant Corporation for intentional infliction o f emotional dis




respect addresses the concerns o f both those who identify with the imperfect hum anity of the accused harasser and those who seek forem ost
to purge sexual coercion from the workplace. Respect also reconciles
competing perspectives on fault, simultaneously recognizing the tortlike w rong o f sexual harassm ent and the Title V II emphasis on vvorkplace discrimination.39 It gives shape to a problem whose outlines
have been blurred and contested. Despite its apparent novelty, the re
spectful person standard is intelligible, easy to execute, and not especially vulnerable to abuse or confusion. In short, it is likely to help re
duce the incidence o f hostile environment sexual harassment an d to
provide a rem edy for injured plaintiffs.
This proposed standard m ay eventually achieve acceptance in other
areas of law: it is im aginable that hostile environment sexual h arass
ment can serve as a circum scribed testing ground for a respectful person standard that w ill develop more general utility. Just as the nineteenth-century reasonable man w ent on to find a place in doctrines
other than negligence, where he first flourished, the respectful person
is a device that may w ork well outside of sexual harassment. For now ,
however, I confine m y argum ent to the bounded, though expanding,
territory of hostile environm ent sexual harassment.
This limited approach m ay not satisfy some readers, inasm uch as
respect resembles other affirm ative ideis such as altruism and charity.
Indeed it is nearly a tenet that in the liberal state legal rules cannot be
deployed solely to dctate virtue or, in the more commonly evok ed
phrase, to legislate morality.40 In this view, the virtues that law is com -

tress). On equalitv and autonomy the ideis honored by the respectful person standard see
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Some Thoughts on Autonomy and Equality in Relation to Roe v. W ade, 63
N .C . L . R e v . 375, 383 (1985), in which Ginsburg finds the concepts important to an understand
ing of sex discrimination in the abortion context.
39 S o m e c o m m e n ta to r s o n T it le V T I e x a g g e r a t e th e d ic h o t o m y b e tw e e n to r t-lik e d i s c r i m in a t io n -a s -w r o n g a n d d is c r im in a t io n - a s - s o c ia l-in e q u a lit y .
p r o d u c t iv e .

T o th e m , fa u lt in q u in e s a p p e a r c o u n t e r -

See M a c K i n n o n , supra n o te 4 , a t 158 (c la im in g t h a t to r t re m e d ie s a re f l a w e d b e -

c a u s e th e y h o ld w o m e n to t r a d itio n a l m a le a n d fe m a le n o r m s a n d d o n o t f a c ilta t e e q u a l it y ) ;
D e n n is P. D u ffy , Intentional Injliction o f Emotional Distress and Employment at Will: The Case
Against Tortification o f Labor and Employment Law , 74 B.U. L . R e v . 387 (1994)- L e g i s l a t i v e
h is to r y d o e s n o t s u p p o r t a r e je c t io n o f th e f a u lt - b a s e d a p p ro a c h .
See M a c k A . P l a y e r ,
E m p l o y m e n t D i s c r i m i n a t i o n L a w 2 0 1 -0 2 (19 8 8 ) ( n o tin g th e a b s e n c e o f tra d itio n a l s o u r c e s o f
le g is la t iv e h isto ry ).
c e n te r s ta g e .

O n e m a jo r r e v is i n o f T it le V I I , th e C i v i l R ig h ts A c t o f 1 9 9 1 , b rin g s f a u l t to

E n u m e r a tin g f o u r p u r p o s e s . th e A c t lists first its g o a l to p r o v id e a p p r o p r ia t e r e m e

d ie s fo r in te n tio n a l d is c r im in a t io n a n d u n la w f u l h a r a s s m e n t in th e w o r k p la c e .
o f 19 9 1, P u b . L . N o . 10 2 -16 6 , 3 (1), 105 S t a t . 1 0 7 1 , 10 7 1 (19 9 1).

C iv il R ig h ts A c t

O n th e b u rg e o n in g ro le o f f a u l t

B. H e r n ic z , The Civil Rights Act o f i q q i : From

Conciliation to Litigation How Congress Delegates Lawmaking to the Courts, 14 1 M i l . L . R e v .
i , 4 (19 9 3), a n d c o m p a r e G e o r g e R u th e r g le n , Discrimination and Its Discontents, 81 V a . L . R e v .
in th e fe d e r a l c iv il rig h ts s t a t u t e s , see C h a r le s

1 1 7 , 1 1 9 (19 9 5 ), w h ic h re fe rs to th e w h o le r e g im e o f fa u lt o n w h ic h e m p lo y m e n t d i s c r i m in a t io n
la w h a s b e e n b a s e d . Id.

40 This principie is implicit in such influential works as J E R E M Y B e n t h a m , T h e P r i n c i p l e s

M o r a l s a n d L e g i s l a t i o n (Hafner Press 1948) (17 8 9 ), and H .L .A . H a r t , T h e C o n c e p t o f



[V ol. 111:445

petent to enforce do not extend m uch beyond nonaggression and tolerance.41 Although a strong lternative tradition, w hich m aintains that
the liberal State ought to overcom e its agnosticism about virtue and
promote an edifying visin o f the good life 42 opposes this view, I believe that m y proposal is consistent with a traditional liberal outlook.
For current purposes, consider the Latin etym ology o f respect
respicere, to look back, or to take a second look.4J T h e reader is invited to regard again this fam iliar word, apart from its connotation of
moral virtue.
Respect more than other w ords expresses w hat is w rong about
the creation or m aintenance o f a hostile w orking environment. As
philosophers have elaborated, a fundamental m eaning o f respect, apart
from a separate m eaning of esteem, is recognition o f a persons inherent worth. Respect in the sense o f recognition is owed to all persons,
and thus w orkplace sexual harassm ent betrays the ideal of recognition
respect, regardless o f whether the harassed w orker deserves high es
teem. Respect also illum inates w hat is appropriate about the search
for a legal rem edy of this w rong and, more generally, w hich goals are
attainable in the la w s continued endeavor to shape conduct. T he
w ord is at the center o f a rich philosophical literature, yet is equally
integral to ordinary lives, suggesting that it can unite ideis w ith dayto-day practice. L egal recognition of respect, then, does not merely
exhort a citizenry to im prove its moris; it enhances the function and
the intelligibility o f doctrine.
The functioning o f respect as an element of sexual harassm ent law
emerges in a study undertaken in the five parts o f this Article. I begin
w ith Title V II doctrine.44 A plaintiff alleging hostile environm ent sex
ual harassm ent in violation o f this statute must prove two elements
about the challenged conduct, one subjective and one objective. She
must contend that she perceived her environment to be hostile or abuL


( 19 6 1 ). A ls o , O

l iv e r

en d ell


lm es,




1 1 5 ( M a r k D e W o lfe H o w e

41 See J .S . M i l l , O n L i b e r t y 68-69 ( P e n g u in B o o k s 1982) (1859). B u il d i n g u p o n th e v vo rk s
o f M ill a n d R a w l s , t h is p o s t u r e is a v a r ia t i o n o n a cla im t h a t th e r ig h t is p r io r to th e g o o d . See
J o h n R a w l s , P o l i t i c a l L i b e r a l i s m 218 (1993); J o h n R a w ls , The Priority o f Right and Ideas o f
the Good, 17 P h i l . & P u b . A f f . 251, 260-64 (1988). B e c a u s e n o v is i n o f th e g o o d m a y b e d e m e d ., 1963), d is d a in s th e p u r p o s e o f im p r o v in g m e n s h e a rts.'

o n s t r a t e d a s s u p e r io r to a n o t h e r , th e State in t h is v ie w m a y n o t p r o m o t e a n y id e is e x c e p t th o se
t h a t p r o t e c t o r e x p a n d th e a u t o n o m y o f in d iv id u is . See S t e p h e n A . G a r d b a u m , Why the Liberal
State Can Promote Moral Ideis After All, 104 H a r v . L . R e v . 1350, 1351 i 1991).
42 See W i l l i a m A . G a l s t o n , L i b e r a l P u r p o s e s . G o o d s , V i r t u e s , a n d D i v e r s i t y i n
t h e L i b e r a l S t a t e 252-55 (1991): A m y G u t m a n n , D e m o c r a t i c E d u c a t i o n 46 (1987); K e n n e t h K a r s t , B e l o n g i n g t o A m e r i c a : E q u a l C i t i z e n s h i p a n d t h e C o n s t i t u t i o n passim
(1989); W illia m A . G a ls t o n , Two Conceptions o f Liberalism, 105 E T H IC S 516, 518 (1995); S u z a n n a
S h e rry . Responsible Republicanism: Educating fo r Citizenship, 62 U. C h i . L. R e v . 131, 132 (1995).
43 See R o b in S. D illo n , Respect and Care: Toward Moral Integration , 22 C A N A D IA N J . P h i l .
105, 108 (1992).
44 T it le V I I d o c tr in e is in im p o r t a n t r e s p e c t s c o n g ru e n t w it h th e p l a i n t i f f s b u rd e n o f p r o o f in
d i g n it a r y - t o r t a c tio n s a ll e g in g in j u r y c a u s e d b y s e x u a l h a ra ssm e n t.



sive; put another way, she must have regarded the challenged conduct
as unwelcom e at the time it occurred. T he environm ent m ust also
have been objectively hostile or abusive.4S W hen considering the objective element of the prim a facie case, virtually all courts resort to the
words reason or reasonable. Throughout this Article, I m aintain
that the concept of respect lies below, undetected, while references to
reason purport to govern case outcomes.
Part I details the futility of reasonableness standards for sexual
harassment law. Hostile environment sexual harassment is an indignity, not a violation of norms about prudence or cost avoidance; thus
inquiries about reason or reasonableness have little to say about hostile
environm ent sexual harassment. This point has been made by writers
at opposite ends of the political spectrum.46 Elaborating on these
foundational objections to a reasonableness standard, I contend in Part
I that the standard cannot be salvaged, no m atter w hich m eaning is
used for the word reasonable. If this word means characterized by
reason, as some arge,47 then it can tell us nothing whatsoever about
whether any given defendant harassed a plaintiff. Reference to reason
in hostile environment sexual harassment m ay be worse than beside
the point: it subtly denigrates some claimants and minimizes or denies
the nature of their injury. If the word instead means som ething like
sensible, moderate, centrist, or w illing to accept shared norm s, the
standard is equally opaque; like the definition of reasonable as ra
tional, this alternative meaning is also capable o f doing harm by
tending to m arginalize and oppress subordinated groups.
W orking w ith similar themes, writers have built a vast critical literature about reasonableness standards. These judicial and academ ic
efforts to revise the objective criteria of hostile environment sexual
harassment are examined in Part H, where I discuss the consequences
of a m isplaced commitment to reasonableness in Am erican sexual ha
rassment law. W ith reasonable locked firm ly into doctrinal place,
courts and scholars use it to modify various nouns: reasonable wom an,
reasonable victim , and more. This unending process of m odification is
a quandary because, as advocates of each standard arge cum ulatively,
all reasonableness standards are defective. Reasonable person has
been challenged by reasonable w om an, w hich has been attacked in
turn by w hat I cali the tinkerers, whose revisions (reasonable target,
reasonable victim , reasonable person of the same gender as the victim ,
45 The prima facie case includes other elements less pertinent to this Article. See Henson v.
C ity of Dundee, 682 F.2d 897, 903-05 (n th Cir. 1982) (applying a five-part burden of proof).
46 Compare pp. 448-49 (summarizing the views of Justice Scalia), with Ehrenreich, supra note
8, at 1230-32.
47 See supra pp. 448-49 (noting the views of Justice Scalia); see also Osborne M. Reynolds, Jr.,
The Reasonable Man of Negligence Law: A Health Report on the Odious Creature, 23 O k l a . L.
R e v . 410, 420-24 (1970) (distinguishing the reasonable man from the average man, the attentive
man, the ideal man, the composite man, and the subjective standard).



(V o l. 111:445

a d infinitum ) are in turn con d em n ed b y those w h o decide to return to

the reasonable person. T h is circ u la r contest o f flaw ed standards rec a lls the c h ild ren s gam e o f rock-paper-scissors. A sm all but eloquent
c o h o rt o f law yers and scholars exp ress their discontent w ith the rea
son ablen ess stan dard b y a rg u in g in fa vo r of a purely su b jective a p
p roach , w here the p la in tiff w o u ld need to allege little more than that
she fou n d sex-based w o rk p lace co n d u ct unw elcom e. T h is bold prop o sal, though cogent, th row s a w a y too much. R etaining an o b jective
sta n d a rd is necessary to a ffirm the reality the genuine, nonid iosyn cratic injuriousness o f sexu al harassm ent. Y e t reasonable
n ess cannot anchor sexual h arassm en t law.
P art III describes m y a ltern a tive standard, the respectful person.
T h is Part o f the A rticle, aided b y ph ilosophy and m oral theory, deem s
resp ect the p iv o ta l concept o f a leg al standard for hostile environm ent
sex u a l harassm ent cases. F u n d a m en ta lly a w ide-ranging description o f
relations betw een hum an beings, respect in this P art stays w ithin T itle
V I I boundaries. T h u s the second h a lf of Part III unites respect w ith
o th er elem ents o f the statute an d its ju d icial gloss, including hostile
en viro n m e n t, pervasiven ess, an d discrim ination on the basis o f
se x . T h ese additional concepts b rin g respect into a group-focused referen t th at w o u ld build coherent an d stable doctrine.
T h e respectful person sta n d a rd is a conservative reform . L ik e
oth er rules govern in g c iv il litigation , the standard w ould som etim es
u n d ergird sum m ary ju d gm en ts and in so doing keep com plainants
fro m juries, assist defendants w h o se conduct w as blam ew orthy, and
b a r the claim s o f in d ivid u is w h o h a ve been genuinely hurt.48 N ev ertheless, the ideal o f a respectful person is also a source o f change. It
c a n reduce the type o f d isrespect n ow condem ned, but not d irectly add ressed, b y sexual harassm ent law , and allow everyd ay civ ility to
flourish. Its connection to p h ilosop h y does not render the respectful
person a utopian dream for intellectu als. M an y qualities o f this in d i
v id u a l are sim ilar to those o f the p revailin g reasonable person: as K a n t
ta u gh t, reason and respect are related ideis.
M oreover, current
A m e rican law, both statu tory an d judge-m ade, alread y val es the
q u a lity o f respect. T h e respectfu l person is som eone each o f us can
hecom e, w ith o u t undue d ep artu re from existing norms. T h e attaina b ility o f respectful personhood is one o f severa! virtues o f this stan
d a rd noted in P art IV, w here I arg e th at in contrast to reason, w ith its
trad ition o f exclusin, respect tran scen ds the divisions created to class ify hum an beings.49
48 A recent article defends the valu o f sum m ary judgm ent in sexual harassment cases. See
R o b ert J. A alberts & Lorne Seidman, Seeking a Safe Harbor: The Viability o f Summary Judg
m ent in P o -H arris Sexual Harassment L itig a tio n , 20 S. I I I . U. L.J. 223, 230-32 (1996).
49 The switch from reason to respect im plicitly acknowledges numerous A frican-Am erican
w om en whose workplace experiences built such a great share of hostile environment law. See,



45 S

T h e proposed stan dard has num erous other virtues. D isrespect

rather than unreason fits w ith the dignitary injury of hostile en v iro n
m ent sexual harassm ent. In contrast to the gendered pedigree o f the
reasonable person and the gendered slant o f both reasonableness and
reasonable w om an , the respectful person com es cise to gender neutrality. A n d follow ing the approach taken in virtu ally ev ery other subcategory o f law that uses the reasonable person, the respectful person
standard focuses on the conduct o f an actor rather than the reaction o f
a com T h e respectful person is also a device that ju ro rs can
em ploy w ell.SI
Perhaps m ost im portant, identification o f the respectful person
m akes a guarded contribution to the m elding o f m oral reasoning and
law. T h is project o f m elding, identified by James B arr A m es in his
classic essay on the d u ty to act in b ehalf of another,52 im pro ves the law
by m akin g it more congru ent w ith the dictates o f m orality, w h ile try in g
to avoid the dangers o f authoritarianism , sanctimony, utopian fantasy,
procedural infirm ity, an d overreaching beyond com petence. T h e leg al
enforcem ent o f respect falls w ithin this tradition o f m elding m orality
and law. Furtherm ore, though it shapes conduct, it w ould restrain no
liberty that statutory c iv il rights law, as interpreted by the S u prem e
C ourt, does not already lim it. T h e respectful person is thus both a reform and a clarification o f w hat civil rights and dignitary-tort law n o w
dem and.

R eason


R easo n ablen ess as T

Sex u a l H arassm en t


P e r t a in


C onsider tw o w a ys to interpret references to the reasonable person

in hostile environm ent sexual harassm ent law. T h e first is trad ition al
and literal: a reasonable person possesses certain cognitive traits, uses
a facu lty for analysis to solve problem s, and believes in principies o f
causality, deductive logic, probabilistic calculation, and other exem e.g., H i c k s v. G a t e s R u b b e r C o ., 928 F.2d 966 ( i o t h C ir. 1991); B r o o m s v. R e g a l T u b e C o . , 881
F.2d 412 (7 th C ir . 1989); B a r n e s v. C o s t le , 561 F.2d 983 ( D .C . C ir . 1977). D is r e s p e c t, n o t u n r e a s o n ,
d r o v e th e s e p l a in t if f s to th e c o u r t s .

T h e g o a l o f r e s p e c t is a ls o a n im p o r t a n t t h e m e in w r i t i n g s

a b o u t w o m e n in t h e w o r k p l a c e t h a t f o c u s o n c la s s .
.T h e L iv e s o f W o r k in g W o m e n


See J o a n S a n g s t e r , E a r n i n g R e s p e c t :
110 -16 (1995); cf.

S m a l l - T o w n O n t a r i o 19 2 0 -19 6 0 , a t

T o n i G ilp in , G a r v I s a a c , D a n L e w in & J a c k M c K iv ig a n , O n S t r i k e f o r R e s p e c t : T h e
C le r ic a l & T e c h n ic a l W o r k e r s S tr ik e a t Y a le

U n iv e r s ity

(1984-85), a t 18-32 (1988)

( d is c u s s in g th e in t e r s e c t io n o f c l a s s a n d r e s p e c t in th e la b o r s t r ik e co n te x t) .

50 See F r a n k e , supra n o te 9, a t 751 ( n o t in g th e a d v a n t a g e o f e m p h a s i z in g th e h a r a s s e r s b e cf. O x f o r d C o m p a n i o n t o L a w 1038 (1980) ( d e s c r ib in g th e r e a s o n a b le m a n a s a s t a n d a r d to e v a l a t e th e c o n d u c t o f a defendant).

51 I address Justice Scalias concern about ju ry guidance by drafting, and com m enting on, a
partial jury instruction to be used in hostile environm ent cases. See infra pp. 5 2 2 - 2 4 .
52 See James Barr Ames, Law and Moris , 22 H a r v . L. R e v . 9 7 , m - 1 3 (19 0 8 ). A more recent
essay in this direction is Tim othy D. Lytton, Responsibility fo r Human Suffering: Awareness, Participation, and the Frontiers ofTort Law , 78 C o r n e l l L. R e v . 4 7 0 , 4 7 0 - 7 2 (19 9 3 ).
h a v i o r r a t h e r t h a n th e v i c t i m s r e a c t io n );


[V o l. 111:445

plars o f W estern thought.53 In this view , phenom ena th at philosophers

co n tra st to reason such as faith or experience m ight influence the
reason ab le person,54 but ratiocination guides his or her decisionm aking. T h e second possibility, explored b y Judge M arie G a rib ald i in a
ju d ic ia l opinion ,55 b y M ichael Saltm an in his book on the reasonable
m an ,56 and b y oth er w riters in law review s,57 is to b u ild a m eaning of
rea so n a b le a p a rt from reason, to m ean som ething like sensible, ordinary, m oderate, or average. Veering from etym ology, this approach
to the reasonable person w ith in the context o f hostile environm ent
sexual harassm en t need not refer to reason. N eith er m eaning, how ever, aids in understanding hostile environm ent sexual harassm ent.

The Trouble w ith Reason

R eason in the sense o f a facu lty or intellectual process is alien

to the rem ed ying o f hostile environm ent sexual harassm ent for three
reasons. F irst, the w ord has been used for centuries to slur and exclu d e w om en, racial m inorities, and the less-educated all groups
th a t are harm ed b y sexual harassm ent ou t o f proportion to their numbers.58 Second, a tradition defines reason in contrast to em otion, even
tho u gh the concepts o f harassm ent, hostility, and abusiven ess are unim agin ab le w ith ou t reference to em otion. A third tradition view s reason as opposite to sex,59 but sex is an inevitable part o f sexual harass
m ent. T h ese dichotom ies reason versus the unreasoning m ass o f
hum anity; reason versus em otion; reason versus sexual im pulse are
m ostly false. B u t th ey endure and continu to influence A m erican law.
B ecau se o f these preju d icial effects, sexual harassm ent doctrine ought
to look at reason w ith skepticism .
The Tradition o f E xclu si n . For centuries W estern philoso
phers agreed th at reason w as not a w id ely and u n iv ersa lly shared trait

53 See A l f r e d N o r t h W h i t e h e a d , T h e F u n c t i o n o f R e a s o n 1 - 2 8 (19 2 9 ).
54 See G.J. W a r n o c k , Reason, in 7 E n c y c l o p e d i a o f P h i l o s o p h y 8 3 , 8 4 ( P a u l E d w a r d s e d .,
r e p r i n t e d . 1 9 7 2 ).

ss See Lehm ann v. T o y s R U s , Inc., 6 2 6 A .2 d 4 4 5 , 4 5 8 (N.J. 19 9 3 ).

56 See M i c h a e l S a l t m a n , T h e D e m i s e o f t h e R e a s o n a b l e M a n : A C r o s s - C u l t u r a l
S t u d y o f a L e g a l C O N C E P T passim ( 1 9 9 1 ) ( e x p u n g in g r e a s o n f r o m r e a s o n a b l e m a n ).
57 C f R o b e r t S . A d l e r & E l l e n R . P e i r c e , The Legal, Ethical, and So cia l Implications o f the
Reasonable Woman Standard in Sexual Harassment Cases, 6 1 F o r d h a m L. R e v . 7 7 3 , 8 0 7 -0 8
(19 9 3 )

( d e s c r ib in g a r e a s o n a b l e p e r s o n s t a n d a r d t h a t in c o r p o r a t e s a l l o f th e s h o r t c o m i n g s a n d

K.L. C o l li n s , Language, H istory and the Legal

Process: A Profile o f the Reasonable M an , 8 R u t . - C a m . L.J. 3 1 1 , 3 1 4 ( 1 9 7 7 ) ( n o t in g p o s s ib le
w e a k n e s s e s t o l e r a t e d b y th e c o m m u n it y ); R o n a ld

m e a n in g s s u c h a s i n d i v i d u a l p e r f e c t i o n a n d a c o m m u n it y i d e a l ).

58 See Susan Ehrlich M artin, Sexual Harassment: The Link Joining Gender Stratification,
Sexuality, and Womens Econom ic Status, in W o m e n : A F e m i n i s t P e r s p e c t i v e 2 2 , 2 5 , 32 (Jo
Freem an ed., 5th ed. 1995) (correlating traits o f women with the experience o f being harassed at
59 T h is v iew is a common one, notwithstanding Judge Posners effort to conjoin the two. See
R ic h


A. P

o sn er

, Sex

an d


(19 9 2 ).




am ong hum an beings.60 From ancient G reece through nineteenthcen tu ry E urop e and beyond, intellectual leaders ju stified social and
p olitical inequality w ith reference to the transcendent gift o f reason.
T h ose w h o could reason best were m ost fit to govern, to control property an d its law s, and to m ake use of lesser creatures.61
O n this subject, great minds thought alike.62 A cco rd in g to Aristotle, the deliberative facu lty in the soul is not present at a ll in a
slave; in a fem ale it is present but ineffective; in a child present but
un develo ped .63 A n d for Aristotle there could be no good life w ith o u t
reason: thus a w o m a n s life is alw ays slavish, never fu lly h u m an .64
K a n t w rote that w om en were not capable o f principies65 a n d that
their ph ilosophy is not to reason, but to sense.66 For H egel, w om en
could not attain to the ideal o f rational thought: T h e d ifferen ce betw een m en and w om en is like that betw een anim als and p la n ts.67
R ousseau denounced w om en as incapable o f thought and u n su ited to
education;68 his highest accolade69 for a w om an w as O h lo vely ignoran t fa ir!70 Schopenhauer described w om en as in every respect
b a c k w a rd , lack in g in reason and reflection.71 T h e great B ritish Enlightenm ent philosophers, notably H obbes, L ocke, and A d a m S m ith,
did not cra ft m isogynous aphorism s abou t reason as they constructed
their vie w o f the state. Rather, their w ritings, w hich refer con tin u ally
to the individ ual, presum e the absence o f w om en s thought, consent,
and d ecision m aking.72

See A l i s o n M . J a g g a r , F e m i n i s t P o l i t i c s a n d H u m a n N a t u r e 36-37 (1983).

S ee D i a n a H . C o o l e , W o m e n i n P o l i t i c a l T h e o r y : F r o m A n c i e n t M i s o


o n tem po rary

e m in is m

g yn y


2 9 - 3 1 , 8 5, 1 4 1 , 1 9 5 - 9 6 ( 2 d e d . 19 9 3 ) ( d e s c r ib in g th e r e c u r r e n t a r g u -

m e n t in w e s t e r n p o l it i c a l t h o u g h t t h a t m e n s h o u ld h a v e p o lit ic a l p o w e r o v e r w o m e n b e c a u s e o f
m e n s s u p e r io r a b i li t y t o re a s o n ).

62 T h e celebrated exception is Mill, who championed the equality o f women. S e e J o h n

a r t M i l l , T h e S u b j e c t i o n o f W o m e n i (Susan M oller Okin ed., H ackett P u b lg Co.
1988) (1869).
6J A r i s t o t l e , T h e P o l i t i c s ( J .A . Sinclair trans., 19 6 2 ). For a discussion o f A risto tles mi
sogynous view o f reason, see L ind a R . Hirshman, The Book o f A , 70 T e x . L. R e v . 9 7 1 , 9 7 9 - 8 0
St u

(19 9 2 ).

64 See M arcia L. Hom iak, Feminism and Aristotles Rational Ideal, in A M i n d O F O n e S

: F e m i n i s t E s s a y s o n R e a s o n a n d O b j e c t i v i t y i , 7 (Louise M . A ntony & C harlotte
W itt eds., 19 9 3 ).

w n

65 I m

m an u el


n t

, O

b s e r v a t io n s o n t h e

e e l in g

of th e


u t if u l a n d


b l im e

81 (John T. G old th w ait trans., 1960).

56 Id. a t 7 9 .
67 H

eg el

, Ph

il o s o p h y o f

R ig

h t

2 6 3 ( T .M . K n o x t r a n s ., O x f o r d U n iv . P r e s s 1 9 6 7 ) ( 1 9 5 2 ) .

S ee J e a n -J a c q u e s R o u s s e a u , E m i l e (Barbara Foxley trans., J .M . D ent & So n s 1 9 7 4 )

(17 6 2 ) .
69 S u


r o w n m il l e r

, F

e m in in it y

10 9 (19 8 4 ).

Id. ( q u o t i n g 3 J e a n -J a c q u e s R o u s s e a u , E m i l i u s ( E d i n b u r g h , A . D o n a l s o n t r a n s ., 17 6 8 )

( 17 6 2 )).
71 A r t h u r S c h o p e n h a u e r , On Women, in S e l e c t e d E s s a y s o f S c h o p e n h a u e r 3 3 8 , 3 4 6
(Ernest Belfort Bax ed. & trans., 1926).
72 See C a r o l e P a t e m a n , T h e S e x u a l C o n t r a c t 4 3 - 5 0 , 5 2 - 5 3 ( 19 8 8 ) (discussing H obbes
and Locke); id. at 5 0 - 5 2 (alluding to the subordination o f women in classical contract theory).



[V o l. 111:4 4 5

A s the history o f fem ale ed u cation dem onstrates, these beliefs abou t
the n ature o f w om en have ju stified the exclusin o f girls and w om en
from schoolin g and h ave p erp etu ated the im age o f w om en as incom peten t to reason. T h e b elief that intellectual training should be ava ila b le
to fem ale persons has been w id ely held in the U nited States for less
than a cen tury.
S p eak in g in the am e of reason, au thority figures
h a ve lon g used the lan gu age o f Science to keep w om en u n ed u cated .74
V estiges o f these historical beliefs persist,75 as girls and w om en con
tin u to learn th at reason rem ains m asculine territory.76
T h is territory is also w hite: a parallel tradition links reason w ith
r a c e .77 In his classic, The M ism easure o f Man, Stephen J a y G o u ld recounts the perp etu al effort to equ ate cognitive strength w ith the traits
o f w h ite E u rop ean men: again and again com m entators h ave falsely
claim ed th at intellect correlates w ith skull size, brain w eight, facial
features, geograph ic origin, and other constructs o f physical anth ropology.78 G o in g fu rther than the w hite-suprem acist researchers that
73 See M

h eat

yr a

ir l s


& D

d ker

1 5 - 4 1 ( 19 9 4 )

a v id


d ker

, F

a il in g


F a ir n

e ss:


m e r i c a s

Sc h

o o ls

(discussing the developm ent o f w om ens education in the United

74 One prom inent physician, E d w ard C larke, wrote in 1873 to a heeding audience that girls
should not pursue prolonged education because the effort involved would divert blood needed for
m enstruation from their w om bs to their brains. See id. at 30-31, 231.
75 T od ay A m erican girls and wom en are more likely than their male classm ates to face neglect,
condescension, sexual exploitation, and biased measurement o f their school perform ance. See id.
a t 1-1 4 . A tta ck s on the S a d k ers w ork, which have not refuted this general conclusin, are summ arized in C a ri H orow itz, Does Education Cheat Females?, I n v e s t o r s B u s . D a i l y , O ct. 21,
1 9 9 4 , at A i , available in L E X I S , N ew s Library, Arcnew s File.
76 A c o n t i n u i n g n a t io n a l p r e o c c u p a t io n w i t h g e n d e r d iff e r e n c e m a y n o w e x a c e r b a t e u n e q u a l
a c c e s s t o t h e d o m a in o f r e a s o n .

B o t h f e m in i s t s a n d a n t i- fe m in is ts h a v e e n d e a v o r e d t o h a r m o n iz e

t h e id e a o f r e a s o n w i t h th e f e m a l e e x p e r i e n c e .

I n o n e f a m o u s e f fo r t , C a r o l G i l l i g a n a r g e s t h a t

m o r a l r e a s o n in g e n c o m p a s s e s c a r e a n d c o n n e c t io n to o th e rs , a p e r s p e c t iv e t r a d i t i o n a l l y a s s o c ia t e d
w it h w o m e n .

o m en


See C a r o l G
evelo pm en t

il l ig a n

, In

6 4 - 6 6 , 10 5 ( 19 8 2 ).

if f e r e n t

o ic e

: Ps y c h

o l o g ic a l

h eo ry

an d

S o m e r e a d G i l l ig a n a s c o n s t r u in g m o r a l it y a s a n

i n t e r t w i n i n g o f e m o t io n , c o g n i t io n , a n d a c t i o n , n o t r e a d ily s e p a r a b l e , w h e r e a s t h e c o n t r a s t i n g
p e r s p e c t i v e , id e n t i f i e d w i t h t h e p s y c h o l o g is t L a w r e n c e K o h lb e r g , e m p h a s i z e s f o r m a l r a t i o n a li t y .
L aw ren ce A .

a r e

: F

B lu m ,

e m in is t

Gilligan and Kohlberg: Implications fo r Moral Theory, in A

an d


t e r d is c ip l in a r y

t h ic


P e r s p e c t i v e s 4 9 , 52 ( M a r y J e a n n e L a r r a b e e e d .,

I 993 )- B ut see J o h n M . B r o u g h t o n , Womens Rationality and M en s Virtues: A Critique o f Gender

Dualism in G illigans Theory o f Moral Development, in A n E t h i c O F C a r e : F E M I N I S T a n d
I n t e r d i s c i p l i n a r y P e r s p e c t i v e s 1 1 2 , 1 2 0 - 2 4 ( M a r y J e a n n e L a r r a b e e e d ., 1 9 9 3 ) ( a r g u i n g t h a t
t h e d i s t i n c t io n b e t w e e n t h e v i e w s o f G i l l i g a n a n d K o h lb e r g is o v e r d r a w n ) .

A l t h o u g h it is t o o e a r ly

t o p r e d ic t h o w G i l l i g a n s r e v is i n w i l l u lt i m a t e l y a f f e c t th e w a y r e a s o n is u n d e r s t o o d , t h u s f a r it
a p p e a r s t h a t h e r e t h ic o f c a r e h a s e x p a n d e d th e t e r r a in of| r e a s o n w h ile l e a v i n g its t r a d i t io n a l u n
d e r s t a n d i n g in t a c t .

77 See A

sh ley

o ntagu

, T


atu ral


p e r io r it y o f

om en

4 6 ( re v . e d . 1 9 9 2 ) ( E v -

e r y t h i n g t h a t h a s b e e n s a id a b o u t a l m o s t a n y a lle g e d ' i n f e r i o r r a c e h a s b e e n s a id b y m e n a b o u t
w o m e n . ).

78 S ee S t e p h e n J a y G o u l d , T h e M i s m e a s u r e o f M a n 1 1 3 - 2 2 ( 1 9 8 1 ) . G ould critiques a
controversial m odern continuation o f this argument in Stephen Jay G ould, Mismeasure by Any
Measure, in T h e B e l l C u r v e D e b a t e : H i s t o r y , D o c u m e n t s , O p i n i o n s 3 , 4 - 5 (Russell Jacoby & N aom i G lauberm an eds., 19 9 5 ).




G ould surveys, one w riter claim ed in 1868 that reform ers and
friends o f h u m an ity w ere hopelessly n aive to struggle a g a in st the
m anifest design o f G o d :7 A b lack man, w rote John Van E vrie, is incapable even o f w a lk in g erect, let alone of learning on par w ith w hite
m en.80 P hysicians o f the nineteenth century com m only b elieved that
b lack w om en w ere brutes, entitled to little recognition as h u m an creatures o f reason.81 T h e naturalist O liver G oldsm ith blam ed a h o t A frican clim ate for relaxing the m ental pow ers o f the local po pu lation ,
rendering A frican s stu p id and indolent.82
N a tiv e A m erican s received a sim ilar judgm ent from the w h ite men
w ho colonized them in the N ew World. Spanish com m entary d iv id e d
betw een n oble-savage condescension ( G od created these sim ple people
w ith ou t evil and w ith o u t guile, w rote Bartolom de L as C asas83) and
hatred ( W h a t could one expect from a people w hose skulls are so
thick and hard that the Spaniards had to take care in fighting not to
strike on the head lest their sw ords be blunted?84). A m erican s o f
B ritish descent had a sim ilar view of the native population; th e ir concept o f a va st frontier conveniently presupposed that no ratio n a l be
ings popu lated the A m ericas before the settlem ent o f J am estow n and
Plym outh R ock.8S
T h e last cen tury has eroded these beliefs.86 A n d a cen tu ry o r tw o
earlier, to be sure, reason prodded the Enlightenm ent, helping to effect

J .H . V


, W

v r ie


h it e

prem acy

Van E v r ie , Horton & Co., 2< e d . 18 70).

so See id.
81 See B a r b a r a E h r e n r e i c h & D
th e

x per ts

d v ic e




n g l is h

, F


b o r d in a t io n


w n


9 3 -9 4 ( N e w

: 150 V

Y ork ,

ears of

(19 7 8 ) ( d e s c r ib in g th e u se o f A f r i c a n - A m e r i c a n w o m e n

S. J o h n s o n & H o r a c e M . B o n d , The Investigation o f R a cia l Dif-

in s u r g ic a l e x p e r im e n t s ) ; C h a r l e s

ferences P rio r to 1910, 3 J . N

e ir d r e


om en




u c

. 3 2 8 , 3 3 4 ( 19 3 4 ) ( c it in g a c o m p a r is o n o f b l a c k w o m e n to

m o n k eys).
82 1 O

l iv e r

o l d s m it h

, A H

is t o r y

of th e



n im a t e d

2 1 3 ( G la s

atu re

g o w , B l a c k i e & S o n 18 60 ).
83 L

e w is

a n k e




is h


u g g le for

( 19 4 9 ) ( q u o t i n g B a r t o l o m d e L a s C a s a s ,

J u s t ic e

in t h e

o n q u est o f

m e r ic a

i i

Coleccin de tratados 7) ( in te rn a ] q u o t a t io n m a r k s o m it -

ted ).

Id. ( q u o t i n g G o n z a l o F e r n n d e z d e O v ie d o , Historia general y natural de las Indians) ( in

f e r n a l q u o t a t io n m a r k s o m it te d ) .

85 See W



esco tt


86 Y e t it r e m a in s r e s p e c t a b l e

, T

h e

p o s s e s s a t y p e o f in t e l li g e n c e d i f f e r e n t fr o m
in f e r i o r in t e lli g e n c e .


r o n t ie r

e v e n f a s h i o n a b le

3 & n .3 (19 5 2 ).

f o r s e r io u s w r it e r s to a r g e t h a t w o m e n

that o f m e n , a n d t h a t A f r i c a n - A m e r i c a n s p o s s e s s a n

O n t h e p e c u l ia r n a t u r e o f w o m e n s in t e llig e n c e , se e B r o u g h t o n , c i t e d a b o v e

in n o t e 76 , a t 1 1 3 , w h ic h d e s c r i b e s L a w r e n c e K o h l b e r g s c o n c lu s i n t h a t a d u l t m e n r e a s o n a t w leg a l i s t i c s t a g e 4 w h il e a d u l t w o m e n la n g u is h in c o n f o r m is t s ta g e 3 , a n d c o m p a r e G

il d e r

, M



r e p r o d u c t iv e ro le s , a n d P o
F o r a l l e g a t io n s

h arles

if e

sn er

supra n o te 5 9 , a t 8 8 -9 8 , w h ic h id e n t ifie s th o s e s a m e d i f f e r e n c e s .

o f A fr ic a n -A m e r ic a n

u rray

, T


2 6 9 - 3 1 5 ( 19 9 4 ) , a n d A

e ll


5 - 1 8 (19 8 6 ), w h ic h id e n t ifie s g e n d e r d i f f e r e n c e s r e s u l t i n g fr o m

a r r ia g e

rth ur

in t e l le c t u a l in fe r io r itv , se e


: In

R. Je n

t e l l ig e n c e a n d


, G

e n e t ic s a n d

R ic h



St r

J. H

u ctu re

e r r n s t e in


m e r ic a n

E d u c a t i o n 1 6 0 - 6 3 < 19 72 ).

T he O.J. Sim pson crim inal-trial verdict of October 1995 revealed a belief held am on g some
white observers that A frican-Am ericans applaud Sim psons acquittal because of the an tirational-


4 o

[V ol. 111:445

a rep u d iation o f caste opprssion. O n e m ight arge accord in gly that

p rog ressives should em brace, rath er than w orry about, reason as a le
g a l con cep t.87 Y e t the concep t o f reason, developed in centuries o f
in equ ality, m onarchy, and w h ite-m ale suprem acism , form ed an identity
before d em o cracy an d the ideal o f fid elity to the law could prop erly inform it. T rad ition s still hold reason to stand for privilege and exclu
sin. In order to m ake reason w o rk again st sexual harassm ent, law reform ers m ust a ffirm an u n derstan d in g of reason o f com parable
stren gth to b alan ce the w eigh t o f historical injustice that the concept o f
reason bears.
E m o tio n . D espite w arn in gs b y D avid H um e, Friedrich
N ietzsc h e, and others that reason and em otion are not paired opposites,88 the notion persists th at reason fuels order and ju stice w hile
em otion explodes, at irregular intervals, to disrupt the calm .89 E m o
tion d estab ilizes ju stice. It can be a part o f bias, distraction, or overid en tifica tio n w ith another person.90 R eason can, and m ust, tam e this
w a y w a r d forc. In this view , em otion is the polar opposite o f reason.91
O n e fem in ist scholar arges th at contractarian political philosophy
eq u ates fem in ine em otion w ith the state o f nature that civil society
m u st con trol.92 E lem ental, w e a k , sw ayed by im m oderate passions,
tra p p e d in their physiology, w om en are deem ed incapable o f com ing
tog eth er to create a ju s t and prin cipled society.93 A s Susan B row n ist, em otional lens through w hich they see the w orld. See Unreasonable Doubt, N e w R e p u b l i c ,
O ct. 23, 1995, a t 7, 8 (attacking the Simpson ju r y s em otional refusal to find guilt in the face o f
o verw h elm in g evid ence). A pparently [the ju r y s] decisin was based on emotion that overcam e
reason, com m ented prosecutor Gil G arcetti, whose office lost the case. Alexander C ockburn,
W hite Rage: The Press and the Verdict, N a t i o n , O ct. 30, 1995, at 491. C o ck b u rn s article also
qu otes N orm an M ailer: T ake a very large generalization: VVhites, for example, believe in technology. B lacks, I w ould say, have more belief in divine forces, dark and light. Id.
87 S ee generally Suzan na Sherry, The Sleep o f Reason , 84 G e o . L.J. 4 5 3 , 4 5 3 - 5 4 (19 9 6 ) (defen d ing reason from attacks by left- and right-w ing writers).
88 See A n t o n i o R . D a m a s i o , D e s c a r t e s E r r o r : E m o t i o n , R e a s o n , a n d t h e H u m a n

r a in

1 9 1 - 9 6 ( 19 9 4 ); D

a v id

u m e

, A


q u ir y

o n c e r n in g

th e

P r in

10 5 ( C h a r l e s W . H e n d e l e d ., L i b e r a l A r t s P r e s s 1 9 5 7 ) ( 1 7 5 1 ) ; S u s a n B a n d e s ,

a n d Victim Impact Statem ents, 6 3 U . C

h i.

L. R

e v

. 36 1,

a c t in c o n c e r t t o s h a p e o u r p e r c e p t io n s a n d r e a c t i o n s .).

c ip l e s o f


Empathy, Narrative,

36 8 (19 9 6 ) ( E m o t io n a n d


a s u m m a r y o f v a r io u s p h i lo s o p h ic a l

c r i t i q u e s o f t h e d i c h o t o m y b e t w e e n e m o t io n a n d r e a s o n , s e e P a u l G e w ir t z , On / Know It When I
S e e I t , 10 5 Y a l e L .J . 1 0 2 3 , 10 3 0 (19 9 6 ).
89 See, e.g., S t e p h e n L . D a r w a l l , I m p a r t i a l R e a s o n ( 19 8 3 ) ( e q u a t i n g r e a s o n w it h ju s tic e ) ;
see also W h i t e h e a d , supra n o t e 5 3 , a t 72 ( d e s c r ib in g r e a s o n a s a t e n d e n c y u p w a r d s t h a t e r e a t e s u n i v e r s a l o r d e r ).

90 See Payn e v. Tennessee, 501 U .S. 808, 856-57 (1991) (Stevens, J., dissenting).
91 O n e f o u n d i n g f a t h e r o f r e a s o n a s a n

A m e ric a n

le g a l s t a n d a r d , O l i v e r W e n d e ll H o lm e s ,

v i e w e d h is o w n t e m p e r a m e n t a l d e t a c h m e n t a s a n a s s e t .

eaco n

il l

: T


if e a n d

im e s o f

l iv e r

See L i v a B a k e r , T

en d ell





289 ( 1 9 9 1 ) .

s t ic e


B a k e r e la b

r a l e s t h a t H o l m e s s c o m m i t m e n t to th e e x t e r n a l s t a n d a r d , th e o b je c t i v e c r it e r io n . . . a l l o w e d h im
t o i n d u l g e a p e r s o n a l t e n d e n c y t o d e t a c h m e n t f r o m h u m a n a f fa ir s . . . .
h e n e e d n e v e r f a c t o r e i t h e r t h e h u m a n m in d

92 See P a t e m a n , supra n o t e 72 , a t 100 .

93 S ee id. a t 1 0 1 - 0 2 .

o r h e a r t in t o

C o m m i t t e d to o b je c t i v i t y ,

a j u d i c i a l d e c is i n .


c o g n i t io n



m iller elaborates, this stereotype o f fem inine emotion does not com pn
sate for its alleged deficiencies by encom passing a deeper em otional
ran ge or a greater sen sitivity to nature or subtle feeling.94 W h en ascribed to w om en, em otion m erely buffets. O n ly reason, d ep loyab le by
those w h o possess the facility, can conquer emotion. A n d because o f
the perceived dichotom y betw een reason and em otion, valorizatio n o f
the one m ay be had only at the expense of the other. A ccord in gly, a
legal standard that rests on reason m ism easures the em otional elem ent
o f sexual harassm ent and underdescribes its effects.
Sexual harassm ent is incom prehensible w ithou t the lan gu ag e o f
em otion. A hostile w o rk in g environm ent is necessarily a cau ld ron o f
intense feelings. A s a law su it progresses, emotions often escalate, especially the rage o f harassers95 and the harassed.96 H eadaches, fa cia l
tics, card iac ailm ents, gynecological com plaints, and clinical depression
are am ong the m any ph ysical effects o f em otional distress that ha
rassed w orkers have reported to the courts.97 B elow the su rface o f
court pleadings, one w ill often discern contem pt, glee, sym pathy (for
exam ple, the em otional support o f friends that encourages a w o rk e r to
persist in her com plaint), cravings for revenge, and stubborn resolve.

94 B r o w n m i l l e r , supra note 6 9 , at 208. Regina Austin notes that the emotion stereotype
generally applies only to the white bourgeoisie. A lthough working class women and wom en of
color escape the em otional adjective, they do not achieve its opposite designation, ration al.
T h e adjective opposite to em otional, applied to them, is physical carnal, brutelike, a resource to be used. Regina Austin, Rem arks at the Association of Am erican L a w Schools W orkshop on Torts, Washington, D .C . (June 7 , 1996); cf. C entral R.R. v. W hitehead, 74 G a. 4 4 1 , 4 5 0
(18 8 5 ) (Hall, J., dissenting) (explaining the custom o f assisting white female passengers b u t not
their black counterparts).
95 See J a c k s o n - C o ll e y v . D e p a r t m e n t o f A r m y C o r p s o f E n g rs, 6 5 5 F. S u p p . 1 2 2 , 1 2 7 ( E .D .
M i c h . 1 9 8 7 ) ( s u m m a r iz i n g t e s t im o n y t h a t th e d e f e n d a n t h a b it u a l l y c u r s e d a t th e s k y ( in t e r n a l

see also J o s e p h P o s n e r, Attacking a Stone Wall Exam inalion o f the

Alleged Sexual Harasser, in L i t i g a t i n g t h e S e x u a l H a r a s s m e i m t C a s e : A G u i d e f o r
q u o t a t io n m a r k s o m itte d ));
Pl a

in t if f

L it ig

a t in g

th e

Se x


u al

237, 2 4 1-4 7

tto r n eys


assm en t


( J u a n it a B . L u i s e d .,

19 94 ) [ h e r e i n a f t e r

] ( d e s c r ib in g th e e m o t io n s a n d p s y c h o l o g y o f h a

ra s se rs).

96 See P e g g y C r u ll , The Impact o f Sexual Harassment on the Job: A Profile o f the Experiences
o f 92 Women, in S e x u a l i t y i n O r g a n i z a t i o n s : R o m a n t i c a n d C o e r c i v e B e h a v i o r s a t

o rk

6 7 , 6 9 - 7 0 ( D a il A n n N e u g a r t e n & J a y M . S h a f r i t z e d s ., 1980) ( r e p o r t in g t h a t 9 6 % o f h a

sympr.oms, in c lu d i n g a n g e r); M a r t in , supra n o t e 58, a t

victim s r e p o r t e d a n g e r).
97 Sexual harassment plaintiffs have claim ed to suffer a wide variety of physical effects resulting from emotional distress. See Bristow v. Drake St. Inc., 41 F.3d 345, 350 (7th Cir. 1994)
(hives, stomach pains, and vomiting); Schweitzer-Reschke v. Avnet, Inc., 874 F. Supp. 1187, 1 1 9 6 97 (D. Kan. 1995) (vomiting, diarrhea, and rapid heartbeat); Chester v. N orthw est Iow a Y ou th
Em ergency Servs. Ctr., S69 F. Supp. 700, 708 n.4 (N .D . Iow a 1994) (headaches, nightm ares, crying, and weight gain); Troutt v. Charcoal Steak House, Inc., 835 F. Supp. 899, 901 (W.D. Va. 1993)
(sleeplessness and depression); Ford v. Revlon, Inc., 734 P.2d 580, 583 (Ariz. 1987) (suicide attem pt
and new facial tic); Kelly-Zurian v. Wohl Shoe Co., 27 Cal. Rptr. 2d 457, 461 (Cal. C t. A pp. 1994)
(heart palpitations and serious drinking problem); see also LlND EM AN N & K a d u e , supra note 35,
at 551 & n.112 (describing varied effects of post-traum atic stress disorder that can result from
sexual harassment).
r a s s m e n t v i c t i r r s e x p e r i e n c e d p s y c h o l o g ic a l

62 ( c it in g a s u r v e y in w h ic h 7 8 % o f h a r a s s m e n t



[Y o l. 111:445

T h e n eglect or discounting o f em otion an inevitable effect when

reason is the leg al standard not o n ly m ischaracterizes the experience
o f sex u a l harassm en t b u t also cheapens the m easure o f the p la in tiffs
d am ag es. A s A m erican courts h ave ack n ow led ged follow in g the H ar
ris d ecisin , the core o f hostile en viron m en t sexual harassm ent d am
a ges is a d isturban ce o f inner eq uilib riu m , a notion inh erently conn ected to em otional turm oil.98 T h e 1991 am endm ents to the C iv il
R ig h ts A c t, a llo w in g m onetary d am ag es and expanded redress for psyc h o lo g ica l in ju r y ," raised the price o f discrim ination in the w orkp lace.
B y o cclu d in g the em otional n ature o f harassm ent, a legal stan dard of
reason harm s the prospect o f relief for em otional in ju ry that T itle V II
n o w requires.
S e x and Reason. E v e n m ore than em otion, sex has been said
to em b o d y the irrational. S exu al pleasures, A ristotle w rote, are an
im p ed im en t to rational d eliberation 100 and displace reason. Proverbs,
sla n g expressions, literary plots, and other cultural expressions indcate
c o n tem p o ra ry W estern so ciety s agreem ent w ith this ancient declarad o n . M a n y social practices (such as sex segregation in education) and
b e lie f system s (such as A u gu stin ian philosophy) affirm it. T h e dissoc iatio n o f sex from reason is so strong that even in S ex and Reason,
R ic h a rd Posner pauses repeated ly to defend his project o f vie w in g sex
th ro u g h the lens o f rationality; w h ile w riting the book he w a s appare n tly hau n ted b y the thought th at sex and rationality cannot coexist.101
T o be sure, sexual harassm ent is hard ly synonym ous w ith sexual
im pulse; it therefore does not fo llo w that, because reason is deem ed
u n rela ted to sexual im pulse, it is in fa ct equ ally unrelated to sexual
harassm en t. N onetheless, the sexu al dim ensin o f sexual harassm ent
co n trib u tes to the problem o f d efin in g hostile environm ent b y an obje c tiv e stan dard. C ou rts and ju ro rs m ust ju d ge the nature o f a w ork
en viron m en t, b u t they have little to go on. H ostile or a b u siv e is a
co n clu si n rath er than a piece o f inform ation. So is h arassm en t.
T h e v ic tim s su b jective experience, according to doctrine, does not
b elo n g in this analysis. W h a t then does the fa cu lty o f reason have to
w o r k w ith ? M a in ly sex sex-related conduct, or conduct directed at

98 See H arris v. F orklift Sys., Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 25 (1993) (Ginsburg, J., concurring) (referring
to conditions [m aking] it more d ifficult to do the jo b (quoting D avis v. M onsanto Chem ical Co.,
858 F.2d 345, 349 (6th Cir. 1988)) (internal quotation m arks omitted)); Steiner v. Show boat Opera tin g Co., 25 F.3d 1459, M63 (9th Cir. 1994); M art v. D r Pepper Co., 923 F. Supp. 1380, 1384 (D.
K a n . 1996); Paterson v. State, 915 P.2d 724, 728 (Idaho 1996).
99 See C iv il R igh ts A ct o f 1991, Pub. L. N o. 102-166, 102, 105 Stat. 1071, 1071 (1991) (codified at 42 U .S.C . 1981a).
100 P O S N E R , supra n o t e 5 9 , a t 1 ( q u o t i n g A R I S T O T L E , N lC O M A C H E A N E t h i c s , b k . V I I , a t X I )
( i n t e r n a l q u o t a t i o n m a r k s o m it te d ) .

101 See id. at 4 (noting that his project m ay seem quixotic); id. at 9-10 (suggesting that one
w h o writes scholarship about sex is apt to be thought a little off); id. at 116 (referring to [t]he
ten d en cy to think o f sex in terms o f biological or psychological compulsin*)-




the in d ivid u al because o f her sex.102 R eason m ust understand an d explain an instance o f sex.
H ere the futility of reason as a standard becom es evident. U nless
courts and juries are com m itted to a fem inism that view s sexu al aggression as coercion and dom inance follow in g the w ritings o f Susan
B ro w n m ille r on rape103 or C atharine M a cK in n o n on p o rn ograp h y104
the presence o f sex in the p la in tiffs story w ill tend to suggest am big u ity and m ystery, beyond the ken o f reason. C ou rts and juries m ay
see sexual overtures as cool extortion or open hostility bu t also as dem ands th at orignate determ inistically, in n atu re.105 U n w an ted and
un return ed sexual attention m akes some observers think o f rom ance,
beauty, and poignant courtship.106 C ru d e w orkin g environm ents have
received indulgent treatm ent by w riters w h o com bine a sociobiological
o u tlo ok w ith w him sy.107 O nce cast as sex, w orkp lace conduct can dem u r to the inquiries o f reason.
T h is line o f thought suggests that attem pts to com bine sexual beh a vio r in the w orkplace w ith reason are likely to m ake the w orkp lace
m ore like a state o f nature, w ith hostile or abu sive conduct rendered
un to E ros, and reason cast aside as irrelevant to the inquiry. A t the
sam e tim e, how ever, the opposite danger also lurks: reason m a y be
ta k en too seriously, as opposed to ignored. T h e em ployer inform ed by
reason (that is, the reasonable person, if reason ab le is deem ed to
refer to the cap acity for ratiocination) m ay fear sexu ally im pelled beh avior because it generates risks and costs. T akin g reason seriously
m igh t ju s tify strong efforts to keep sexu ality ou t o f the w orkp lace; the
reason-driven em ployer m ight try to purge a w orkp lace o f flirtation
102 It is true that this phrasing conflates the possible meanings o f sex sex as gender an d sex
as sexuality. B u t this overlap reflects the current state of doctrine in sex discrimination an d sex
ual harassment case law. See generally Mary Anne C. Case, Disaggregating Gender from S e x and
S exu a l Orientation: The Effeminate Man in the Law and Fem inist Jurisp-rudence, 105 Y a l e L.J.
1, 16 -18 (1995) (discussing judicial confusion about the meanings o f sex, gender, and sexual orien
tation). T h e idea o f sex, despite the definitional inadequacy, serves the taxonomical function of
bringing allegations o f sexual harassment together, as a category within legal doctrine.
103 See S u s a n B r o w n m i l l e r , A g a i n s t O u r W i l l : M e n , W o m e n , a n d R a p e passim ( 1 9 7 5 ) ;
B r o w n m i l l e r , supra n o te 6 9 , a t 2 0 0 -0 1 .
104 See C a t h a r i n e A . M a c K i n n o n , Not a Moral Issue, in F e m i n i s m U n m o d i f i e d , supra
n o t e 1 , a t 14 6 ; C

a t h a r in e

A. M


in n o n

, O



9 -1

(19 9 3 ).

105 See N ichols v. Frank, 42 F.3d 503, 510 (9th Cir. 1994) (expressing reluctance to chill the
incidence o f legitm ate romance and stating that increased proxim ity breeds increased volitional
sexual activity); M iller v. Bank o f Am., 418 F. Supp. 233, 236 (N.D. Cal. 1976) (noting that sexual
attraction is a natural part o f w ork life), revd, 600 F.2d 211 (gth Cir. 1979).
106 See Ellison v. Brady, 924 F.2d 872, 880 (gth Cir. 1991) (suggesting an analogy to C yran o de
107 See, e.g., Jones v. Wesco Invs., Inc., 846 F.2d 1154, 1157 n.6 (8th Cir. 1988) (declaring that
too m uch liability for sexual harassment would cause either the collapse o f our com m ercial system or the end o f the human race (quoting B rief for Appellants at 23, Jones (No. 87-1992)) (inter
nal quotation m arks omitted)); Lloyd R. Cohn, Sexual Harassment and the I m w , S o c i e t y ,
M ay/June 1991, at 9 (recalling nostalgically a female colleague who groped the male author at



[V oi. 111:445

a n d erotic energy.108 T h is ofttcom e is h igh ly u n likely to occur,109 but it

illu stra te s the perils o f a m ean in gfu l definition o f reason reason
w ith teeth as a d evice to interpret and reglate sexual conduct.
D esp ite these infirm ities, reason is pertinent to the prevention and
red ress o f sexual harassm ent in a t least three w ays. First, an actor inclin e d to harass ou ght to use reason to m oderate his passions.110 S ec
on d , a ta rg et o f harassm ent o u gh t to use reason in reacting: there m ay
b e a rig h t w a y to respond to p ro v o ca tio n .111 T h ird , a person charged
w ith the ta sk o f factfin d in g or d ispu te resolution ought to use reason in
fr a m in g the stan dard to w h ich an accu sed in d ivid u al m ay be held.112
T h u s the error o f current doctrine is not its celebration o f reason, but
rath er its id en tification o f reason as an end in itself. For purposes o f
se x u a l h arassm en t law , reason is instead a m eans necessary to the
la rg e r goal o f protecting and a ffirm in g ind ivid u al dignity.l u

The Trouble w ith a Reasonable Person Standard

C o n sid e r n ow the possibility o f expungin g reason from the m eaning

o f rea so n a b le. T h e definition o f the w ord then becom es m ysterious,
as tria l ju d g es h ave learned to their discom fiture. For generations, app e lla te cou rts have found reversib le error in trial ju d g e s attem pts to
ex p la in the reasonableness stan dard to ju rie s,114 even though appellate
case la w itself has proved u n equ al to this ta sk .115 Accordin gly, the
d im en sion s o f the reasonable person have rem ained vagu e. A s far as
on e m a y con stru ct the reasonable person from negligence law, this per108 S ee H on. A lex Kozinski, Foreword to L i n d e m a n n & K a d u e , supra note 35, at v, ix-xi.
109 S ee L isa Jenner, Office Dating Policies: Is There a Workable Way?, H R Focus, N o v . 1993,
a t 5 (reporting the reluctance o f surveyed hum an-resource m anagers to get in volved in w orkers
p rva te lives); see also Law rence A. M ichaels & TVacy L. Thornburg, Although Employers Restrictions on Relationships Between Em ployees Can Give Rise to Claims, Some Restraints on O f
f i c e Rom ances May Withstand Challenge, N a t l L.J., Apr. 1, 1996, at B5 (noting that no-dating
policies m ay provoke lawsuits).
110 S ee A r i s t o t l e , N i c o m a c h e a n E t h i c s 81 (Martin O sw ald trans., Bobbs-M errill Co.
1962) (describing the duty to moderate on es passions).
111 Cf. Jo shu a Dressler, Provocation: Partial Justification or Partial E x cu se?, 51 M o d . L. R e v .
467, 469-70 (1988) (suggesting that certain responses to provocation are not justified, even if they
are excused); R achel J. Littm an, Adequate Provocation, In dividual Responsibility, and the Deconstruction o f Free Will, 60 A l b . L. R e v . i 127, 1167 (1997) (arguing that the provocation defense
should be interpreted to encourage individuis to train their passions).
112 I th a n k Steve H eym an for his thoughts about this subject, on which this paragraph relies.
113 S ee infra p. 483.
114 See Freem an v. Adam s, 218 P. 600, 601, 604 (Cal. Dist. Ct. App. 1923) (reversing because
reasonable and prudent m an w as described in personal terms); Louisville & N .R. Co. v. Gower,
3 S.W. 824, 827 (Tenn. 1887) (reversing ju d gm en t for the plaintiff, in part because the trial judge
im prop erly phrased the standard to the ju ry as such care as one o f you, sim ilarly employed,
w o u ld have exercised).
115 Cf. Reynolds, supra note 47, at 418 & n.51 (describing extreme judicial statem ents resultin g from attem pts to define the reasonable man); W arren A. Seavey, Negligence Subjective or
O b jectiv e?, 41 H a r v . L . R e v . i, 27 (1927) (concluding that the reasonable man cannot be fully
defin ed by o bjective standards).




son is characterized b y com m on sense and m oderation a p ru d en t,

sensible, centrist m em ber o f society, w ho shares its understandings.
D espite this definitional vagueness, the reasonable person is th e favo red d evice to establish the objective elem ent116 o f hostile e n v iro n
m ent sexual harassm ent com plaints.117 Som e virtues o f the sta n d a rd
are evident. It is fam iliar from other areas o f law; it purports to transcend gender, race, and other classifications that d ivid e h u m an ity.118
T h e flaw s o f the stan dard, however, are also manifest.
D oes the Reasonable M an Lurk Below? The C ip h er o f R ea so n
ableness. T h e reasonable person standard strikes m an y critics, not
all o f them feminists, as peculiarly hollow. N either reason ab le or
person gives the factfin d er m uch conten to explore. For hostile en
viron m ent cases, the reasonable person standard m ay be the la w , as
G eorge Rutherglen p u t it, but it m akes sense only if it is not ta k en too
For the purpose o f resolving sexual harassm ent claim s, the stan
d a r d s m ost crucial om ission pertains to gender. As Professor R u th e r
glen elaborates, an em ployee is sexually harassed because she is a
w om an, or because he is a man, and certainly not because her o r his
gender is irrelevant . . . . Y e t a standard fram ed in term s o f a reason
able perso n invites us to im agine a genderless victim o f h a ra ss
m ent.120 In search o f bland neutrality, courts and com m entators w h o
favor a reasonable person standard confound the purpose o f e m p lo y
m ent discrim ination law.
In positing a genderless victim o f sexual harassm ent, the reasonab le
person standard pushes under the rug an em barrassing m ass o f evidence indicating that gender affects the w a y men and w om en p e rceiv e
sexual behavior in the w orkplace. A reasonable person stan dard imp licitly denies that w om en and men are likely to react d ifferen tly to
sexual invitations, innuendo, teasing, or displays in the w o rk p la c e .121
Y e t em pirical findings show that men are relatively likely to feel flat116 See supra pp. 452 - 53 117 One leading reasonable person case established a duty on the trier o f fact to adopt th e per
spective o f a reasonable persons reaction to a similar environm ent under essentially like o r sim i
lar circum stances. Rabidue v. O sceola Ref. Co., 805 F.2d 6 11, 620 (6th Cir. 1986). T he Suprem e
C o u rt has also referred to the perspective of the reasonable person in its articulation o f a standard
to evalate the hostility or abusiveness o f a w ork environment. See Harris v. F orklift Sys., 510
U.S. 17, 22 (1993).
118 See Guidelines on H arassm ent Based on Race, Color, Religin, Gender, N ational O rigin,
A ge, or Disability, 58 Fed. Reg. 51,267 (1993) (stating that the reasonable person standard includes
consideration o f the perspective o f persons of the alleged v ictim s race, color, religin, gender, national origin, age, or disability), withdrawn in 59 Fed. Reg. 51,396 (1994).
119 George Rutherglen, Sexual Harassment: Ideology or Law?, 18 H a r v . J.L. & P B . P o l y 487,

496 ( 1995 )l -0 I d .
121 See Kathryn Abrams, G ender Discrimination and the Transformation o f Workplace N orm s,
42 V

an d

. L. R e

. 1 1 8 3 , 1202 (19 8 9 ).



[V o l. 111:445

tered or am used, w hereas wqm en are relatively likely to feel frightened

or insulted , b y sex-related beh avior or displays at w o r k .122 In par
ticular, the reasonab le w om an fears rape, and this fear is so (justifia b ly) stron g th at lesser incursions rem ind her th a t she cou ld be
r a p e d .123 W hen these incursions are pervasive, her en viron m en t is a
hostile one. W h a t does the reasonable person thin k abou t rape? T h e
sta n d a rd keeps silent. It cannot tell ju d ges or ju ries h o w m uch o f each
g e n d e r s discrete perspective is to be included in the am algam .
E tv m o lo g y and legal history are o f little help in m a k in g the reason
a b le person m ore than a cipher. D espite the lack o f sp ecificity conv e y e d b y this stan dard, how ever, it is clear that the reasonable person
retain s som e gender: legal scholars agree that the reasonable person
b egan life as the reasonable m an and retains some o f his m asculine asp e c t.124 In stan dard reference w orks, the reasonable m an qua m an still
ex ists.125 M a n y m odern authorities prefer to speak o f gender neutrality, how ever, and regard the reasonable m an as an anachronism . O bvio u sly, this form o f description is now ou tdated, declares a popular

122 See D a v i d M . B u s s , T h e E v o l u t i o n o f D e s i r e : S t r a t e g i e s o f H u m a n M a t i n g 160

(1994); B a r b a r a G u t e k , S e x a n d t h e W o r k p l a c e : T h e I m p a c t o f S e x u a l B e h a v i o r a n d
H a r a s s m e n t o n W o m e n , M e n , a n d O r g a n i z a t i o n s 88, 96-97 (1983); Jolynn C hilders, Note,
Is There a Place fo r a Reasonable Woman in the Law? A Discussion o f R ecent Developments in
H ostile Environm ent Sexual Harassment, 42 D u k e L.J. 854, 868 n.45 (1993) (citing Joann S.
L u b lin , Thomas Battle Spotlights Harassment, W a l l S t . J., Oct. 9, 1991, at B i , B5). But see
B a rb a ra A . G u tek & M aureen O Connor, The Em pirical Basis fo r the Reasonable Woman Stan
dard, 51 J S o c . I s s u e s i s 1, 155-36, 161 (1993) (retreating in part from G u te k s earlier w ork that
supported the reasonable wom an standard); M ichael Rubenstein, Harassment P o licies Show
Crow ing Sophistication, E q u a l O p p o r t u n i t i e s R e v ., Nov.-Dec. 1992, at 32, 33 (quoting a
B ritish su rvey that found agreement between men and women on whether certain behaviors constituted sexual harassment); cf. infra pp. 472-74 (questioning the unitary construct o f w om an to
support generalizations about sexual harassment).
123 S ee B r o w n m i l l e r , supra n o te 10 3 , a t 2 4 7 - 4 8 ; C y n t h i a G r a n t B o w m a n , Street Harassment
and the Informal Ghettoization o f Women, 10 6 H a r v . L . R e v . 5 1 7 , 5 3 5 - 3 6 (19 9 3 ). P r o fe s s o r
C a r o l y n B r a t t o n c e a s k e d e a c h s t u d e n t in h e r c r i m in a l l a w c la s s w h a t h e o r s h e d i d o n a d a il y
b a s i s t o p r e v e n t s e x u a l a s s a u lt .

T h e m a le s t u d e n t s r e p o r t e d n o t h in g ; t h e w o m e n t a l k e d a b o u t

l o o k i n g i n t o t h e b a c k s e a t s o f t h e ir c a r s b e f o r e g e t t i n g in , s le e p in g w i t h l o c k e d w i n d o w s in h o t

See L y n n
Is the Law Male?: Let M e Count the Ways, 6 9 C h i . - K e n t L . R e v . 3 9 7 , 4 0 6 - 0 7

w e a t h e r , c a r r y i n g f ir e a r m s , a v o i d i n g d a r k p u b li c p la c e s , a n d o t h e r q u o t i d i a n d e t a ils .
H e c h t S c h a fra n ,

1993 ).

124 See G u i d o C a l a b r e s i , I d e a l s , B e l i e f s , A t t i t u d e s , a n d t h e L a w 2 2 - 2 3 (19 8 3 ); H i la r y

O ne Law fo r A ll Reasonable Persons?, 16 I n t i. J. S o c . L . 4 1 9 , 4 2 2 - 2 4 (19 8 8 ); L e s lie
B e n d e r , A Lawyers Prim er on Fem inist Theory and Tort, 38 J . L e g a l E d u c . 3 , 2 2 2 3 (198 8);
C o l l i n s , supra n o t e 5 7 , a t 3 1 7 - 2 0 , 3 2 3 ; E s t r ic h , supra n o te 4 , a t 8 46 ; L u c i n d a M. F in l e y , A Break
in the Silence: Including Womens Issues in a Torts Course, 1 Y a l e J .L . & F e m i n i s m 4 1 , 5 7 - 6 3
( 19 8 9 ) ; C a r o l i n e F o r e l l, Essentialism , Empathy, and the Reasonable Woman, 19 9 4 U . I I I . L . R e v .
7 ^ 9 , 773 - 74 ; W e n d y P a r k e r , The Reasonable Person: A Gendered Concept?, 2 3 V i c t o r i a U .
A lie n ,

W e l l i n g t o n L . R e v . 10 5 , 1 0 5 - 0 6 , 1 1 0 (19 9 3 ).

2S T h e Restatem ent o f Torts states the negligence standard as that o f the reasonable man. See
( S e c o n d ) o f T o r t s 283, 291 (1965). T he current edition o f B la cks Law Dictionary provides an entry for reasonable m an but not reasonable w o m an or reasonable perso n . B l a c k s L a w D i c t i o n a r y 1266 (6th ed. 1990).

estatem e n t




casebook; [t]he form used here is the reasonable, prudent p erso n .126
O b v io u sly ? I f the history o f the reasonable person reveis a n yth in g, it
reveis disagreem ent about w h at the term means. Perhaps the reason
able person is inevitably a reasonable man, as Leslie B en d e r
ch arges,127 incapable o f assim ilating that w hich is not m ale, w h ite,
and prop ertied .128 O r perhaps the reasonable person a d octrin al
d evice frequ en tly turned over to a cross section o f lay citizens is
m ore lik e ly to prom ote progress and d iversity w ithin authority than
are the elites w h o decry it.129 Those w h o despair that the reasonable
person can shed its gendered origins believe that the shift from m a n to
person is sem antic, too shallow to penetrate the longstanding a ttitu d e
that the reasonable person is w hat Susan E strich once called a real
m a n .130 Judges, w h o in the past read the w ord person sp ecifica lly
to exelude w om en ,131 m ay be vulnerable to the sam e biased tradition.
B u t these conclusions are speculative; the m eaning o f reasonable person rem ains a cipher.
Ideologies Em bedded in Reasonableness. A lth o u gh the rea
sonableness stan dard lacks clear content, it is also vu ln erab le to the
opposite criticism : below the universalism on its surface, reason ab le
ness contains ideologies that are particularistic and oppressive. B ecause these m eanings o f reasonable are covert, it is difficult to say
how m uch danger they represent. N evertheless, attention to these em
bed d ed biases suggests the futility of an y progressive rem edial sta n
d ard based on w h a t is average, shared, or centrist.
Pluralism,. In her im portant article on hostile en viron m en t
sexual harassm ent, N an cy Ehrenreich attacks the assum ption b eh in d
the reasonableness standard that sexual harassm ent law fu n ctio n s in
an egalitarian and pluralistic w orld.132 A ccord in g to E h renreich, the
id eology o f pluralism contains certain tenets. First, the ideal dem ocratic society is com prised o f com peting subgroups, writh none d om inating. Second, this society denies the existence o f absolute truths.

126 J o

, W

h n

W. W

ad e an d

ad e


, V

c t o r

w a r t z s

E. Sc h

w artz,

ases an d

Ka th


a t e r ia l s o n



& D a v id

F. P a r t l e t t , P

ro s-

14 6 ( g t h e d . 19 9 4 ).

127 See Bender, supra note 124, at 23.

128 Forell, supra note 124, at 770; see also 1 M e r r i c k T. R o s s e i n , E m p l o y m e n t D i s c r i m i n a t i o n : L a w a n d L i t i g a t i o n 6-34.1 (1990) idtations omitted) (stating that ingrained w h ite
male notions o f w h at is acceptable define the reasonable person).
129 T h is suggestion extends slightly an argument made in Paul T. Hayden, Cultural N orm s as
Law: Tort Law s Reasonable Person Standard o f Care , 15 J . A m . C u l t u r e 4 5 , 5 0 - 5 3 (19 9 2 ).
130 S u


s t r ic h

, Re

a l

R a p e 65 (19 8 7 ).

131 See B rad w ell v. Illinois, 83 U.S. (16 Wall.) 442, 445 (1873) (construing person" in an Illinois
attorney license statute to mean m an); Parker, supra note 124, at 109 n.28 (describing one c o u r ts
construction o f a statute to exciude women from practicing law, even though the statute u sed the
w ord persons rather than men and specifically provided that every w ord im porting the masculine gender only shall extend and be applied to a female as well as a m ale).
132 Ehrenreich, supra note 8, at 1230-31.



[V o l. 111:4 4 5

T h ir d , the role o f the state is to p erm it all o f these groups to flourish

and contribute to g o vern an ce.133
P luralism o f this kind th w a rts the reform ist am bitions o f T itle V I I
a n d oth er legal rem edies for sexu al harassm ent. B y em phasizing toleration and consensus, w h ile d iscla im in g absolutist statem ents o f truth,
p lu ralism decrees in effect th a t the fam ous p la in tiff V ivien ne R abid u e
is no m ore or less entitled to v ic to r y in court than D ouglas Henry, the
m an w h o plagu ed her w ith sex-related insults after she took a jo b prev io u sly closed to w om en .134 H e r rig h t to be free from harassm ent is
m irrored b y his freedom to harass. [T]he concepts o f freedom and sec u rity are relational (one g r o u p s lib erty is an oth ers inju ry),13S and
reasonableness can not exp lain w h y one set of interests outw eighs anoth er.136
Isola tio n and D ep o liticiza tio n . The reasonable person, until
tin kerers began to m od ify the sta n d a rd ,13"' could be seen as a hum an
b ein g w ith ou t group-related id en tifica tion .138 A lth ou gh people live in
a w o rld influenced b y social construction, the reasonableness standard
d isa vo w s group-based sources o f identity; the reasonable person is
sup posed to be free o f d istractin g mem ories, political com m itm ents,
and group loyalties.139 L ik e the R aw lsian creature w ho peers at the
w o rld from behind his ve il o f ign oran ce in order to m ake ex ante
choices, the reasonable person possesses an absolutely separate and
d iscrete self.140
A ffilia tiv e homo sapiens can n o t su rvive w ith ou t personal relationships, but group identities press harder on the consciousness o f subord in ated people such that, as a general rule, w h ite A m erican s giv e
re la tiv e ly little thought to their race, A m erican Protestants tend to
v ie w their religious id en tity in sp iritu al terms rather than as an im m u
133 S ee id. at 1188-90.
134 S ee id. a t 1221-22 (citing Rabidue v. O sceola Ref. Co., 805 F.2d 611 (6th Cir. 1986)).
135 Id. at 1223.
136 A lthough one m ight distinguish active from passive courses of conduct in order to conclude
th at R a b id u es right to be let alone is stronger than H enrys right to harass, a disdnction o f this
kind does not indcate which set o f w ishes is more reasonable and leaves open several questions,
some o f w hich are taken up in the literature on crim inal law. See, e.g., Kyron Huigens, Virtue and
Inculpation, 108 H a r v . L . R e v . 1 4 2 3 , 1 4 2 9 - 3 1 ( 1 9 9 5 ) (discussing the philosophical conundrum o f
ap p lying a balancing-of-interests test, a reasonableness approach, to self-defense); D an M . Kahan & M a rth a C. Nussbaum , Two Conceptions o f Em otion in Crim inal Law, 9 6 C o lu m . L . R e v .
2 6 9 , 3 0 6 - 2 3 (19 9 6 ) (explaining the provocation defense in terms o f a reason-based, ev alu ative
conception o f emotion).
137 See infra p p . 4 7 7 - 8 0 .
138 Cf. A v i a m S o i f e r , L a w a n d t h e C o m p a n y W e K e e p i (1996) ( a r g u in g t h a t A m e r i c a n
l e g a l t r a d i t io n s n e g l e c t g r o u p - b a s e d s o u r c e s o f id e n t ific a tio n ) .

139 S ee Dolores A. D onovan & Stephanie M. W ildm an, Is the Reasonable Man Obsolete? A
C ritical Perspective on Self-Defense and Provocation, 14 L o y . L.A. L. R e v . 435, 436-37, 462-67
140 Cf. L in d a R. Hirshman, Is the O riginal Position Inherently M ale-Superior?, 94 C OLU M . L.
R e v . 1860, 1881 (1994) (criticizing Rawls).




table m arker o f w ho they are, and heterosexual men are not m u ch preoccupied w ith gender and sexual orientation. E v e ry hum an b ein g is
en dow ed w ith particularistic traits, but some groups experience their
particulars m ore consciously and intensely than others, and these
groups w ill find dissonance in the cali to be reasonable. A s G u id o
C alab resi and others arge, this asym m etry means that the reason
ableness inquiry reinforces m ajority dom inance.141 Im p licitly it posits
a norm in w hich men and m ajority groups occupy the center a n d oth
ers the periphery.142
In denying group iden tity and self-concepts that extend b eyon d the
ind ivid ual, the reasonableness standard is im plicitly opposed to conscious political or historical postures. T h is resolute inattention to
group-based m em ory is contrary to the kind o f thinking that ignites
sexual harassm ent claim s. It m ay be surm ised, for instance, th a t min ority w om en are m ore likely than w hite w om en to choose to bring
sexual harassm ent claim s because their experience w ith past d iscrim i
nation causes them to conclude, m ore q u ick ly and certain ly than
w o u ld w hite wom en, th at their w ork environm ent is not benign. D ifferent histories yield differen t judgm en ts o f w orkin g conditions, de
spite the claim s o f u n iversality im plicit in the reasonableness stan dard.
L ifted out o f context, one incident at w ork m ay seem trivial; history
and political affiliation m a y cast the incident in a more m alevolen t
lig h t.143
Assum ption o f R isk and Consensus. A s C atharine M a cK in n o n
has pointed out, the reasonable person standard carries the risk that
ju d ges and others m ight infer that the reasonable person w ou ld a ccep t
ord inary or w idespread behavior, so that the pervasiveness o f an
a b u se could m ake that conduct non-actionable.144 W hen V ivien n e

See, e.g., C a l a b r e s i , supra note 1 2 4 , at 2 7 - 3 2 .
See Bender, supra note 1 2 4 , at 25; Ehrenreich, supra note 8, at 1 2 1 3 .
143 For an illustration o f this point, consider the recurring problem o f pin-ups and nude photographs o f women in the workplace. Comm entators disagree about whether such displays cau se or
indcate a hostile environment. A t the center of this disagreement is a dispute over how these im
ages o f women objectified, flattened into two dimensions, physically exposed relate to the
wom en who work am idst these depicons. Perhaps the reasonable person know s an d cares
nothing about M acKinnonite talk o f objectification and subordination; such a person m igh t think
that wom en at work are individuis unaected by pictures of others. E qually plausible, th e reasonable person m ight believe that these images function to give women in the im m ediate envi
ronment a message that they are nothing but flesh, to be used and despised. Although neither
view is precluded by a reasonableness standard, the latter approach requires a level o f o v e rt po
litical engagement that the standard appears to disdain.
144 M a c K i n n o n , supra note 1, at 115. M acK innon w as quoted with approval in R oin son v.
Jacksonville Shipyards, Inc., 760 F. Supp. 1486, 1526 (M .D. Fia. 1991). Tort law has long recognized the dangers o f inferring reasonableness from the pervasiveness of a particular behavior. In
a landm ark torts case, Judge Learned H and wrote that custom alone does not determine reason
ableness: an entire industry or sector could be wrong, and the custom unreasonable. S e e N ew
E ngland C oal & Coke Co. v. Northern Barge Corp. (The T.J. Hooper), 60 F.2d 737, 740 (2d Cir.



[Vol. 111:445

R a b id u e entered a porn ograph y-strew n w orkp lace as one o f a m inority

o f fem ale em ployees doing rela tiv ely high-status w o rk , and later obje c te d to the conditions o f this w orkp lace, she challen ged an en viron
m en t th at p ro b ab ly seem ed reasonable to its inh abitants. H er ob jections, w h ich d ep arted from the norm at O sceola, w ere correlatively
un reason able, accord in g to the cou rt th at heard her cla im .14S U nder
this k in d o f assum ption-of-risk logic, the reasonable person stan dard
coexists com fortab ly w ith a certain am ou nt of harassm ent.
C a th a rin e M a cK in n o n en visages sexual harassm ent as business as
u su al in a gendered w o rk w o rld , such that an y stan dard grounded in
consensus or average expectations w o u ld perm it harassm ent to flourish .146 H e r point is supported b y research suggesting that both w om en
and m en tend to believe th at w om en dress sed u ctively at w o r k 147 and
th at som e w om en a v id ly seek ou t w h a t other people w ou ld deem ha
rassm en t.148 A w om an w ho w a n ts to prosper on the jo b m ust consider
the exp ectation that she b eh a ve in a fem inine m anner.149 I f w om en
m u st be fem inine a t w ork, then m en m ust be m asculine, and thus
w om en m a y feel com pelled to pro ject an im age o f sexual availability,
w h ile m en expect w om en to pro ject such an im age.1S0 In this gen
dered eq uilib riu m , it is a sp oilsport com plainant, rather than an aggressor, w h o w ill seem unreasonable.
M isu se o f the Reasonableness Standard. Som e proponents o f
the p rin cip al alternative, a reasonable w om an stan dard, arge that
referen ce to the reasonable person m isdirects courts and ju rors. Toni
L ester sees a connection b etw een the reasonable person stan dard and
m isogyn ous stereotypin g.151 A s she points out, ju d icia l opinions that
use the reasonable person stan dard have blam ed w om en for dressing
p ro v o cativ ely, w ondered w h y com plainants took so lon g to com plain,
an d d isap p roved o f w om en w h o talk about h a vin g fan tasized .152
1932) ( C ourts m ust n the end say w h at is required; there are precautions so im perative that even
their universal disregard w ill not excuse their omission.).
145 See R abidue v. O sceola Ref. C o., 584 F. Supp. 419, 433 (E.D. M ich. 1984), a ffd , 805 F.2d
6 11 (6th Cir. 1986). T he trial judge w rote that ubiquitous displays o f pornography did not create
an offensive w o rk environm ent under T itle V II because modera A m erica features open displays
o f w ritten and pictorial ertica. . . . L iv in g in this milieu, the average A m erican should not be legally offended by sexually explicit posters. Id.
146 See M a c K i n n o n , supra n o te 1 , a t 1 1 5 .
147 See G u t e k , supra note 122, at 96-99.
148 A lm ost no women aim this belief at them selves. See id. at 99.
149 See, e.g., Price YVaterhouse v. H opkins, 490 U.S. 228, 235-37 (1989) (discussing the assertion
th at the p lain tiff was denied a prom otion for not conforming to a feminine stereotype); cf. Note,
Patriarchy Is S u ch a Drag: The Strategic P ossibilities o f a Postm odem Account o f G ender, 108
H a r v . L. R e v . 1973, 1996 (1995) ( W orkin g wom en perceived to be too masculine . . . m ay be
deem ed bad m others.).
150 See M a c K i n n o n , supra note 4, at 18, 22-23.
151 See Toni Lester, The Reasonable Woman Test in Sexual Harassment Imw Will It Really
M ake a D ifference?, 26 I n d . L. R e v . 227, 232-42 (1993).
152 See id. at 237.




W h eth er Professor Lester is right to lay these sins a t the feet o f the
reasonable person standard m ay be debated; although fem ale plaintiffs
h a ve a rg u ab ly had more success using the reasonable w om an stan
d a rd ,153 the reasonable w om an hardly guarantees victo ry .154 B u t one
m ight agree that the va cu ity o f the term reasonable person could
cause a ju d icia l m ind to w ander and becom e distracted b y hem lines or
testim on y about raunch y office talk. O ne student com m entator m akes
a sim ilar point b y arguing in favor o f a reasonable w om an stan dard
despite endorsing an objective standard; he m aintains that the reason
able person is so am orphous that judges and ju rors can not form any
im age w h en the standard is used.155 W hether one thinks that u n iversalism should be exalted or despised, the reasonableness stan d ard can
not d eliver it.

o c t r in a l

R e v is i n : T


R easo n a blen ess Q


T h is P art o f the A rticle advances tw o propositions. First, b y revie w in g cases and academ ic literature, it underscores the point m ade
by Justice Scalia in his Harris concurrence: no satisfactory stan dard
for hostile environm ent sexual harassm ent now exists.156 Ju d ges and
scholars h ave proved that they can neither fram e an app rop riate ob
je c tiv e standard, or arge convincingly that the o b jective stan dard
ought to be dropped. These circum stances suggest d octrinal trouble
and the need for an alternative. Second, this Part urges the read er to
d ra w a pointed inference. A s discussed above, reasonable person
p rovides neither gender neutrality or m eaningful content. T h e further failure o f reasonable w om an to im prove on reasonable p erso n ,
the fu tility o f continuing to tinker ad absurdum , and the perils of
aban d on in g ob jectivity add up to a strong condem nation o f a n y stan
dard based on reasonableness. T h e inference urged is that the a d je c
tive, rather than the noun, needs replacem ent.

Innovation: The Reasonable Woman

T h e id ea of a reasonable w om an in the law has long p ro v o k ed titters. R ecall A lan H erb erts fam ous little joke:
T h e v iew that there exists a class of beings, illogical, im pulsive, careless,
irresponsible, extravagant, prejudiced, and vain, free for the m ost p a rt
from those w orthy and repellent excellences w hich distinguish the R easo n
able M an , and devoted to the irrational arts o f pleasure and attraction, is
one w h ich should be as welcome . . . in our C ourts as it is in our d raw in g -

153 See Childers, supra note 122, at 894 n.133.

,S4 See id. a t9 0 i n.153.
155 See D avid L. Pinkston, Comment, Redefining Objectivity: The Case fo r a Reasonable
Woman Standard in Hostile Environment Claims, 1993 B Y U L. R e v . 363, 374-75.
ls6 See H arris v. Forklift Sys., Inc., s i o U.S. 17, 24 (1993) (Scalia, ]., concurring).



[V o l. 111:4 4 5

room s. I find therefore th at at C om raon L aw a reasonable w om an does

n o te x is t


N o w S ir A la n is gone, and the reasonable w om an stan dard has

b een a p p ro v ed in a n u m ber o f fed eral courts,158 as w ell as state courts
c a lle d on to interpret analogues to T itle V II.159 A cco rd in g to E lliso n v.
B ra d y ,160 the o b jective criterion for a claim o f hostile en viron m ent
sex u a l harassm en t is satisfied if the p la in ff can show that a reason
a b le w om an w o u ld h ave fou n d the challenged w orkp lace en viron m ent
to be hostile or a b u siv e.161 T h e stan dard contines to gain influence
b u t has also p ro v o k ed resistan ce.162
D ifferen t Strokes, or The Charge o f False E ssentialism . - C on sid er this exchange:
P l a y b o y : Some courts have held that sexual harassment charges should
be viewed from the standard of a reasonable woman. Do you agree?
[N a d in e ] S t r o s s e n : T h e re s no such thing as a reasonable-w om an stan
dard. A couple o f w eeks ago, I d id a panel discussion on Court T V w ith a
fem ale gender discrim ination law yer. W e talked abou t the case kn ow n as
E lliso n vs. Brady, in vo lvin g u nrequited love betw een IRS em ployees: A
male em ployee asked a fem ale em ployee out for drinks and dinner. W hen
she d id n t respond, he pursued her w ith letters. T h e other fem ale law yer
on the panel described her ow n reaction as: T h is m an w rote notes that
w ere so threatening and so in tim id ating that I kn ow if I had gotten them,
I d have been really frigh tened. I said, I c a n t believe it. I thought
those notes were so pathetic. I felt sorry for the m an . A n d A rth u r M iller,
w h o w as the moderator, said: W ell, which one o f you is the reasonable
w om an


,S7 A.P. H e r b e r t , M i s l e a d i n g C a s e s i n t h e C o m m o n L a w 20 ( is t A m . ed. 1930).

158 See, e.g., B urn s v. M cG regor E lec. ndus. Inc., 989 F.2d 959, 965 (8th Cir. 1993); Y ates v.
A v c o Corp., 819 F.2d 630, 637 (6th Cir. 1987): Sm olsky v. C onsolidated Rail Corp., 780 F. Supp.
283, 294 (E.D . Pa. 1991).
See Bougie v. Sibley Manor, Inc., 504 N .W .2d 493, 498 (Minn. C t. App. 1993); Wood v. E m
erson Elec. C o ., N o. 01-A-01-9310-CH 00467, 1994 W L 716270, at * 1 5 - 1 6 (Tenn. C t. A pp. Aug. 12,

1994 ).
160 924 F.2d 872 (9th Cir. 1991). E lliso n is considered the leading case. H ow Ellison achieved
this stature is not quite clear. It w a s not the first federal court opinion to adopt the reasonable
w om an standard in a reported hostile environm ent sexual harassm ent case; that honor probably
goes to Yates, see 819 F.2d at 637. Professor Forell, however, describes E llison as the first case to
explicitly ad op t a fem inist versin o f the standard. Forell, supra note 124, at 797.
161 See E lliso n , 924 F.2d at 878-79. A student commentator elaborates that the reasonable
w om an has reasonable expectations con cem in g w h at is appropriate and inappropriate, w h at is
fa ir and unfair. . . . [She assesses] th at w hich is fair, proper, just, and suitable under the circum stances, while takin g into consideration a backdrop o f female life experiences. Bonnie B. Westm an, N ote, The Reasonable Woman Standard: Preventing Sexu a l Harassment in the Workplace,
18 W



it c h e l l

L. R


. 7 9 5 , 8 1 9 (19 9 2 ).

See, e.g., Todd B. Adam s, Universalism and Sexual Harassment, 4 4 O K I .A L . R e v . 6 8 3 ,

6 8 5 -8 9 (19 9 1).

163 D orothy Atcheson, Defending Pomography: Face to Face w ith the President o f the A C L U ,
, Feb. 1 9 9 5 , at 3 7 , 39 .

la ybo y




In a m ore scholarly m dium , A n gela Harris arges that p ostu lates

abou t the nature o f w o m a n are often tainted w ith the bias o f the
w riter.164 H er critique o f the essentialism and racism im plicit in discussions o f the nature o f w om an also applies to attem pts to d elineate
the reasonable w o m a n : those w ho envision the reasonable w o m a n
m ay actu ally have a w h ite w om an in mind. M inority w o m e n s exp eriences are thus ignored. T h is point inverts George R u th erglen s criticism o f the reasonable person standard.165 W hereas the reason ab le
person stan dard seems to convey specific inform ation abou t o b je c tiv e
criteria but is actually, according to Rutherglen, vague to the po in t o f
inanity, the reasonable w om an standard looks general but is sp ecific.
A n exam ination o f the hidden norm ative premises o f the reason ab le
w om an stan dard m ight reveal this profile: white, heterosexual, upperincom e, som ething o f a m oderate or liberal fem inist, u ntroubled b y in
tense religious feeling, and a little prissier than the reasonable person
in reacting to office shenanigans. In its hidden specificity, the reason
able w om an standard elevates one type above others such th at she requires no m odifiers, w hereas departures from this norm m ight in clu d e
the reasonable w om an o f color, reasonable lesbian, or reason ab le
blue-collar w o m a n . A w om an w ho does not fit in the confines o f the
profile thus m ay not find a place in the unm odified reasonable w o m a n
Fem in ist w riters h a ve w ritten extensively about the d an gers o f
w h a t they cali essentialism .166 W hile com m ending attention to gen d er
and deem ing it long overdu e w ithin the law, these scholars have urged
courts and scholars not to construct a unitary, polarized w o m a n th at
w ou ld ham per the m ovem ents and variations found w ithin the fem ale
po pu lation .167 A gendered variation on the reasonable person im plies
a confining standard. A s K athryn A bram s elaborates, one tenet o f
fem inism that w om en have been and rem ain oppressed h as begotten an entire generation of beliefs about fem ale agen cy th a t im pede
progress and m isdescribe the life experiences o f m an y w o m e n .168
M ore, perhaps, than the reasonable man or reasonable person sta n
dard, the reasonable w om an standard contains the m anacles o f gender-

164 See A ngela P. Harris, Race and Essentialism in Fem inist Lega! Theory, 42 S t a n . L. R e v .
581 passim (1990).
165 See supra p. 465.
166 See, e.g., Patricia A. Cain, Lesbian Perspective, Lesbian Experience, and the Risk o f E ssen
tialism, 2 V a . J. S o c . P o l y & L . 43 (1994); Harris, supra note 164; see also Merle H. Weiner, D om estic Violence and the Per Se Standard o f Outrage, 54 M d. L. R ev . 183, 226-27 & n.200 (1995)
(describing evidence o f class and race bias in attempts to generalize about women).
167 See E lizabeth M. Schneider, Particularity and Generality: Challenges o f F em inist Theory
and Practice in Work on Woman-Abuse, 67 N .Y .U . L. R ev . 520, 566 (1992) (Th ere is no single
reasonable w o m an .).
168 See K athryn Abram s, Sex Wars Redux: Agency and Coercion in Fem inist Legal Theory, 95

o lu m

L. R e v . 304, 337 (19 9 5 )-



[V o l. 111:445

oppression, even th o u gh it seeks to reduce the effects o f this oppression.

H old ing M en to a F em ale Standard. T h e reasonable w om an
stan d ard requires the factfin d er to p u t him self, or herself, in the place
o f the com plainant. H e, or she, m ust try to suppose h ow a reasonable
w om an w o u ld react to a set o f w o rk p la ce conditions. A s these aw kw a rd gram m atical locutions su ggest, the exercise m ay be diffcult.
A m ale juror, ju d g e , or lab o r arb itra to r cannot easily apply the reason able w om an stan dard. A lth o u g h the standard im plies th at men
an d w om en are im m u ta b ly d ifferen t and perhaps m u tu ally uncom prehen d in g and also that this ga p is especially w id e and deep w hen
hostile en viron m en t sexual harassm en t is alleged this factfin d er is
ch arged w ith the task o f som ehow transcending these d ifferen ces.169 I f
he uses w om en he k n ow s w ell as reference points (H o w w o u ld m y
w ife feel?), he veers into su b je c tiv ity and distinctions based on race
and class. I f he avoid s this k in d o f specific thinking, then he m ust resort to speculation, or som e self-fram ed variation on the reasonable
m an or reasonable person stan d ard , or perhaps som e un auth orized research on the nature o f w om en - all o f w h ich com pel him to disobey
ju r y instructions or oth erw ise fail to a p p ly the law. O f course, this dilem m a presum es a sym path etic attitu d e on the p a rt o f this w ellinten tioned factfinder. H e m a y feel otherwise. A s Tod d A d am s w ants
to know , w h y should courts p rivileg e the beliefs o f a reasonable
w om an o v er those o f a reasonable m an ?170 O ne cou ld certain ly m ake
a case fo r this sort o f a ffirm a tiv e action, but until its proponents exp lain it, the reasonable w om an stan dard rem ains anom alous and per
haps un just.
In stitu tion al com petence is another concern. F rom the snickers
th a t accom p an ied the inclusin o f sex in the C iv il R ights A c t o f 1964
a few racist congressm en th o u gh t the idea of m a k in g sex d iscrim i
nation illegal w as so ludicrous th a t this one w ord w o u ld kill the b il171
th rough the behaviors o f variou s senators d u rin g the C laren ce
T h o m a s confrm ation process, an d into the present tim e, legal institu169 S ee Paul B. Johnson, The Reasonable Woman in Sexual Harassment Law: Progress or IIlu
si n ?, 28 W a k e F o r e s t L. R e v . 619, 636 (1993).
170 See A dam s, supra note 1 6 2 , at 6 8 7 . N a n cv Ehrenreich makes a sim ilar point in her discussion o f the Rabidue case: if D ouglas H enry called Vivienne Rabidue filthy ames at w ork, it is not
possible to kn o w whose freedom should p revail (H en rys to cali ames or R abid u es to be free of
nam e-calling) w ithout resort to some norm ative premise. See Ehrenreich, supra note 8, at 12 2122.

171 See

N o rb ert


S c h le i,

Forew ord




Sc h




ro ssm an

The New Republic w e n t o n r e c o r d

c a l l i n g th e a m e n d m e n t a m is c h i e v o u s j o k e , S e x and Nonsense, N e w R e p u b l i c , S e p t . 4 , 19 6 5 ,
a t 10 , a n d t h e c o n t e m p o r a r y Congressional Record is c o n s is t e n t w i t h t h is in t e r p r e t a t io n , see 1 1 0

m plo ym en t


e c

is c r im in a t io n


a t x i - x i i ( 2 d e d . 19 8 3).

. 2 5 7 7 - 8 4 ( 19 6 4 ) ( s t a t e m e n t o f R e p . S m it h , a s p o n s o r ) ( W o u l d y o u h a v e a n y s u g g e s -

t io n s a s to w h a t c o u r s e o u r G o v e r n m e n t m i g h t p u r s u e to p r o t e c t o u r s p i n s t e r f r i e n d s i n t h e ir
r i g h t t o a n ic e h u s b a n d a n d f a m i l y ? ).




tions h ave not proved their ability to respond w ell to sexual harass
m ent. T h e y ju st d o n t get it, w ent the fem inist clich circa 19 9 1:172
w hether the harm is rape, incest, inadequate research abou t treatm ents
for disease, lack o f access to abortion, vio len t or d egrad ing pornography, un equal pay, unequal education, or a n y other gender-related inju stice, the U nited States legal system is m ore slothful and com placent
in its responses to harm s than m any fem inists w ou ld like. G ive n a re
cord o f failures, some find it hard to sum m on any optim ism for a reasonable w om an standard that could prevail in a hostile, or at least uncom prehending, environm ent.
j . Condescension, Stereotyping, and the Pedestal. Some w riters
are offend ed by the reasonable wom an standard, fin d in g it patron izin g
to w o m e n .173 To one critic, the standard divides hu m an ity into persons and w om en.174 It also seems to contm plate a fragile, ultrasensitiv e victim whose m ale counterpart is incapable o f self-con trol.17S The
stan dard encourages each p lain tiff to tell a fam iliar sto ry o f fear, degradation, and failure at self-help. She needs rescue in the form o f a label that credits her w ith sensitivity and defenselessness.176 T h e reasonable w om an standard also reminds som e w riters o f prior m isplaced
efforts to shield w om en from a harsh w orld by restricting their free
d o m .177 O ne com m entator arges that w hile the reasonable person
172 See A nth on y Lewis, Abroad at Home: Wages o f Cynicism , N .Y . T i m e s , O ct. n , 1991, at A31
(faulting members of the Senate Judiciary Committee for insensitivity to w o m en s experience and
173 W omen in particular tend to be skeptical o f the reasonable wom an standard, to offer altern atives that refer to context and perspective, or to praise the reasonable wom an in guarded
terms. Some women can scarcely contain their contempt for the idea. See, e.g., Tam a Starr, A
Reasonable Woman, R e a s o n , Feb. 1994, at 48, 49 ([I]s the menstrual cycle itself the signifier of
fem ale reasonableness? Do our courts and legislators intend that businesses be run on a lunar
cycle, w ith preordained times for mass edema, irritability, and ovulation?); Cam ille Paglia, R e m arks on Crossfire (C N N televisin broadcast, Nov. 26, 1993), available in L E X IS , N ew s Library,
Script F ile (stating that women must learn how to play hardball rather than expect the protection o f a reasonable woman standard). One well-respected conservative ju d ge, Edith Jones, has
disapproved o f the standard, ruling that harassment must rise to the level o f destroying
[w om en s] equal opportunity in the w orkplace to create a hostile environm ent claim. D eAngelis
v. E l Paso M un. Plice Officers A ss n, 51 F.3d 591, 593 (sth Cir. 1995) ( N o w that most Am erican
wom en are w orking outside the home, in a broad range o f occupations and w ith ever-increasing
responsibility, it seems perverse to claim that they need the protection o f a preferential stan
d ard.). In an opinion written by another distinguished wom an judge, the N ew Jersey Suprem e
C o u rt ventured a compromise between the reasonable person and reasonable wom an standards.
See Lehm ann v. Toys R Us, 626 A .2d 445, 453 (N.J. 1993).
174 See Finley, supra note 124, at 64.
175 See Adam s, supra note 162, at 686.
176 See N aom i Cahn, The Looseness o f Legal Language: The Reasonable Woman Standard in
Theory and in Practice, 77 C O R N E L L L . R e v . 13 9 8 , 1 4 1 6 (19 9 2 ).
177 Cf. Kathleen A. Kenealy, Sexual Harassment and the Reasonable Woman Standard, 8 L a b .
L a w . 2 0 3, 2 0 4 (19 9 2 ) (warning that the reasonable woman standard could become as controversial
as another altruistically intended reform, race-based affirm ative action). O ne exam ple o f these
reform efforts is the protective labor legislation of the early twentieth century that, like the reasonable w om an standard, celebrated female vulnerability. B y excluding wom en from hazardous



[V ol. 111:4 4 5

stan dard pays serious attention to a com plaint, the reasonable w om an

stan dard su b tly exon erate? the harasser.178 Instead o f havin g done
w ron g, this m an m erely failed to see the w orld through w o m en s eyes.
H is lapse is trivial, and a cco rd in g ly sexual harassm ent is trivial. T h e
reasonable w om an stan dard im p lies that w h ile sexual harassm ent is
n ot a serious issue, a rem ed y w ill be provided to w om en because they
fin d it so upsettin g.179
T h e reasonable w om an sta n d a rd im plicitly carries a stereotype
a b o u t m en, not only as offen d ers b u t also as victim s o f sexual harass
m ent. I f the reasonable w om an is m ore fragile and sensitive than the
reasonab le person, then as a c o ro lla ry the reasonable m an (w hich
m igh t be the standard w h en a m a n com plains o f sexual h arassm ent180)
is less so. F aced w ith w o rk p la c e harassm ent, the reasonable m an m ay
w e ll be expected to tak e it and lik e it. T h is point m ust be considered
advisedly. I have argued in p a ssin g elsew here that sexual harassm ent
d octrine tends to o v erv a lu e m e n s d ign itary interests,181 and a slight
b ia s again st some m ale co m p la in a n ts that the reasonable w om an stan
d ard m ight occasion is not the strongest argum en t against the stan
dard. B u t it is im portant to b ea r in m ind that men too are harassed at
w o rk , and these victim s are ill served b y a standard that reinforces

jo bs, lim iting their work hours, excusing them from overtime, or keeping their reproductive organ s aw ay from idenfed toxins, protective labor legislation rem oved some harshness from
w o m en s w o rk lives. But by rem aining eloquently silent about other dangers that harm wom en
w here they w o rk poisonous cleaning agents, household drudgeiy, sexual assaults, domestic
violence such legislation revealed its la ck o f real interest in protecting women from harm. Unlike other law reforms that are sensitive to gender difference, such as the elimination o f the uearnest resistance requirement from rape, see Stephen J . Schulhofer, Taking Sexual Autonomy S e ri
ously: Rape Law and Beyond, 1 1 L a w & P h i l . 35, 37 (1992), the reasonable woman standard does
little to advanee w om ens autonomy.
178 See Kenealy, supra note 177. at 204.
179 Id. at 208.
180 See Ellison v. Brady, 924 F.2d 872, 879 n . n (9th Cir. 1991). Bu t see Forell, supra note 124,
a t 799 n.148 (arguing that even for m ale com plainants the better standard could be the reasonable
wom an).
181 See B e r n s t e in , supra n o t e 1 3 , a t 1 2 7 9 . T h i s m is p la c e d e m p h a s i s is n o t c o n f in e d t o la w .
C o n s i d e r t h e t w o - m il le n n ia l l i t e r a r y t r a d i t i o n b r a c k e t e d b y t h e s t o r y o f J o s e p h a n d P o t i p h a r s
w ife

at one end,

see Genesis 3 9 : 7 - 1 8 , a n d t h e n o v e l Disclosure a t th e o th e r, see M i c h a e l

C r i c h t o n , D i s c l o s u r e ( 19 0 4 ).

B o t h w o r k s d e s c r i b e a p r e d a t o r y w o m a n w h o im p o r t u n e s a

m a n fo r s e x , is r e j e c t e d , a n d t h e n f a l s e l y a c c u s e s h im .
a n c i e n t E g y p t a n d is p r o b a b l y m u c h o l d e r t h a n

T h e P o t i p h a r s w if e s t o r y d a t e s b a c k to

Genesis , w h o s e e a r li e s t p o r t io n s a r e m o r e t h a n

see H a r o l d B l o o m , T h e B o o k O F J 7 - 8 (19 9 0 ); t h e f a ls e - a c c u s a t i o n p l o t lin e

Oleanna a n d o t h e r w o r k s , see C o l le e n O C o n n o r , Looking at
G ender Bias, D a l l a s M o r n i n g N e w s , D e c . 1 6 , 19 9 4 , a t i C ( d is c u s s in g Disclosure a n d Oleanna
2 0 0 0 y e a r s o d ,

c o n t in e s t h r o u g h D a v id M a m e t s

a n d p o in t in g o u t t h a t [f]o r t h e p a s t f i v e y e a r s , s e x u a l h a r a s s m e n t c l a i m s f ile d b y m e n w i t h th e
f e d e r a l E q u a l E m p lo y m e n t O p p o r t u n i t y C o m m i s s i o n h a v e m a d e u p le s s t h a n 1 0 p e r c e n t o f th e

Disclosure is b y f a r t h e b e s t - s e l li n g f ic t io n a l t r e a t m e n t o f s e x u a l h a r a s s m e n t .
S ee M a r a L . O n t iv e r o s , F ictionalizing Harassm ent Disclosing the Truth, 93 M lC H . L. R e v .
t o t a l c h a r g e s f i l e d ).

3 73 > 1373

n .3 ( 19 9 5 ) .

F a ls e a c c u s a t i o n s o f h a r a s s m e n t a n d r a p e t h a t h u r t m e n , in s h o r t , a r e m o r e

p r o m in e n t W e s t e r n c u lt u r a l t r o p e s t h a n a r e r e a l h a r a s s m e n t a n d r a p e .




od, rigid notions o f m asculinity.182 Stereotypes chafe those w h o do

not fit easily into their confines.183 T h e tw o stereotypes prom oted by
the reasonable w om an standard a w eak lin g and a brute d o extra
harm : th ey are socially regressive and exaggerate the d ifferen ces betw een the genders.
The S u bjectiv ity Slope. T h a t the reasonable w om an stan d ard
is a step dow n the su b jectivity slope does not, in itself, m ake the stan
d ard valueless. B u t the m ove tow ard su b jectivity should be cau se for
concern. A s one student com m entator queries, w hen does on e stop
ad d in g iden tifyin g details to the reasonable person?134 It m ay b e arbitrary to stop at gender if race, national origin, sexual orientation, m ari
tal status, generational cohort, or religious b elief correlates w ith perceptions o f a w o rk in g environm ent.18S
T h e list o f perso n al
characteristics could continu. A standard that purports to be o b jective becom es confusing w hen it is flavored w ith subjectivity. T h is con
fusin is aggravated b y the problem that in sexual harassm ent claim s
the factfin d er m ust hold the defendant to the standard o f a p la in tiffs
perspective. S ubjectivity, in sum, adds new com plications to a stan
dard a lread y controversial and difficult to use. T h e next section follow s the standard further dow n the slope.

Tinkering: The Reasonable [ Inser N o u n ]

Judicial efforts to im pro ve on the reasonable person stan d ard include such constructs as the reasonable person o f the sam e gen d er as
the v ic tim ,186 the reasonable person o f the same gender and race or
color as the plain tiff,187 the reasonable person w ith the defin ing traits
o f the accuser,188 and the reasonable target.185 Som e courts have used,
and various academ ics and com m entators have ad vocated , the rea so n
able victim standard;190 a contextualized reasonable victim stan
182 Cf. E llison, 924 F.2d at 884 (Stephens, J., dissenting) (pointing out that wom en are not the
only targets o f sexual harassment and that a court should use terminology that w ill m eet the
needs o f all w h o seek recourse under . . . Title V II).
183 Cf. Francisco Valdes, Sex and Race in Queer Legal Culture: Ruminations on Id en tities &
Inter-Connectivities, 5 S . C a l . R e v . L . & W o m e n s S t u d . 2 5 , 3 0 (19 9 5 ) (noting that the author, a
man, w ill sometimes claim inclusin in the lesbian category to poke at the sex/gender essentialisms that rigidly and absurdly confne us all).
184 See Tracy L. TYeger, Com m ent, The Reasonable Woman? Unreasonable! Ellison v. Brady,
14 W

h it t ie r

L. R


. 6 7 5 , 6 8 3 (19 9 3 ).

185 Cf. id. (arguing that if the reasonable woman standard is correct for sexual harassm ent, then
the reasonable person standard in torts should logically be replaced by standards such as reason
able blind person or reasonable elderly person); Orlando Patterson, Race, Gender and Liberal
Fallacies, N .Y . T i m e s , Oct. 20, 1991, at 4, 15 (suggesting that what m ay look like sexu al har
assment to white observers m ay be a down-home style o f courting to African-Am ericans).
186 See A ndrew s v. C ity o f Philadelphia, 895 F.2d 1469, 1482 (d Cir. 1993).
187 See Stingley v. Arizona, 796 F. Supp. 424, 428 (D. Ariz. 1992).
188 See N ichols v. Frank, 42 F.3d 503, 5 11 -1 2 (9th Cir. 1994).
189 See Ellison v. Brady, 924 F.2d 872, 884 (9th Cir. 1991) (Stephens, J., dissenting).
190 See E lliso n , 924 F.2d at 877-79.



[Vol. 111:445

d a rd ;151 a flex ib le reasonable person stan d ard th a t w o u ld take into

acco u n t sexual preference, sgx, race, and class;192 an d a plu ralistic arr a y w h e re b y plain tiffs w o u ld h ave the a bility to claim that a p articu
lar p ersp ective fits the circu m stances o f the case.193 A lth o u gh schol
ars should, o f course, arge for a n y rule they like, ju d icia l tinkering
w ith the reasonable person stan dard carries costs to litigants as w ell as
to in d iv id u is in the w o rk p lace w h o seek gu idance from the law.
A s noted a b ove, m od ifying the reasonable person stan dard to accom m od ate the p la in tiffs con text slides dow n the slope o f subjectivity.
H o stile en viron m en t sexual harassm en t begins to m ean som ething like
an en viron m en t in w hich a single agg rieved em ployee did not prosper.
E v e n m ore th an the reasonable w om an standard, the tin kered-w ith
reason ab le person standard scoffs a t a p la in tiffs w ish to h ave her ex
p erience ju d g e d b y a universalistic m easure.194 M a n y criticism s o f the
reason ab le w om an standard a p p ly generally to stan dards proposed by
the tinkerers; to these argum ents one m ust ad d the costs o f m ixing
e v en m ore su b je c tiv ity w ith o b jective standards.
R e w o rk in g the reasonable person stan dard also dim inishes the
b en efits o f uniform ity. T h ese benefts are significant: som e evidence
suggests th at practicin g law yers fa vo r uniform ity rath er than an y one
sta n d a rd .195 I f all tinkerers cou ld get together and agree on a uniform
a ltern a tive to the reasonable person, they could produce an effective
su bstitute. In stead they refine od paraphrases, n o w and then takin g
race or group m em bership into accoun t, som etim es rem em bering and
som etim es forgettin g that m ale victim s exist, an d so forth, thereby
gen eratin g confusion.

191 Jane L. D olkart, H ostile Environm ent Harassment: Equality, Objectivity, and the Shaping
o f Legal Standards, 43 EMORY L.J. 151, 154 (1994)192 Forell, supra note 124, at 811 n.198 (attributing this view to Professor Jean Love).
193 M a rth a C h am allas, Fem inist Constructions o f Objectivity: M ltiple Perspectives in Sexual
and R a cia l Harassment Litigation, 1 T e x . J. W o m e n & L. 95, 140 (1992). A lthough Professor
C h am a lla s is skeptical o f the idea o f objectivity, her prescription falls w ithin the o bjectivity tradi
tion in th at she does not favor a purely subjective standard. See supra pp. 464-71.
194 In her critique o f standards that replace the reasonable person, Kathleen K enealy mentions
Vanee v. Southern B ell Telephone, 863 F.2d 1503 ( n t h Cir. 1989), in w hich co-w orkers o f the A fri
can-A m erican p laintiff hung a noose over her w o rk station. K en ealy suggests that a reasonable
A frican -A m erican standard, if used in Vanee, w ould have been not only unnecessary but insulting. Kenealy, supra note 177, at 208 & n.26; see also G arca v. A ndrew s, 867 S.W .2d 409, 412 (Tex.
C t. A pp . 1993) (rejecting the reasonable wom an standard in favor of even-handed disposition of
all claim s w ithout regard to whether the p laintiff is a woman or a m an, is young or od, or is a
m em ber o f any one o f numerous and varied sub-groups in our society).
195 See Forell, supra note 124, at 815. W hen Caroline Forell polled eleven practitioners in Oregon o f whom four represented m ostly plaintiffs, six represented m ostly em ployers, and one represented both sides asking them to ame the standard they preferred, the reasonable woman
com m anded a clear majority, even though the lawyers were free to suggest some contextualized
alternative to the reasonable person. Professor Forell surmises that livin g under the N inth Circ u its E lliso n rule led these lawyers to ad just to this legal novelty. See id.




M o re confusion em erges on closer study o f the tin kerers w o rk

p rod u ct. Som e authors acknow ledge the am bigu ity o f their proposed
form ulations. For exam ple, one student com m entator favorin g a reason able person standard coupled w ith ju r y instructions that reflect
the fem ale persp ective,196 struggles m igh tily to distinguish this app roach from the reasonable wom an standard, bu t b y the end o f the
p iece concedes the com m on practical difficulties o f the tw o stand a rd s.197 Sim ilarly, M artha C ham allas, w h o proposes that the reason
able w om an standard be read to m ean the perspective o f progressive
w om en w h o have fem inist inclinations, also ackn ow led ges the a m b i
g u ity o f her form ulations.198 Other revisionists seem less carefu l abou t
m isinterpretation and confusion, as is evid ent b y their use o f reason
able w o m a n as interchangeable w ith reasonable victim . 199
T in k e rin g seems to have encouraged a perverse m in i-revival o f the
reason ab le person standard. T he Suprem e C o u rt hinted in H arris that
it prefers the reasonable person to the reasonable w om an sta n d a rd .200
Sim ilarly, w h en its principal hostile environm ent case w as pendin g, the
M ic h ig a n Suprem e C o u rt received am icus briefs that argued not only
for the reasonable w om an but also for purely su b jective approaches;
the cou rt ultim ately rejected a gender-specific standard for a reason
a b le person stan dard.201 O ther cases decided after Harris and E lliso n
h ave reaffirm ed the reasonable person stan dard.202
O ccasion ally,
ju d g e s h ave w ritten that under either a reasonable person or reason
able w om an standard their decisin m ust be the same, revealin g som e

196 R obert U nikel, Comm ent, Reasonable Doubts: A Critique o f the Reasonable Woman Stan
dard in American Jurisprudence, 87 N w . U. L. R ev . 326, 372 (1992).
197 See id. a t 3 7 3 11.295.
198 See C h a m a l l a s , supra n o te 1 9 3 , a t 1 3 5 37 199 See Ellison v. Brady, 924 F.2d 872, 877-80 (91 Cir. 1991); Note, Sexual Harassment Claims
o f A busive Work Environm ent Under Title VII, 97 H a r v . L. R e v . 1449, 1459 (1984); S a lly A.
Piefer, Com m ent, Sexual Harassment from the Victims Perspective: The Need fo r the Seventh Cir
cu it to Adopt the Reasonable Woman Standard, 77 M a r q . L. R e v . 85, 99 (1993) (equating reasonable w om an w ith v ictim s perspective); see also Adam s, supra note 162, at 683 (stating that
the reasonable victim standard effectively divides the w orld into reasonable men and reasonable
w om en).
200 In describing the objective referent in sexual harassment, the Harris C ourt referred to the
reasonable person. See Harris v. Forklift Sys., Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 22 (1993). See generally L ie sa L.
Bernardin, Note, Does the Reasonable Woman Exist and Does She Have Any Place in H ostile
Environm ent Sexual Harassment Claims Under Title V II After Harris, 46 F l a . L. R e v . 291, 299301 (1994) (explaining that the Harris Court chose the reasonable person standard over the district co u rts reasonable wom an standard).
201 See R adtke v. Everett, 501 N.W .2d 155, 158 (Mich. 1993).
202 See, e.g., W atkins v. Bowden, 105 F.3d 1344, 1356 ( n t h Cir. 1997) (holding that a reasonable
person ju ry instruction was proper); Gillming v. Simmons Indus., 91 F.3d r 168, 1172 (8th Cir.
1996) (holding that a reasonable person instruction w as not reversible error); see also F o w ler v.
K ootenai County, 918 P.2d 1185, 1189 (Idaho 1996) (favoring the reasonable person over the reasonable woman).



[V o l. 111:4 4 5

fru stratio n or w earin ess w ith the en tire endeavor o f tin kerin g.203 To
som e com m en tators, the n ext step is obvious. B elow I exam ine their
c la im th a t the o b je c tiv e criterio n o f hostile environm ent sexual h a
rassm ent m u st be jettiso n ed .

Despair: T he S u bjective Alternative

M a k in g a statem ent a lo n g th e lines o f I d id n t like m y w o rk in g

en viron m en t; I found it h o s tile cannot, w ithout an additional o b je c
tiv e referent, take a p la in tiff to the ju r y in a T itle V II or d ign itary-tort
action. A lth o u g h ju d g e s h a ve sh o w n their receptiveness to n ew form ulations o f the o b jectiv e criterion in hostile environm ent sexual h a
rassm en t claim s, to d ate no c o u rt has accepted the argum ent th a t the
o b je c tiv e criterion sh ou ld be d ro p p ed altogether. T h u s, the argu m en t
a p p ears o n ly in litig a n ts briefs an d law review articles.204 T h e a rg u
m en t reflects a lon gstan d in g fem in ist m istrust o f o b jectivity :20S academ ic fem in ism and postm od ern ism doubt that anything, in clu d in g a
hostile en viron m en t, can ex ist in som e unoccluded, value-free, neutral
state.206 O b je c tiv ity is a m y th ,207 and, accordingly, all criteria relatin g to reasonableness fo r sexu al harassm ent actions m ust be dropped.
A lth o u g h she u ltim ately opposes such a standard, C arolin e Forell
points ou t th a t a p u rely su b je c tiv e standard has several virtues. It
avoid s stereotypin g, essen tialism , and m ajoritarian universalism ;208 it
also elim inates the burden som e and perhaps redundant d em and th at
the p la in tiff prove b oth th a t she did not (subjectively) w elcom e the
ch allen ged con d u ct an d th a t the challenged conduct w as (objectively)
203 See K in g v. H illen, 21 F.3d 1572, 1582 (Fed. Cir. 1994); Saxton v. A T & T Co., 10 F.3d 526,
534 n.13 (7th Cir. 1993); M a rq u a rt v. M cD onn ell Douglas Corp., 859 F. Supp. 366, 367 n.2 (E.D.
M o. 1994), aJjTd w ithout opinion, 56 F.3d 69 (8th Cir. 1995); French v. Jadon, Inc., 911 P.2d 20, 28
n .io (A laska 1996). Some social Science eviden ce exists to justify this view. See R ichard L . W ie
ner, B a rb a ra A . W atts, Kristen H. G o ld ka m p & Charles Gasper, Social Analytic Investigation o f
H ostile Work Environm ents: A Test o f the Reasonable Woman Standard, 19 L a w & H u m . B e h a v .
263, 276 (1995) (describing a controlled stud y that found virtually no difference in result between
the reasonable person and reasonable w om an approaches).
204 See, e.g., Eileen M. B lackw oo d , The Reasonable Woman in Sexual Harassment Law and the
Case fo r Sub jectiv ity , 16 V t . L . R e v . 1005, 1005-06 (1992); B rief of the W om ens Legal Defense
F un d, T h e N atio n al W om ens L a w C en ter as A m ici Curiae in Support o f Petitioner, H arris v.
F o rklift Sys., Inc., 510 U.S. 17 (1993) (No. 92-1168), available in L E X IS , Genfed Library, Briefs
F ile (urging abandonm ent o f all reasonableness standards for hostile environm ent sexual har
205 S ee Sa n d r a H a r d i n g , W h o s e S c i e n c e ? W h o s e K n o w l e d g e ? T h i n k i n g f r o m
W o m e n s L i v e s 157-59 (1991) (discussing the fem inist belief that norms o f objectivity support
existing pow er structures). See generally M a rth a C. Nussbaum, Skepticism About Practical Reason in Literature and the Law, 107 H a r v . L . R e v . 714 (1994) (summarizing feminist perspectives
on objectivity).
206 See N a n c y Fraser & L in d a J. N icholson, Social Criticism Without Philosophy: A n Encounter Between Fem inism and Postm odernism , in F e m i n i s m / P o s t m o d e r n i s m 19 (Linda J. N ich ol
son ed., 19 9 0 ).
207 See B l a c k w o o d , supra n o t e 20 4 , a t 1 0 2 4 .
208 See Forell, supra note 124, at 801.



hostile or abu sive.209 A s another fem inist arges in a d vocatin g a subje c tiv ist revisin o f negligence, su b jectivity is congruent w ith a n y d o c
trine o f com pensation (w hich necessarily takes account o f the harm
suffered b y the victim ), w hereas ob jective standards com port m ore
w ith the crim inal law .210
O f the com m entators w an tin g to dispense w ith the ob jective stan
d ard in hostile environm ent sexual harassm ent, Eileen B la c k w o o d goes
furthest, arguing forth righ tly for su bjectivity.211
A c c o rd in g to
B la ck w o o d , a p lain tiff should reach the ju r y on the barest prim a facie
case: sex-related behavior in the w orkp lace, and an aggrieved w o rk e r
w h o has indicated to her em ployer that this behavior is u n w elco m e.212
Less starkly, Jane D o lk a rt advocates w h a t she calis an in d iv id u a lized
test, w h ich she describes as a renam ed equ ivalen t to a su b jective approach .213
O ne o f the m ost influential w ritings on the subject offers a v a ria tion on the su b jective standard that w ou ld be achieved through a shift
in the burden o f proof.214 K a th ryn A b ram s proposes th at the p la in tiff
be required to show th at sex-related behavior occurred in the w o r k
place, and that this behavior affected her w orkin g environm ent. U po n
such a show ing, the burden w o u ld shift to the em ployer to sh o w that
the p la in tiffs reaction w a s idiosyncratic or unreasonable.21s P rofessor
A b ram s thus preserves the analytic distinction between su b jective and
ob jective criteria but establishes a rebuttable presum ption that su b je c
tive and ob jective approaches w ill yield the same conclusin a b o u t
w h a t happened at a w orksite.216
T h ese w ritings deserve serious reception. D oubts abou t the relevan ce o f ob jective reasonableness in hostile environm ent sexu al h a
rassm ent are persuasive. T here is even evidence that as hard -head ed a
fem inist as Justice G in sbu rg shares these doubts217 w ith her colleagu e

209 See id.; see also E s t r ic h , supra n o te 4, a t 8 33 ( a r g u i n g t h a t r e q u ir in g b o th t h e s u b j e c t i v e a n d

objective showing is unfair to plaintiffs).
210 See Robyn M artin, A Fem inist View o f the Reasonable Man: An Altem ative Approach to
Liability in Negligence fo r Personal Injury, 23 A n G L O - A m . L. R e v . 3 3 4 , 3 5 4 - 5 5 (19 9 4 ).
211 See Blackw ood, supra note 204, at 1006.
212 See id. at 1025 ( If, after receiving notice that sexual behavior is unwelcome, an em ployer
fails to address her concerns, the woman does and should have a claim against her em ployer. It
does not really m atter whether her concerns are reasonable or not. The subjective effect upon her
is the key consideration.).
213 Dolkart, supra note 191, a t 166 n.47.
214 See A bram s, supra note 121, at 1209-15.
See id. at 12 10 -11.
See id. at 1209-10, 1214.
217 Justice Ginsburg suggested that conditions in a w ork environment vilate Title YTI when
members o f one sex are exposed to disadvantageous termsor conditions o f em ploym ent to which
m embers o f the other sex are not exposed a test quite distinct from reasonableness notw ithstanding G in sburgs acceptance elsewhere of reasonable person language. H arris v. F o rklift Sys.,
Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 25 (1993) (Ginsburg, J., concurring).



[V o l. 111:445

Ju stice S ca lia ,218 w h o is not k n o w n for his devotion to fem inism or

postm odern ism . E v e n if th id ea o f o b jectivity w ere not problem atic,
m oreover, attem pts to express it through an objective standard for hos
tile en viron m en t sex u a l harassm en t h ave failed.
N ev erth eless, a p u rely su b je c tiv e standard cannot fit w ithin im por
ta n t traditions: the U n ited S tates legal system has a lw a y s insisted that
in ord er for co n d u ct to be condem ned by the law, it m ust vilate
shared principies. A p u rely su b jective standard for hosdle en viron
m en t sexual h arassm en t perm its a litigan t to claim a violation o f the
la w based prim arily, i f not entirely, on her assertion that she deem s
h erse lf injured . T o be sure, m a n y observers believe that current sexual
h arassm en t doctrin e a lre a d y inclines too far in this direction.219 B u t
even the m ost ex p an sive va riation s on the reasonable person standard
do not aban d on the o b je c tiv e referent some norm that goes beyond
a p la in tiffs special plead ing.
A t a p ra gm a tic level, the su b jective approach w ou ld do m ischief to
the efforts o f a ctiv ists w h o seek eq u a lity and fair treatm ent in the
w o rk p la c e . It w o u ld expose sexu al harassm ent law to a level o f ridicu le o n ly hinted a t b y the je e rin g that follow ed the form ulation o f reason able w om an a p p roach es.220 Journalists w ould lik e ly perm it a cari
catu re the id iosyn cratic, h ypersensitive, vin d ictive straw -w om an
to gro w to grotesqu e p rop ortion s in the m edia. C lass actions for hos
tile en viron m en t h arassm en t w o u ld becom e m uch harder to b rin g.221
Juries w o u ld be cast ad rift.222 W orkers of em pathy and good faith,
un m oored from a n y referen ce to objectivity, w ould w o rry abou t being
held a ccou n tab le for p ecu liar reactions am ong their colleagues.223 A l
th o u gh the jettiso n in g o f an o b jectiv e standard d erives from a w ellfou n d ed skepticism , it th row s a w a y too m uch.

h e

e s p e c t f u l


r so n

T h e su rv e y o f h o w reasonableness standards function in sexual

harassm en t doctrine, u n d ertak en above in Parts I and II o f this A r ti
cle, has praised as w e ll as criticized reason and reasonableness. A l
th o u gh these term s d o not fit a ll the needs of sexual harassm ent theory
or d octrin e, they are v a lu a b le . R eason stands for m uch o f w h at
m akes h um an beings u n iq u e an d im portant. R easonable, although
218 See supra pp. 448-49.
219 See Starr, supra note 173, at 48; A dam s, supra note 162, at 685-87.
220 S ee supra note 173 and accom panyin g text.
221 S ee Forell, supra note 124, at 801-02.
222 Cf. H arris, 510 U .S. at 24 (Scalia, J., concurring) (suggesting that the Harris standard leaves
ju ries unable to ap p ly the law).
223 S ee Forell, supra note 124, at 803; see also Ellison v. Brady, 924 F.2d 872, 879 (9th Cir. 1991)
(expressing concern about the rare hyper-sensitive em ployee who could render the entire place
o f em ploym ent vulnerable to idiosyncratic claim s o f harassment).




m ore vague, contains rich and useful connotations. A respectful person standard, therefore, ought to preserve the benefits that both w ord s
To understand the link betw een reason and respect, one m ay begin
w ith the w ork o f Im m anuel K an t, w h ich contends that entitlem ent to
respect originates in hum an reason. T h e cap acity to be rational, accordin g to K ant, sets hum an beings ap art from other livin g creatures.224 T h is trait allow s hum an beings to escape brute causality; persons overcom e the straits o f nature through their thinking and
choices.22S A id ed b y reason, hum an beings can favor one course o f action and disdain an alternative, and thereby express their m oral
agency. Reason also gives persons a w a y o f experiencing the p a st and
the future: w ith the help o f reason the past becom es intelligible, a
source o f perfecting oneself, and the basis o f plans for on es life. B ecause o f these characteristics all o f them variations on and outgrow th s o f reason hum an beings, accord in g to K an t, possess intrinsic va lu and are entitled to respect.226
T o accept a respectful person standard, one need not endorse a ll of
this valorization o f reason, b u t the association betw een reason an d re
spect is useful in the construction o f such a legal standard. K a n tia n
ethics, w id ely (although not universally) esteemed for their b read th
and com pelling clarity,227 com port w ith the w orldview s of m an y per
sons indeed, m any religions and societies228 and suggest a consensus upon w hich law m ak in g m ay build. M oreover, the connection
betw een reason and respect indicates th at a respectful person stan dard
for hostile environm ent sexual harassm ent does not depart significan tly from existing doctrine. T h e K a n tia n fram ew ork also p rovides
guidance about the particulars o f a respectful person standard.

E ntitlem ent to Respect: Toward a Conservative Standard

Recognition Respect. O f the m any m eanings associated w ith
the w ord respect, the m ost pertinent to sexual harassm ent is w h at

224 See I m

il o s o p h y

m anu el



n t

n t

: Im

Idea fo r a Universal History with Cosmopolitan Intent, in T h e

K a n t s M o r a l a n d P o l i t i c a l W r i t i n g s 116, 118 -19

m anu el

(C ari J. Friedrich ed., 1949).

225 See I m m a n u e l K a n t , G

roundw ork o f

th e

e t a p h y s ic o f


7 7 ( H .J . P a t n

t r a n s ., 2 d e d . 19 5 3 ).

226 See I m m a n u e l K a n t , T h e D o c t r i n e o f V i r t u e 99 (M ary J . Gregor trans., 1964).

Locke sim ilarly linked reason and respect by arguing that the obligation not to harm another is
ow ed because of other persons capacity to reason, and that human beings learn and accep t this
d u ty v ia their own faculty o f reason. See J o h n L o c k e , T w o T r e a t i s e s o f G o v e r n m e n t 14851 (Peter Laslett ed., Cam bridge Uni/. Press 1988) (1690).
227 S ee D e b o r a h L . R h o d e , P r o f e s s i o n a l R e s p o n s i b i l i t y : E t h i c s b y t h e P e r v a s i v e
M e t h o d 12 -13 (1994) (summarizing the reception o f K a n ts ethical philosophy).
228 C f H .T.D. R o s t , T h e G o l d e n R u l e : A U n i v e r s a l E t h i c 8 (1986) (describing w orldw ide
acceptance o f analogies to K a n ts categorical im perad ve).



[V o l. 111:445

S tep h en D a r w a ll calis recognition resp ect.229 R ecognition respect consists o f the a ck n o w led gm e n ! th at another person is a free, separate,
u n iq u e, and in d epen d en t hum an being. D ictionary definitions o f re
sp e c t as a n oun in this recognition sense include an a ct o f noticing
w ith attention; the giv in g o f atten tion to; consideration.230 A s a verb,
resp e ct in its recogn ition sense m eans to consider, deem or heed
so m eth in g .231 R ecogn ition respect looks at the object w ith the intent
o f d eterm in in g h o w to a ct vis- -vis th a t object.232 N o adm iration is
n ecessa rily ren d ered.233
T h e com p etin g m eaning, appraisl respect, is briefly noted for purposes o f contrast: appraisal respect is high or special regard: deferentia l regard as from a servan t to his m aster: esteem ; or the q u ality or
State o f being esteem ed.234 A s a ve rb , to respect in the appraisal sense
is to trea t or regard w ith deference, esteem , or honour.235 A p p raisa l
resp ect, u n lik e recognition respect, considers the question o f excellence.
W h e n a professor respects her colleagu e because he has w ritten the
b est b ook in his field, she renders appraisal respect, grounded in a
com p ariso n or a scale o f merit.
A s D a r w a ll arges, K a n tia n respect for persons qua persons falls
w ith in the categ o ry o f recognition respect.236 A p p raisa l respect, ren
d ered for excellen ce, is not ow ed to all persons,237 w hereas to have
recogn ition respect for persons is to g iv e proper w eigh t to the fact that
th e y are p erso n s238 a form u lation in the tradition o f K an t. It is


See S t e p h e n L . D a r w a l l , Two K inds o f Respect, 88 E t h i c s 3 6 , 38 ( 1 9 7 7 ) . A p a r a ll e l p h i lo -

s o p h i c a l l it e r a t u r e o n r e c o g n it i o n , d e r i v e d f r o m t h e w o r k o f H e g e l a n d o th e r s , e m p h a s i z e s th e

cf. J r g e n H a b e r m a s , B e t w e e n F a c t s a n d

r i g h t s a n d d u t i e s t h a t a r e i d e n t if i e d b y t h e a c k n o w l e d g m e n t t h a t p e r s o n s a r e fre e a n d e q u a l.
R o b e r t R . W illia m s , R e c o g n it io n

( 19 9 2 );

N o r m s 1 6 - 1 7 ( W i l l i a m R e h g t r a n s ., 1 9 9 5 ) ( e s t a b l is h i n g m u t u a l r e c o g n it io n a s a p r e d c a t e t o d is co u rse).


231 d.

W e b s t e r s T h i r d N e w I n t e r n a t i o n a l D i c t i o n a r y 1 9 3 4 ( 3 d e d . 1 9 8 1).

232 Stephen H udson identifies three categories o f respect that correspond to D a r w a lls recogni
tion respect: obstacle respect, directive respect, and institutional respect. See Stephen D. Hudson,
T h e Nature o f R espect, 6 S o c . T h e o r y & P r a c . 69, 70 (1980). Robin Dillon notes that exam ples
o f obstacle respect include the tennis p layers respect for an opponents backhand and the mountain clim b ers respect for the elements. See D illon, supra note 43, at 1 10 -11 . D irective respect
lies behind the regard for the content o f contracts, constitutions, and corporate bylaw s. See id.
In stitutional respect is expressed in terms like yo u r Honor, bowed heads during prayer, and referen ces to the president o f the U nited States as the President even by those who know him intim ately. S ee id. In all o f these situations o f recognidon respect, the agent acknowledges the catego rical im portance o f the object, even if she thinks the tennis player a fool, the U nited States
C o n stitutio n flaw ed, the judge corrupt, the prayer vacuous, or the president an ordinary man.
S e e id. at m .
233 See D a r w a l l , supra n o t e 2 2 9 , a t 4 5 - 4 7 .
234 W e b s t e r s T h i r d N e w I n t e r n a t i o n a l D i c t i o n a r y , supra note 230, at 19 3 4 .
235 O

xfo rd

n g l is h

ic t io n a r y

7 3 2 - 3 5 ( 2 d e d . 19 8 9 ).

236 S ee D arw all, supra note 2 2 9 , at 4 5 .

237 See id.
238 Id. a t 39.



4 S

also recognition respect that Robert N ozick, claim ing the m antle o f
K a n t, has in m ind w hen he faults utilitarianism for its failure to re
sp ect and take account o f the fact that [the ind ivid u al] is a sep arate
person, that his is the on ly life he has.239 S im ultan eously prem ised on
the ideas that all hum an beings have respect-w arrantin g traits in
com m on and that each person is uniquely free,240 recognition respect
unites the disparate ideis o f autonom y and equality.241
A lth o u gh recognition respect im plies freedom , it also m andates duties. In this sense, respect is different from other attitudes particu la rly affection or liking that an agent m ay h ave tow ard an o b je c t.242
B ecau se it originates in a trait o f the object, respect m akes its ow n
dem ands. T h e agent is not free to w ithhold or furnish respect based
on a w him .
T h e dem ands o f recognition respect are w ell k now n not on ly w ith in
sexual harassm ent law, w h ich affirm s these ideis o f d ign ity and free
dom , but also in a v a riety o f legal and extralegal settings.243 O n e ex
tralegal exam ple is self-respect, a varian t o f recognition respect that
im plies duties and entitlem ents.244 Recognition respect for persons is
im p licit in the legal and extralegal concept o f consent, esp ecially inform ed consent.245 In the political arena, the dem ands o f recognition
respect are eclectic. T h e y buttress both a claim to m nim um incom e
an d certain argum ents in favor o f abolishing w elfa re,246 for instance,
an d support fem inism w h ile raising questions abou t the righ t to abortion .247 T h e y also cast doubts on affirm ative action as w ell as on raco b e r t N o z i c k , A n a r c h y , S t a t e a n d U t o p i a 33 (1974).
240 See M argaret A. Farley, A Fem inist Versin o f Respect fo r Persons, 9 J. F e m i n i s t S t u d .
R e l i o i o n 183, 194-96 (1993).
241 See R ichard Norm an, Respect fo r Persons, Autonomy and Equality, 43 R e v u e I n t e r n a
t i o n a l e D E P h i l o s o p h i e 323 (1989); see also Christopher W. G owans, Intimacy, Freedom, and
Unique Valu: /I Kantian" Account o f the Irreplaceable and Incomparable Valu o f Persons, 33
Am . P h i l . Q . 75, 84-85 (1996) (arguing that both uniqueness and equality o f persons derive from
their exercise o f freedom).
242 A ffection or adm iration originates in the caprice of an agent. One m ight be fond o f a person
for any reason or for no reason, but respect implies certain criteria. Put another way, respect is
object-generated, whereas affection is agent-generated. See Dillon, supra note 4 3 , at 1 0 9 - 1 0 .
243 See infra pp. 512-21 (describing recognition respect in current Am erican legal doctrine).
244 See Robn S . Dillon, Self-Respect: Moral, Emotional, Political, 10 7 E t h i c s 2 2 6 , 2 3 0 ( 1 9 9 7 )
(noting the dem ands and expectations generated by self-respect). T he phrase have you no selfrespect? urges another to recogniz:. the rights and responsibilities of being a person. S e e Darw all, supra note 2 2 9 , at 4 7 .
245 See Bernard v. Char, 903 P.2d 6 6 7 , 6 7 1 - 7 5 (Haw. 19 9 5 ); Sm ith v. Reisig, 6 8 6 P.2d 2 8 5 , 288
(O kla. 19 8 4 ); A d ler ex re. Johnson v. Kokemoor, 5 4 5 N.W .2d 4 9 5 , 5 0 0 -0 3 (Wis. 19 9 6 ); D an u ta
M endelson, H istorical Evolution and M odem Implications o f Concepts o f Consent to, and Refusal
of, M edical Treatment in the Law ofTrespass, 17 J. L e g a l M e d . i , 1 - 6 (19 9 6).
246 O n this paradox, see James W. Fox, Jr., Liberalism, Democratic Citizenship, and Welfare
Reform: The Troubling Case o f Workfare, 74 W a s h . U. L.Q. 103, 123-24 (1996).
247 See Farley, supra note 240, at 195; Don M arquis, Justifying the Rights o f Pregnancy: The
Interest View, C r i m . J u s t . E t h i c s , Winter-Spring 1994, at 67 (book review) (discussing the relationship between the personhood concept and abortion ethics).

239 R



[V ol. 111:4 4 5

ism .248 F am ilia r from o rd in ary life experience as w ell as legal precep ts, the dictates o f recogn ition respect have in com m on their insisten ce th a t one m ust tak e certain considerations seriously as reasons
fo r a ctin g or forb earin g to a ct.249 It is this last idea the d u ty to
fo rb e a r to a ct th at expresses th e po w er o f recognition respect to d e
scrib e, p reven t, and rem edy hostile en viron m ent sexual harassm ent.
A D u ty to Refrain. T h e d ivisin betw een positive and negativ e liberties, fam ou sly exp ou nd ed b y Isaiah B erln ,250 is fun dam en tal
in A m e ric a n law .251 C ou rts d escrib e the Constitution and the B ill o f
R ig h ts as ch arters o f n egative liberties.252 A ccord in g to m an y scholars,
co n cep ts o f n ega tiv e rights w ere w id e ly shared am ong those w h o b u ilt
th e A m e ric a n repu blic, w hereas po sitive rights rested on less stu rd y
su p p o rt.253 A tradition traceab le to B erln and beyond associates n ega
tiv e rig h ts w ith freedom and p o sitive rights w ith the affirm a tive com m a n d s o f a d ictator.254 E ffe c tiv e la w reform honors the distinction b e
tw e e n n e g a tiv e and positive rights, fa vo rin g n egative liberty because it
d escrib es leg al change in rela tiv ely unthreatening term s.25S A lth o u gh
p o sitive d uties o f respect m a y ta k e shape in the future, n egative ones
n ecessa rily m u st com e first.
248 See M . C ath leen Kaveny, D iscrim ination and Affirmative A ction, 57 T h e o l o g i c a l S t u d .
286, 295-300 (1996).
249 D a rw a ll, supra note 229, at 48.
250 See I s a i a h B e r l n , Tw o Concepts o f Liberty, in F o u r E s s a y s o n L i b e r t y 118, 122-23
(1969). B erln finds positive and negative lib erty to be the central conceptions o f liberty, am ong
m ore than 200 types. See id. at 118.
251 C riticism s o f the dichotom y in the la w reviews include Susan Bandes, The Negative Consti
tution: A C ritiq u e , 88 M lC H . L . R e v . 2271, 2318-20 (1990), and Steven J . Heym an, Positive and
Negative L ib erty , 68 C h i . - K e n t L . R e v . 81, 81-8 3 (1992). A s one writer notes, however, there is
n o indication th a t the Suprem e C o urt or the low er courts will abandon the dichotomy. Susan
Stefan , Leaving C iv il Rights to the E xperts : From Deference to Abdication under the Professio n a l Judgm ent Standard, 102 Y a l e L .J . 639, 667 n.138 (1992).
252 S ee B o w e rs v. D e Vito, 686 F.2d 616, 618 (71 Cir. 1982); see also Olm stead v. U nited States,
277 U .S. 438, 478 (1928) (Brandis, J., dissenting) (proclaim ing the right to be let alone the
m ost com prehensive o f rights). In D eShaney v. Winnebago County Department o f Social Ser
v ices, 489 U .S. 189 (1989), the Suprem e C o u rt ruled against the plaintiff after characterizing his
la w su it as a d em an d for positive rights. See id. at 194-97. In dissent, Justice Brennan recast the
issue as one o f governm en t action rather than inaction a stance that underscores the pow erful
ap p eal o f n egative lib erty arguments. See id. at 203-05 (Brennan, J., dissenting).
253 T h e clash betw een the Federalists and anti-Federalists over political theory closely mirrors
th e debate o ver positive and negative liberty. See W illiam YV. Fisher III, Ideology, Religin, and
th e C o n stitution al Protection o f Prvate Property 1760-1860, 39 E M O R Y L.J. 6 5 , 71-7 5 (1990);
Jo h n P atrick D iggins, Class, Classical, and Consensus Views o f the C onstitution, 5 5 U. C h i. L.
R e v . 5 5 5 , 5 5 6 (19 8 8 ) (book review) (noting the anti-Federalist opposition to the establishm ent o f a
centralized federal governm ent).
254 See, e.g., B e r l n , supra note 2 5 0 , at 131 (claim ing that proponents o f the theory o f negative
lib e rty regard the notion o f positive liberty as no better than a specious disguise for brutal tyra n n y ); H eym an, supra note 2 5 1 , at 82 (attributing B erlin s dichotom y to the C oid W ar backdrop
ag ain st w hich he wrote).
255 See A n ita Bernstein, B etter Living Through Crime and Tort, 76 B.U . L. R e v . 16 9 , 1 8 2 - 8 3
( 1 9 9 6 ) (describing uses o f negative and positive liberty in law reform efforts).




T h e distinction betw een positive and negative liberty is c en tra l to

political liberalism , the stance that lies behind the respectful person
standard outlined here. T h e liberal seeks prim arily to avoid cru elty.2S6
W id er am bitions such as the desire to promote goodness to the
liberal im ply coercion. T h is m inim alist concern w ith avoid in g h arm
m ay readily be extended from the physical to the psychological. A ccordingly, a duty arises to avoid forms o f cruelty such as b rin gin g ind ign ity or hum iliation upon another.257 A liberal and m inim alist conception o f recognition respect thus emerges. T h e ethical d u ty to render
respect becom es a n egative one: a duty to refrain from u n ju stified or
cruel m anifestations o f disrespect.258
In the context o f sexual harassm ent, this negative d u ty has at least
three distinct applications. Recognition respect requires first th a t an
agent not treat another person only as a means of ach ievin g the ends
o f the agen t.259 Second, the actor has a d u ty to refrain from h u m iliating another.260 T h ird , the agent m ust not engage in cond u ct th a t rejects or denies the personhood and self-conception o f another.261 Subje c t to the constraint o f m inim alism , these broad and deep precep ts
provide specific guidance.
E n d s and M eans. C o n tra ry at its heart to consequ entialist or
utilitarian ethics, recognition respect resists m any o f those influ ences
on law and philosophy that are associated w ith econom ic an alysis.
Persons m ay choose to behave instrum entally, but they cannot w ith -


See A lan Wolfe, Before Justice , N e w R e p u b l i c , M a y 27, 1996, at 33, 34 (crediting this
v iew to political philosopher Judith Shklar).
257 See id.
258 O f the m any variations on the Golden Rule surveyed by the B ah scholar H .T.D. R ost, the
Confucian versin is noteworthy for stating the maxim in negative terms: W h at you do n o t w ant
done to yourself, do not do to others. R o s t , supra note 2 28, at 49 (internal quotation m arks
omitted). Centering on the fundam ental principie o f social propriety, id. at 4 7 , C onfucian ethics
posits a respectful person w ho know s his place in the social order, rather than one who fu lfills a
religious or spiritual ideal, see id. at 4 7 - 4 8 , a social reform ers approach to the G old en Rule
that m ay be better suited to em ulation by reformers than are religious models.
I do not mean to continu the academ ic folly of overdrawing the distinction betw een positive and negative liberty. F or a pertinent warning on this danger, see H eym an, cited a b o v e in
note 2 5 1 , at 8 2 . Statutory and common law protections against sexual harassment im ply a modicum o f governm ent energy and action that is contrary to a simple-minded endorsement o f nega
tive rights paired with a repudiation o f positive rights. T he basic duty, though em bellished w ith
affirm ative incidentals in the w orkplace, see infra pp. 4 9 5 - 9 6 , remains one o f forbearance and
259 See K a n t , supra note 2 2 5 , at 9 5 - 9 6 , 1 0 2 - 0 3 . One philosopher elaborates that to be treated
sim ply as a means rather than an end in oneself is to be disparaged as to ones stances, determ inations, commitments, and points o f view all aspects of human choice. See Bernard W illiam s,
The Idea o f Equality, in M o r a l C o n c e p t s 1 5 5 , 1 5 9 - 6 3 (Joel Feinberg ed., 19 6 9 ).
260 C f A v i s h a i M a r g a l i t , T h e D e c e n t S o c i e t y i ( 19 9 6 ) ( A c i v i li z e d s o c ie t y is o n e -w h o se
m e m b e r s d o n o t h u m ilia t e o n e a n o t h e r . . . .).

261 C f Elizabeth V. Spelm an, On Treating Persons as Persons, 88 E t h i c s 150, 152 (1977) (ar
guing that treating another as a person implies that one has authority over o n es own defin ition o f



[V o l. 111:4 4 5

hold or d eliver recognition respect for utilitarian reasons. C e rta in ly

th ey m a y preten d to render te sp ect, and this hypocrisy an em phasis
on resp ectfu l b eh avior rather than respectful attitudes can be soc ia lly useful; the la w m ight en courage it. For this pragm atic con strain t
on a resp ectfu l person stan dard, w e are again indebted to H o lm es.262
B u t leg al d octrin e pred icated on recognition respect w ill p ay little heed
to q u asi-econ om ic apologies for harassm ent, such as the b elief th at the
m a rk e t w ill p a y a w a g e prem ium to w orkers w illin g to en d u re mistreatm en t or th at the costs o f preven tin g harassm ent in the w o rk p la ce
are too high. A s the respicere antecedent o f the w ord im plies, re
sp ect is rendered because o f p ast or present characteristics. It does not
lo o k fo rw a rd to a future tim e o f greater utility bu t b a c k w a rd to asp ects w o rth v a lu in g or n oting,263 and so it rejects a central prem ise o f
econ om ics-flavo red suggestions for law reform.
J u st as recogn ition respect contradicts utilitarian ethics in general
an d u tilita ria n defenses o f disrespectful w orkplace conditions in p ar
ticular, it does not tolerate the aggregation of w orkers into a class that
exists sim p ly as the m eans to the ends o f an agent. A w o rk e r m ight
r eg a rd w om en at w o rk sim p ly as terrain from w h ich he can ta k e sex
ual release. A ltern atively, this w orker m ight harbor anim us tow ard s
w om en and use m istreatm en t as a w eapon to keep fellow w orkers
d o w n an d out. S exu al h arassm en t case law, though n ecessarily specula tiv e a b ou t the m otives o f h arassers,264 contains num erous accou n ts o f
both libid in o u s exploitation an d general hostility tow ards w om en in
the w o rk p la c e .265 T h ese tw o m otives, am ong m an y that m a y lie be262 S e e supra notes 40, 91 (noting the contribution o f Holmes to ideologies o f reason and rea
sonableness). In a fam ous 1925 letter to H arold Laski, the elderly Justice declared th at the law
o ugh t to look to o utw ard behavior and its consequences rather than seek true desert:
I am entirely im patient o f an y but broad distinctions. Otherwise we are lost in a maze
o f determ inism . I f I were h aving a philosophical talk with a man I was going to have
hanged (or electrocuted) I should say, I d on t doubt that your act was inevitable for you
but to m ake it avoidable by others w e propose to sacrifice you to the common good. You
m ay regard yo u rself as a soldier d yin g for your country if you like. B u t the law m ust keep
its prom ises.
B a k e r , supra note 91, at 289.
263 S e e C a ri Cranor, Toward a Theory o f Respect fo r Persons, 12 Am. P h i l . Q. 309, 311 (1975).
264 See W insor v. H inckley D odge, Inc., 79 F.3d 996, 999 (ioth Cir. 1996) (differing w ith the
low er court ab out the m otive o f harassers); Gerd v. United Parcel Servs., 934 F. Supp. 357, 360-61
(D. C olo. 1996) (discussing the problem o f m ixed-m otive harassment); see also Sherm er v. Illinois
D e p t o f Transp., 937 F. Supp. 781, 784 (C .D . 111. 1996) (noting that m otive is often difficut to
prove in sam e-sex harassm ent litigation).
265 See K in g v. B o ard o f Regents, 898 F.2d 533, 539 (71 Cir. 1990); Snider v. Consolidation
C o a l C o ., N o. 86-3462, 1990 W L 484975, at *5 (S.D. 111. June 27, 1990). In other cases courts have
attributed harassm ent to a general h ostility tow ards women. See E E O C v. Farm er Bros. Co., 31
F.3d 891, 897 (9th Cir. 1994); Steiner v. Sh ow b oat Operating Co., 25 F.3d 1459, 1463-64 (9th Cir.
1994); R obinson v. Jacksonville Shipyards, Inc., 760 F. Supp. 1486, 1522 (M.D. Fia. 1991). Feminist com m entators generally dismiss these motives, noting that whether harassment originates in
concupiscence or in hatred, the result gender subordination is the same. See A bram s, supra
note 121, a t 1208; D olkart, supra note 191, at 184-85; cf. Case, supra note 102, at 60 (noting that
sexual harassers often allude sim ultaneously to w om ens receptive role in fellatio and their pur-




hind sexual harassm ent, illustrate disrespect that is characterized by

treating others as the m eans to an end. A lthough a person m a y be an
o b ject o f another perso n s concupiscence or fear, it is w ron g to treat
the person as simply a m eans to allay the disquiet o f the agent.
H um iliation. D efin in g hum iliation as the rejection o f hum an
beings as hum an, that is, treating people as if they w ere not hum an
beings but m erely things, tools, anim als, subhum ans, or in ferior hum ans,266 the Israeli philosopher A vishai M argalit extends this K a n tia n
injunction into the realm o f dignity. To vilate the first n ega tiv e d u ty
m andated b y a respectful person that is, to treat another person
sim ply as the m eans to an end is to engender a feeling o f in d ign ity
and self-rejection in the hum an object so treated. T h e person hum iliated m ay k n ow that she is the victim o f an appallin g in ju stice, accordin g to M argalit, bu t she cannot ignore this treatm ent b ecau se as a
hum an being she is a m em ber of a com m onw ealth and thus is never
entirely self-reliant.267 H um iliation is both p artially avoid able (notw ith stan d in g the claim s o f anarchist philosophers w h o deem h u m ilia
tion ever-present) and real (notw ithstanding the credo o f Stoic philosop h y ) . 2 6 8

E v e r since sexual harassm ent becam e actionable in federal courts

as a violation o f T itle V II, courts have im plicitly ack n ow led ged that
sexual harassm ent is hum iliatin g to the one harassed.269 In attem p tin g
to list the elem ents o f an abusive w o rk environm ent, the Suprem e
C o u rt has contrasted threatening or hum iliating behavior w ith be
havior that is m erely offen sive and has deem ed the form er con d u ct
an integral part o f the p la in tiffs case.270 T h e contrast betw een threat
ening and hum iliating harassm ent is not stark hum iliation and
threatening circum stances are generally present together but one or
the other condition m ay predom nate. O f the tw o T itle V II hostile en
vironm ent sexual harassm ent cases decided by the C ou rt, M erito r Sav-

ported incompetence at work). Starting from the som ewhat contrary premise that sexual harass
ment law must not overlook m otive and fault, the respectful person standard offered here also
relates these tw o strands o f libidinous harassment and animus-based harassment; I arge th a t the
tw o are alike not only because they subordnate wom en but because they vilate the d u ty not to
treat others sim ply as the means to an end.
M a r g a l i t , supra note 260, at 121.
267 Id. at 124-25.
268 See id. at 13-15, 22-23.
269 T h e landm ark case is Williams v. Saxbe, 413 F. Supp. 654, 655-56 (D .D .C . 1976), vacated
sub nom. W illiam s v. Bell, 587 F.2d 1240 (D.C. Cir. 1978). Later decisions also note the hum ilia
tion o f sexual harassment. See W illiam s v. Banning, 72 F.3d 552, 555 (7th Cir. 1995); Ascolese v.
Southeastern Penn. Transp. Auth., 925 F. Supp. 351, 360-61 (E.D. Pa. 1996); cf. Con ey v. D epart
ment o f H um an Resources, 787 F. Supp. 1434, 1443 (M.D. Ga. 1992) (noting the hum iliation of
racial harassment); M artone v. State, 611 A.2d 384, 385 n.i (R.I. 1992) (observing that the plaintiff-employee, who had been terminated, deserved a severe sanction for having caused h um ilia
tion through harassment).
270 H arris v. F orklift Sys., Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 21-23 (* 993 )-




[V o l. 111:445

ings B ank, F S B v. Vinson2 1 d escrib es a threatening environm ent,

co m p lete w ith sta lkin g and cape;272 C h arles H a rd y o f Harris v. F ork
lift System s, In c.,2''3' how ever, su b jected his em ployee to variou s hum iliation s.
H e jeered at the p la in tiff and called her am es that
sh a m ed her for being a w om an ; he told her to pul coins out o f his
fro n t trouser pockets; he lik ed to toss objects on the ground and order
w o m e n to p ick them up so th a t he co u ld view exposed portions o f their
b o d ies274 all gestures th a t aca d em ic writers, and tacitly Justice
O C o n n o r for the C ou rt, have d eem ed hum iliatin g.275 T h e hum iliation
m a n ifested itself: T eresa H a rris testified that H a r d y s behavior m ade
her feel stupid and degraded; she said that she began drin kin g more
a n d th a t her relationships w ith her h u sb an d and children becam e unh ap p y. A lth o u gh the ju d ges w h o h eard w h at w en t on a t F orklift Sys
tem s disagreed on w hether H a rris h a d a claim under T itle V II, they
a g re e d th at her reactions w ere reason ab le, in bounds, and cau sally
lin k e d to m istreatm ent at w o r k .276
T h e elem ents o f hum iliation
em erg e p arad igm a tically from Harris: hum iliation is both an action
a n d a reaction,277 a state th at outsiders can perceive,278 and a concept
a m en a b le to categorical norm s a n d thus to law.
T h e d u ty not to hum iliate another requires the agent to consider
the d ign ity o f the other and refra in from injuring that dignity, unless
in ju r y is either ju stified or u n a v o id a b le .279 T h e actor is obliged to rem em b er the com m u n ity in em p lo ym en t law, the w orkp lace that
u n ites the agent and the o b je c t.280 S ex u a l harassm ent at w ork has a
271 477 U .S. 57 (1986).
272 S e e id. at 5 o.
27i 510 U .S. 17 (1993).
2,4 S ee id. at 19.
275 S ee D olkart, supra note 191. at 1 5 8 ; K erry A . Colson, Comment, Harris v. Forklift Systems,
In c.: The Supreme Court M oves One Step Closer to Establishing a Workable Definition fo r Hostile
Work Environm ent Sexua l Harassment Claim s, 30 N e w E n g . L. R e v . 441, 441-42 (1996); D eanna
W eisse Trner, Recent Case, 17 U. A r k . L i t t l e R o c k L.J. 839, 841 (1995).
276 H arris first reached a magistrate, w h o deem ed H ard y a vulgar m an and his behavior offen sive to a reasonable wom an, but nonetheless ruled against H arris because o f her failure to
s h o w severe psychologicai injury. T h e Sixth C irc u it adopted the m agistrates findings in full.
T h e Suprem e C o u rt unanim ously reversed, condem ning H ard ys degrading behavior and repudia tin g the dem and that a p laintiff prove severe psychologicai injury. See Harris, 310 U .S. at 22J3 277 S ee H e n r y J . R e s k e , Scarlet Letter Sentences, A B A . J ., J a n . 1996, a t 1 6 - 1 7 ; J e r e m y W a id r o n , On H um iliation, 93 M lC H . L . R e v . 1 7 8 7 , 1 7 9 2 ( 1 9 9 5 ) ( b o o k r e v ie w ) .
278 Several cases have discussed harassm ent w itnessed by fellow em ployees at the workplace
an d the hum iliating effect o f such treatm ent. See H um phreys v. M edical Towers, Ltd., 893 F.
S u p p . 672, 680 (S.D. Tex. 1995), affd, 100 F. 3d 952 (5th Cir. 1996); Fred v. VVackenhut Corp., 860
F. Supp. 1401, 1405-06 (D. N eb. 1994), affd, 53 F.3d 335 (8th Cir. 1995); Robinson v. Jacksonville
S h ip yards, Inc., 760 F. Supp. 1486, 1499 (M .D . F ia. 1991).
279 O n justification and unavoidability, see pp. 498-504 below. O n the moral am biguity o f even
ju s tifie d hum iliation, see Waldron, cited ab ove in note 277, at 1795-96.
280 W riting more generally about institutional hum iliation, M argalit calis this com m unity the
F am ily o f M a n . M a r g a l i t , supra note 260, at 135-40 (describing further encompassing




public, com m unal dim ensin, even w h en the offending behavior takes
place behind a closed door. B ein g hum iliated at w ork can d im inish
settled beliefs abou t o n e s com petence and relative status v is- -vis
other w orkers. H um iliation can also m ake a w orker w onder w h a t her
jo b description really is and w hether prior feed back m ust be reinterpreted in light o f an erosion o f her dignity.281 T h is response is n atu ral,
alm ost universal, and so the harassing em ployer m ust be presum ed to
understand that his actions hum iliate.
Personhood. T h e three statem ents o f negative duty express
the obligations o f a respectful person through separate em phases
rather than sharp contrasts. T h e d u ty not to treat others sim ply a s the
m eans to an end serves as a w arn ing about aggregation and consequentialism . T h e duty not to hum iliate em phasizes dignity and c o m
m unal status.
T h e d u ty not to vi late the personhood and selfconception of another, w hich com pletes the negative duties o f recogn i
tion respect, expresses a concern abou t the boundaries that sep arate
ind ividuis from one another.
E v e r y object is distinct from every agent; and in situations pertinent to sexual harassm ent rules, both agent and object are persons
w h o are com petent, autonom ous, and separate. D istinct life p lan s
designs that create order ou t o f diverse experiences and com m itm ents
distinguish persons. N o tw o life plans, and no tw o persons, c a n be
exa ctly the same. These designs w arran t recognition respect.282
E xam ples m ay help to cla rify the d u ty to respect the personhood
and self-conception o f another. E liza b eth Spelm an gathers fam iliar
com plaints about failures to respect personhood: Y o u only p ay attention to m y b od y and its less fam ous counterpart, Y ou only p ay atten tion to m y m ind; T h in k a b ou t w ho I am , rather than how od I a m ,
from an elderly person; and the resentm ent o f a person identified on ly
as the w ife or husband o f another.283 These com plaints, P rofessor
Spelm an arges, m ake dem ands more strenuous than rights; the com plainant has dem anded to be treated as the person he or she is,284 even
though it m ay not be possible for a heeding agent to comply. B u t a
lesser d uty is possible. T h e agent m ust ackn ow led ge the separate life
plan o f the object. T h e agen t m ust regard the object as a sou rce
g r o u p s );

see also W i l l i a m I a n M i l l e r , H u m i l i a t i o n 1 4 4 - 4 5 ( * 993 ) 'd e s c r ib in g h u m i l i a t i o n a s

a s o c ia l f a c t t h a t c a u s e s t h e i d e n t it y o f th e h u m ilia t e d to c o lla p s e in p u b li c v ie w ) .

281 One student commentator fnds these indignities so intense that she deems sexual harass
ment a violation o f the Thirteenth Amendm ent, a badge of slavery. Jennifer L. Conn, N ote,
Sexual Harassment: A Thirteenth Amendment Response, 28 COLUM . J.L. & S o c . PROBS. 5 1 9 , 539


282 See S t e p h e n M

ib e r a l

aced o

, L

o n s t it u t io n a l is m

ib e r a l

ir t u e s

: C

it iz e n s h ip

, V

ir t u e


o m m u n it y


4 7 ( 1 9 9 1 ) ( a d d in g t h a t life p la n s m u s t c l a i m so m e o r ig in i n r a

t io n a l t h o u g h t in o r d e r to w a r r a n t r e s p e c t).

283 Spelm an, supra note 261, at 150.

284 See id. at 160-61.



[V o l. n 1:445

a lb e it not an u n im p each ab le o n e o f inform ation abou t the ob

je c t.285 T h e agen t can not exp ect another person to conform to, or be
su b ju g a te d by, the plans o f t h e agent. Accordin gly, the agen t m ust acc e p t co m m u n ica tio n from the ob ject. O b lig ed to listen, to pause, to
a b so rb n ew in form ation , and som etim es to be deterred from action, the
a g en t a ck n o w led g e s the eq u a lity and auton om y o f another person.
E q u a lity a n d a u ton om y cannot, o f course, dctate a precise p ath o f a c
tion for the agen t, as his or her ow n eq u ality and au ton om y are at
sta k e too. T h e d u ty to hesitate in recognition respect m a y be fulfilled
in an instan t, and the agent need not ob ey the com m an d o f the ob ject
in order to fu lfill the dem ands o f recognition respect. W h a t is needed
is recep tiv en ess to com m u nication, such as takin g no for an answ er.
T h e resp ectfu l agen t also refrain s from using stereotypes as a shortc u t a ro u n d the hard er w o rk o f seeing another as he or she tru ly is.
S p elm a n g iv es as exam ples o f such laziness the assum ption th at an
oth er person is d efensive because he is short, or va in because he is
h a n d so m e.286 T h ese stereotypes offend the tenets o f recognition re
sp ect b ecau se th ey presum e.
In cid entally they vi la te the selfc o n cep tio n o f the other, b u t it is their denigration o f in d iv id u a l person h oo d th a t im plies a b etrayal o f recognition respect.

R esp ect as a Legal Standard fo r Sexu a l Harassm ent Cases

The Em ploym ent Context

In a d d itio n to p ro vid in g a m eans o f understanding sexual h arass

m en t, a respectfu l person stan dard can illum inate som e o f the m ore
v e x in g prob lem s o f curren t em ploym ent law doctrine. T h is section
con sid ers three o f these problem s in turn: first, the question o f em
p lo yer lia b ility for the harassing behavior o f em ployees; second, w h a t I
h a v e c a lle d (som ew hat im precisely) the problem o f ju stificatio n for app a ren t d isrespect, w h ich includes such concepts as assum ption o f risk,
w elcom en ess, and the hypersensitive plaintiff; and third, the d ifficu lty
o f sep a ra tin g questions o f la w from questions o f fact, a problem that
has b ed ev ile d courts in sexual harassm ent cases.
A gen cy and R esp o n sib ility . A lthou gh sexual harassm ent and
sex d iscrim in ation generally are com m itted b y in d ivid u is, em ployees
seek in g redress for hostile en viron m ent sexual harassm ent often bring
actio n s a g a in st business en tity em ployers. D ign itary-tort actions are
m ore lik e ly to be rem u n erative to plaintiffs w hen em ployers as w ell as
in d iv id u is are inclu d ed as defendants. For T itle V I I actions, such inclusions w ere in the past ab so lu tely necessary: until the 1991 am endm ents, m o n ey d am ages w ere u n availab le under T itle V II,287 and tradition al rem edies such as b a c k p a y and in ju n ctive relief cou ld be had
285 Id. at 154.
286 See id. a t 153, 157 n.6.
287 See C iv il Rights A ct o f 1991, Pub. L . N o. 102-166, i977a(b), 105 Stat. 1071, 1073 (1991).




only from em ployers.288 T h e post-1991 a va ila b ility o f m on etary d a m

ages has not lessened the tendency o f plaintiffs to seek ju d gm en ts
again st em ployers.
L eg a l standards for sexual harassm ent claim s,
therefore, m ust address the question of w hen em ployers becom e responsible for the harassing acts o f their em ployees.
In M eritor, the Suprem e C ou rt com m ended agen cy p rin cipies to
help a n sw er this question o f responsibility;289 and w h eth er a business
en tity ought to be Hable for harassm ent because o f the conduct o f its
em ployees seems a straightforw ard problem o f agency. B u t little is
straig h tfo rw a rd in sexual harassm ent law, and in this area the lo w er
courts have sim ultaneously applauded and repudiated the com m on
la w o f agency.290 C ou rts try to follow the teaching o f M eritor y e t contin u ally a d vert to fa u lt principies rather than agen cy law as a b asis for
em ployer liability.291
T h e lo w er court decisions in M eritor offered several differen t approaches to agency in the context o f Title V II claim s for hostile e n v i
ronm ent sexual harassm ent. T h e M eritor trial court ruled again st the
plain tiff, w h o alleged harassm ent as a T itle V i l sex-discrim ination
violation , and found that no harassm ent had occurred; in dicta, the
court ad ded that the em ployer could not be liable because it h a d no
notice o f the harassm ent.292 T h e C ou rt o f A p peals for the D istrict of
C o lu m b ia C ircuit, reversing, rejected the com m on law agen cy rule and
held M erito r Savings B a n k autom atically liable for the h arassing acts
o f its agent, the harasser-supervisor.293 A ccord in g to this op inion , a
com m on la w approach w ou ld treat em ployers too leniently and w a s in
an y even t irrelevant to this statutory problem .294 A n opposing p er
sp ective on the agen cy question carne from a dissent in the a p p ellate
court, in w hich Judge B ork argued forthrightly for a rejection o f
a gen cy principies.295
288 See C iv il Rights A ct o f 1964, Pub. L. No. 88-352, 7o6(g), 78 Stat. 241, 261 (1964); E q u al
Em ploym ent O pportunity A ct o f 1972, Pub. L. No. 92-261, 4, 86 Stat. 103, 107 (1972).
289 M eritor Sav. Bank, F S B v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57, 72 (1986).
290 See Glen Alien Staszewski, Note, Using Agency Principies fo r Guidance in F in d in g Em
ployer Liability fo r a Supervisos Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment, 48 V a n d . L.
R e v . 1057, 1062 (1995) (explaining that courts have been erratic and inconsistent in their use of
agency law in sexual harassment cases); cf. Rachel E. Lutner, Note, Employer Liability fo r Sexu a l
Harassment: The Morass o f Agency Principies and Respondeat Superior, 1993 U . ILL. L. R e v . 589,
589 (arguing that rebanee on agency law has not established a clear standard for em ployer li
ability for sexual harassment).
291 See Kenneth L . Pollack, Special Project, Current Issues in Sexual Harassment L a w , 48

a n d

. L. R

e v

. 10 0 9 , 1 0 1 7 ( 19 9 5 ).

292 See Vinson v. Taylor, 23 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BN A) 37, 42 (D .D .C. 1980), revd, 753 F.2d
141 (D .C. Cir. 1985), affd sub nom. Meritor Sav. Bank, F S B v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986).
293 See Vinson v. Taylor, 753 F.2d 141, 149-50 (D.C. Cir. 1985), a ffd sub nom. M eritor Sav.
Bank, F S B v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986).
294 See id. at 150.
295 Judge B o rk wrote a separate opinion dissenting from the denial of rehearing en banc in Vin
son. See Vinson v. Taylor, 760 F.2d 1330, 1330 (D.C. Cir. 1985) (Bork, J., dissenting).



[V o l. 111:445

W h e n M e r ito r reached the Suprem e C ourt, Justice M a rsh all w rote

sep a ra te ly to d efen d the use o f a gen cy principies in T itle V I I sexual
h a ra ssm en t cla im s.296 Justfce M a rsh all agreed w ith the cou rt o f appeals th a t em p loyers should gen erally be liable for harassm en t b y a
su p e rv iso r even w ith o u t notice, but ackn ow led ged the p ossibility o f
rare excep tion s to this rule o f em p loyer liability.297 In his opinion for
the C o u rt, Justice R ehnquist hedged, m aintaining that the record could
not su p p o rt a clear rule a b ou t the com m on law o f agen cy in T itle V II
h a ra ssm en t cases. Justice R eh n q u ist deem ed agen cy principies useful
fo r g u id a n c e and, consistent w ith these principies, refused to require
em p lo ye r notice for liab ility in all cases.298
T h e s e app roach es to em p loyer liab ility all found w ithin one case
b a r e ly skim the surface o f options availab le to the courts. O n e stud en t com m en tator, tracing the application of M eritor-decreed agen cy
p rin cip ies in the federal circu its, finds chaos: some circuits fa vo r a
fa u lt-b a sed analysis; others p refer strict liability; several circu its have
fre e ly w ritten their ow n va riation s on these them es.299 A c c o rd in g to
an o th er w riter, the law of a g en cy as applied to T itle V II is a potpourri
o f con seq u en tialist and deon tological rationales, disputes o v er the
m ea n in g o f ja rg o n like respondeat superior, em pirical confusion
a b o u t in cen tives, and partial overlap s o f doctrine.300 T h e con cep t o f
a g e n c y is integral to u n derstan ding and rem edying w o rk p lace sexual
harassm en t, b u t agen cy law in its particulars points in v a ry in g directions. T h is ju d ic ia l u n certain ty is the result o f un certainty a b o u t the
n atu re o f hostile en viron m ent sexual harassm ent. In their present inatten tio n to w h a t m akes sexu al harassm ent w rong, courts can n o t und ersta n d w h a t is responsible for this phenom enon.301 T h e con cep t o f
respect, how ever, offers coheren t gu idance and a u n ifyin g theme.
296 See M eritor, 477 U .S. at 74 (M arshall, J., concurring).
297 Justice M arsh all suggested that an individual could be a supervisor yet lack supervisory
au th o rity o v e r the com plainant if the tw o w ork in w holly different parts o f the em ployers busin ess. Id. at 77. T h e court o f appeals opinion w ould apparently have favored em ployer liability
in such a situation, and M arshall w ould have used agency reasoning to exonerate the employer.
S e e id. a t 76-77298 S ee M eritor, 477 U .S. at 72.
299 S ee Justin S. W eddle, Note, Title V II Sexual Harassment: Recognizing an EmployersNonDelegable D uty to Prevent a H ostile Workplace, 95 C o lu m . L. R e v . 724, 734-37 (1995).
300 See M ich ael J. Phillips, Employer Sexu a l Harassment Liability Under Agency Principies: A
S e co n d Look at M eritor Savings Bank, F S B v. Vinson, 4 4 V a n d . L . R e v . 1 2 2 9 , 1 2 3 9 - 4 6 ( 1 9 9 1 ) .
301 O n e exam ple o f this incoherence is found in the notice requirement em braced b y Judge
B o rk , see Vinson v. Taylor, 760 F.2d 1330, 1332 (D .C. Cir. 1985) (Bork, J., dissenting), as well as
several other judges, see, e.g., Lipsett v. U niversity o f Puerto Rico, 864 F.2d 881, 899-901 ( is t Cir.
1988) (interpreting Title IX ); Jones v. F lagsh ip In tl, 793 F.2d 714, 719-20 (5th Cir. 1986) (holding
th a t the p lain tiff must establish actual or constructive knowledge). T h e notice requirem ent abso lves em ployers who did not know about the harassment. A s the student com m entator Glen
S taszew ski points out, advocates of a notice requirement tend to dispense with notice when the
h arassm ent is o f the quid pro quo variety, even though hostile environm ent harassment is much
m ore noticeable by a third party. See Staszew ski, supra note 290, at 1083 n.154.




Con sider w h at a respectful place o f em ploym ent w ould lo o k like.

In order for respect to flourish in a w orkp lace, the em ployer m u st ack n ow ledge the status, opportunities, com m unicative functions, and
vuln erabilities o f each w orker.302 T itle V I I makes parallel d em an d s.303
For purposes o f its d u ty to prevent and rem edy sexual harassm en t,
therefore, the em ployer m ust be seen as an agent as w ell as a prin cip al;
its responsibilities d irect and nondelegable arise from its own
obligations not to prom ote or condone a hostile w orkplace.304
In the role o f an em ployer, the respectful person is aw are th a t official authority, peer pressure, and anxiety about change in the w o r k
place all n atural and inevitable at a jo b site can con trib u te to
u n law fu l injury. T h e respectful em ployer therefore m ust stru ctu re a
w orkp lace to reduce and to prevent these effects: w ithin the n arro w e r
perspective o f T itle V II, this em ployer m ust design its w o rk p la c e to
reduce and to prevent those effects that are addressed by T itle V II.
U nder a respectful person standard, an em ployer has a n ond elegable
d uty to m aintain an attitu d e o f responsiveness and attention.305 A s
one court put it, energetic m easures306 o f correction m ust be a v a il
able to em ployees w h o believe that they are being harassed. B ec a u se
the respectful person listens and heeds in good faith,307 it w o u ld v i
late the standard to im p ly that a com plaint, rather than the w ro n g fu l
conduct itself, is a problem ; thus the respectful em ployer w h o fin d s a
com plaint credible m ust confront the harasser, rather than m erely
separate him from the com plainant.308 T h e tenet o f respect a lso re302 See supra pp. 484-92.
303 See Albem arle Paper Co. v. Moody, 422 U.S. 405, 417 (1975); Rogers v. E E O C , 454 F.2d
234, 238 (5th Cir. 1971); cf. Note, supra note 199, at 1464 (arguing that Title V H s purpose is to
prohibit all practices that create inequalities in the workplace among identifable social groups).
304 See Weddle, supra note 299, at 742 (urging courts to view the working environm ent as a
w hole). A s Weddle notes, agency principies acknowledge the existence o f nondelegable duties,
thus establishing a nondelegable d uty to avoid a hostile environment is consistent w ith the
agency principies directive in Meritor. See id. at 743; see also Phillips, supra note 300, a t 125255 (detailing agency principies pertaining to nondelegability).
305 Responsiveness and attention, crucial constituents o f respect, are expressed d o ctrin ally in
the requirement that the em ployer take prompt action to remedy a complaint. Cross v. S tate of
Ala., 49 F.3d 1490, 1507 ( n t h Cir. 1995). T he respectful employer has additional duties relating
to prevention, but this object-focused, attenve, and responsive respect is the most central element o f the standard.
306 Pinkney v. Robinson, 913 F. Supp. 25, 34 (D .D .C. 1996); c f Carm on v. Lubrizol C o rp ., 17
F.3d 791, 793 (5th Cir. 1994) (noting that [i]mmediately [the employer] sprang into action in re
sponse to a complaint).
307 See supra pp. 486-92.
308 Compare N ash v. Electrospace Sys., Inc., 9 F.3d 401, 404 (5th Cir. 1993) (approving o f the
transfer o f the complainant), with Steiner v. Showboat Operating Co.. 25 F.3d 1459, 1464 (9th Cir.
1994) (disapproving o f the reassignment of the plaintiff to a new shift aw ay from the harasser).
The question whether an em ployer can satisfy Title VTIs nondiscrimination mandate by m erely
separating accuser and accused illustrates again the need to acknowledge the theme o f m oral fault
that pervades the statute. Inattention to the quasi-tort concerns of Title V II, in favor o f a sterile,
depersonalized emphasis on environm ent, leads to remedial error. A harassed worker has a cor-



[V o l. 111:445

q u ires sin cerity in rem ediation: if an em ployer responds to a com plaint

b y rep rim an d in g the harasser and threatening m ore severe action
sh o u ld he fail to desist, respect dem ands that the em ployer m ake good
on its threat w h en the harassm en t contines.309 C u rren t interpretation s o f the statute, cou p led w ith the respect-based tenet th a t indi
v id u is should be view ed an d ju d g e d as unique beings, m and ate such
a ffirm a tiv e behavior.
T h is use o f respect, w h ic h treats the em ployer as a person, salvages
th e b est elem ents o f curren t fau lt-based and strict liab ility approaches.
F a u lt-b a sed inquiries o f hostile environm ent sexual h arassm ent claim s
b ro u g h t under T itle V II address the agency question b y focu sin g on
w h e th e r the em p loyer k n e w or should have k n o w n o f the harass
m en t.310 T h e virtu es o f this in q u iry are analogous to the ad van tages
o f n egligence o v er strict liab ility.311 T h e knew -or-should-have-know n
sta n d a rd is also congru ent w ith the fault-based them es th at pervad e
T itle V II. W ith good reason, courts favor this approach to em ployer
lia b ility in hostile en viron m ent cases.312 T h e respectful person stan
d a rd affirm s these critical them es o f d u ty and connection. Y e t the
k n ew -o r-sh o u ld -h ave-k n ow n stan dard m anifests shortcom ings in practice th a t the respectful person stan dard w ould am eliorate. W h en using
th e k n ew -or-sh ou ld -h ave-kn ow n stan dard courts h ave som etim es been
too q u ic k to sever links o f responsibility between m anagem ent and erra n t em ployees, thereby en cou ragin g aloofness and in a tte n tio n 313
S u ch a fa u lt stan dard is fla w e d because it urges em ployers to remedy,
rective justice right to have her w orking environm ent restored that is to say, given b a ck to her
w ith the harassm ent rem oved. T h e statute also entitles workers to the prevention o f harass
m ent. Both o f these m oral claim s are slighted by cases like Steiner that regard the sim ple shifdng
o f a com plainant, to a new space or time w ithin the workplace, as an adequate response to the
harm . In a more egregious d isplay o f inattention to moral fault, the Tenth C ircu it in Buchanan v.
Sh errill, 51 F.3d 227 (io th Cir. 1995), dism issed one hostile environm ent claim on the sol ground
th at the p lain d ff had been offered a transfer. See id. at 229. In deem ing the em ployers conduct
accep table, the court cited Saxton v. A T & T Co., 10 F.3d 526 (7th Cir. 1993), in w hich the perpetrator, not the com plainant, had been transferred.
309 See Intlekofer v. Trnage, 973 F.2d 773, 780 (91 Cir. 1992) (faulting the em ployer for the
idleness o f its threat).
310 S ee Saxton v. A T & T Co., 10 F.3d 526, 535-36 (7th Cir. 1993); E E O C v. H acienda Hotel, 881
F.2d 1504, 15 15 -16 (9th Cir. 1989); H all v. G us Constr. Co., Inc., 842 F.2d i o n , 1015 (8th Cir.
311 See Phillips, supra note 300, at 1263-64.
312 See L i n d e m a n n & K a d u e , supra note 35, at 191-92 (1992); Weddle, supra note 299, at 734.
313 See, e.g., K otcher v. Rosa and Sullivan A ppliance Ctr., Inc., 957 F.2d 59, 64 (2d Cir. 1992)
(condoning the em ployers unaw areness o f harassment that took place in Osw ego, N e w York, because central m anagem ent was located in Rochester); Ellerth v. Burlington Indus., Inc., 912 F.
Supp. 110 1, 1 1 1 7 -2 1 (N .D . 111. 1996) (blam ing the plaintiff w ho did not follow employeem anual procedure for reporting harassm ent because she feared retaliation for the em ployers
ignorance), a ffd in part and revd in part en banc sub nom. Jansen v. Packagin g Corp. o f Am erica,
123 F.3d 490 (7th Cir. 1997) (per curiam ); Thom pson v. Berta Enters., Inc., 864 P.2d 983, 989
(W ash. C t. A pp . 1994) (noting that the plaintiff had never reported harassment to the m anage
m ent and that the harassment had taken place behind closed doors).




but not to prevent, sexual harassm ent.314 K n ew -or-should-h ave-know n

analysis also subtly bifurcates em ployers and em ployees, leading to a
fragm en ted perception o f the w rong.31s
In contrast, the respectful person standard tem pers fau lt-based approaches to em ployer liab ility by lookin g at the w orkp lace as a unit.
Y e t its attention to hum an conduct and ind ivid u al choices rescues the
stan dard from the m ajor failings o f strict em ployer liability. C ou rts
in v o k e strict liab ility in the relatively rare context o f T itle V II q u id pro
quo sexual harassm ent, and some com m entators arge for broad en ing
this application to hostile environm ent claim s.316 V icariou s liab ility for
an y harm usually creates incentives to prevent injury.317 B u t w h en
d ivo rced from the idea that a w orkp lace consists o f relationships
am ong individuis, strict em ployer liab ility also suggests evils o f its
ow n: threats to p riva cy due to policing,318 occupational segregation,315
and inattention to the conditions that a llow w orkers to flourish w ith in
a group .320 T h e respectful person approach thus m ediates b etw een
fau lt-based and strict liab ility view s o f hostile environm ent sexu al ha
rassm ent, flavoring each w ith the strengths of the opposite approach.
In this process, the respectful person standard com ports w ith agen cy
law and operates under its specific gu idance for exam ple, agen cy
la w helps to say w hether an action took place inside or outside the
w orksite but does not becom e ensnared in its contradictions.
Justifications fo r Apparent D isrespect. C a n hostile en viron
m ent sexual harassm ent be justified? C ourts have had scant opportun ity to consider this question. T itle V I I doctrine perm its a defendant
to introduce evidence o f justification after a p la in tiff has com pleted
her prim a facie case,321 b u t in sexual harassm ent cases few d efendants
314 See Weddle, supra note 299, at 737-38 & n.98 (pointing out that Title V II encourages prevention as well as redress).
315 S ee id. at 738 & nn.101-103 (citing Baker v. W eyerhauser C o., 903 F.2d 1342 (io th Cir.
316 See D avid Benjam n Oppenheimer, Exacerbating the Exasperating: Title V II L ia bility o f
Employers fo r Sexual Harassment Committed by Their Supervisors, 8 1 C O R N E L L L . R e v . 6 6 , 7 1
(19 9 5 ) ; Christopher P. Barton, N ote, Between the Boss and a Hard Place: A C onsideraron o f
M eritor Savings Bank, F S B v. Vinson and the Law o f Sexual Harassment, 6 7 B.U . L . R e v . 4 4 5 ,
4 6 0 - 6 2 ( 19 8 7 ). For a more tentad ve endorsement o f expanding liability, see Note, cited above in
note 1 9 9 , at 14 6 2 .
317 S ee A lan O. Sykes, The Boundaries o f Vicarious Liability: An Econom ic A nalysis o f the
Scope o f Employment Rule and Related Legal D octrines, 101 H a r v . L. R e v . 563, 607 (1988).
318 S ee Vinson v. Taylor, 760 F.2d 1330, 1331 n.3 (D .C . Cir. 1985) (Bork, J., dissenting).
319 S ee Kozinski, supra note 108, at x -x i (warning that women em ployees could be trapped in a
gilded cage and separated from opportunities); Epstein, supra note 12, at 408 n.57; B a rbara Paul
Robinson, Letter to the Editor, N .Y . T i m e s , Jan. 15, 1996 (referring to a N ew Y o rk bar association study that suggested that m any male lawyers respond to expanded liability for sexual harass
ment by avoiding working with wom en).
320 See Kozinski, supra note 108, at xii.
321 See United States Postal Serv. Bd. of G overnors v. Aikens, 460 U.S. 711, 7 1 4 -1 5 ( i 9 83 )
M cD onnell D ouglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973)-



[V o l. 111:445

do so form ally. O n e court has professed to find it hard to see how an

em p lo yer can ju stify harassm en t.322 T h e question o f ju stificatio n becom es m ore pressing, how ever, w h en hostile environm ent sexual h a
rassm ent is seen in the contours o f fau lt. A n tid iscrim ination law, focu sin g on the w o rk p lace rath er than on in d ivid u al dereliction, cannot
consisten tly be concerned w ith the righteous m otives o f a personalized
em p loyer any m ore than it can d em an d proof o f intent to injure. E ven
i f trad itio n al antidiscrim ination doctrin e had room for ju stification,
m oreover, ju d g es have noted th at w h en they focus on the w o rk en vi
ron m en t as a w hole, claim s o f ju stificatio n begin to appear false or
p retex tu a l.323
F au lt-b ased doctrine, b y contrast, generally perm its defendants to
escap e liab ility w h en they acted w ith ju stificatio n .324 H ostile en vi
ron m en t sexual harassm ent, en vision ed in this A rticle m ain ly in terms
o f T itle V I I and thus only p a rtially fault-based, has a role for ju stific a
tion, alb eit a circum scribed role. T h e concept o f ju stificatio n in the
co n tex t o f sexual harassm ent ju risp ru d en ce has eluded the under
sta n d in g o f the judiciary, w h ich has failed to set forth a conceptual
fra m ew o rk for the doctrine.
H e re the w o rk o f Joel F ein berg on offensiveness is pertinent. P ro
fessor F ein berg w rites th at su b jective perceptions o f offense m ust be
tem p ered w ith qualifications: the stan dard o f reasonable avoid ability,
th e m axim volenti non f i t inju ria , an d the discounting o f abnorm al
su scep tibilities.325 Feinberg ack n o w led ges that these qualification s on
offen siven ess partak e o f a reasonableness standard, y et he insists that
offen siven ess exists apart from reasonableness and reason.326 B y analo g y to offensiveness, then, choices on the part o f the victim o f alleged
h arassm en t can dim inish the full forc o f w h a t w ou ld otherw ise be
O n e m a y d erive three criteria from Feinberg. First, could the offen d er reasonab ly have avoid ed b eh a vin g in a disrespectful m anner?
S econ d , does the com plain an t fall w ith in the volenti m axim : is she the
w illin g for w h om there is no in ju ry?327 T h ird , do the co m p la in a n ts
322 M o ffett v. Gene B. G lick Co., 621 F. Supp. 244, 266 (N.D. Ind. 1985), overruled by ReederB a k e r v. Lincoln N at. Corp., 644 F. Supp. 983 (N .D . Ind. 1986).
323 S ee A m an v, C o rt Furniture Rental Corp., 85 F.3d 1074, 1083 (3d Cir. 1996) (citing Vanee v.
South ern B ell Tel. & Tel. Co., 863 F.2d 1503, 1510 ( n t h Cir. 1989)).
324 To m ove along the fault continuum , crim inal law provides the m ost elabrate scheme o f
ju stifica tio n , distinguishing it from excuse and grading levels o f justification; next comes tort law,
w h ic h recognizes privileges to com m it a prim a facie intentional tort. See John Law rence Hill,
E xp lo ita tion , 79 C o r n e l l L. R e v . 631, 6 51-52 (1994).
325 F e i n b e r g , supra note 33, at 35-36.
326 S ee id.
327 See B l a c k s L a w D i c t i o n a r y 1575 (6th ed. 1990) (T he maxim . . . means that if one,
k n o w in g and com prehending the danger, volun tarily exposes [herjself to it, though not negligent
in so doing, [s]he is deemed to have assum ed the risk and is precluded from a recovery for an in
ju r y therefrom .).

1 9 97 ]



abn orm al susceptibilities w eaken her claim o f havin g been treated

w ith disrespect?
B ecau se these questions fit w ithin justification as it is u n derstood
in T itle V II doctrine, they ought to burden the defendant rath er than
the plaintiff. M eritor Savings B ank v. Vinson, m isguided on this
point,328 has created confusion in the low er courts. T h is confu sion
w o u ld be rem edied by a change to a respectful person stan dard. U n
der the new standard, defendants could, in a pretrial m otion, raise the
possibility th at a com plaint is dim inished by one o f the F ein bergd erived ju stificatio n conditions. Judges w ould ap p ly su m m ary ju d g m ent criteria to decide w h eth er the defendant could pursue d iscovery,
or introduce evidence, as to these defenses. These changes in th eory
and litigation practice are sim ple and flow logically from the respectfu l
person standard. A s I arge below, moreover, all o f the F ein bergd erived criteria have counterparts in current Title V II case law , and
these counterparts w ou ld ease the transition.
T h e first criterion, avoidability, parallels som ething th at a t first
blu sh m ay look different: the Title V II requirem ent o f pervasiven ess.
A v o id ab ility resem bles pervasiveness because both em phasize ques
tions o f proportion: H o w b ad was the challenged conduct? F leetin g
hostility or abusiveness does not affect the w ork environm ent enough
for courts to find liability.329 As doctrine, the requirem ent o f p e rv a
siveness has been relatively uncontroversial, although some cou rts and
com m entators have considered w hether a single act can a m ou n t to
p erv asiv e hostility.330 T h is tw inge o f analytic doubt suggests th a t it
m a y not be possible to cou n t the num ber o f relevant acts to determ ine
w hether it is large enough to indicate pervasiveness.331
328 See M eritor Sav. Bank, F S B v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57, 68 (1986) (T he correct in qu iry is
w hether respondent by her conduct indicated that the alleged sexual advances were unw elcom e
329 See id. at 67 (holding that harassment must alter the conditions o f [the v ictim s] em ploy
m ent (alteration in original) (quoting Henson v. Dundee, 682 F.2d 897, 904 (1982)) (internal quotation m arks omitted)).
330 T h e E E O C seems to think not but keeps the question open. See E E O C Policy G u id an ce on
C u rren t Issues o f Sexual H arassm ent (Mar. 19, 1990) [hereinafter E E O C Policy G uidance], reprinted in L i n d e m a n n & K a d u e , supra note 3 5 , at 661, 670-71 (suggesting that, am ong possible
isolated instances, an extrem ely aggressive physical violation would most likelv suffice fo r liabil
331 C o n s i d e r th e p e c u l ia r u s e o f t h e p h r a s e is o la t e d in c id e n t in c a s e la w .

T h e p h ra se d o e s n ot

m e a n o n e in c id e n t b u t r a t h e r i n d ic a t e s s o m e n u m b e r to o lo w to im p r e s s th e c o u r t : i n o t h e r
w o r d s , th e q u e s t io n o f p e r v a s iv e n e s s is a n s w e r e d
r a s s in g in c id e n ts .

a c t ic e

S ee A


o n t

, Sexu


before th e c o u r t e n u m e r a t e s th e n u m b e r o f h a -




th e

o r kplace

: L



4 9 n .1 6 6 (19 9 0 ) ( c it in g is o l a t e d in c id e n t s c a s e s in v o l v i n g 5 0 in c id e n ts o v e r 1 0 y e a r s ,

f i v e in c id e n t s o v e r t h r e e y e a r s , a n d th r e e is o l a t e d in c id e n t s o f h a r a s s m e n t o v e r [a ] t h r e e - y e a r
p e r i o d ( c it a t io n s o m itte d ) );

see also B l a c k v. Z a r i n g H o m e s , I n c ., 104 F .3 d 8 22 , 8 2 4 - 2 5 ( 6 t h C ir.

1 9 9 7 ) ( n o t in g t h a t t h e m a g i s t r a t e j u d g e d e e m e d th e h a r a s s m e n t to h a v e b e e n a n i s o l a t e d i n c i
d e n t , e v e n t h o u g h th e p l a i n t i f f h a d c o m p la in e d t o h e r e m p lo y e r s g e n e r a l c o u n s e l: H a s it a l w a y s
b e e n l ik e th is ? . . . [ T h e h a r a s s m e n t] t a k e s u p so m u c h t im e ( in te r n a l q u o t a t io n m a r k s o m it te d ) ) .



[V o l. 111:445

H ere a resp ectfu l person stan dard, tem pered b y the defense o f reaso n a b le avoid ability, con veys, w h a t is desirable abou t d octrin al atten
tio n to p erv asiv en ess that is, the chance to w eigh and to m easure
th e w ron gn ess o f w o rk p lace action w hile at the sam e tim e rescuing
w h a t is d esirab le abou t the idea o f reasonableness. It m a y be reason
a b le , for exam p le, for com pany m anagem ent to p a y less attention to a
fe w sexual h arassm en t com plaints in the m iddle o f its o w n hostile
ta k e o v e r crisis. A s the harassm ent becom es m ore en com passing
la s tin g longer, affectin g m ore people it becom es less reasonable for
m a n a ge m e n t to neglect these conditions o f disrespect, even if fu n d a
m en t is o f co m p a n y ow nership happ en to be in turm oil. A t this point,
on e m a y sa y th a t pervasiven ess has been achieved. T h e q u a lity to
lo o k for is not sim ply the breadth o f harassm ent, as atten tion to per
v a siv e n e ss in its curren t state suggests, bu t the ad d itio n al dim ensin
o f avoid ability.
Volenti non f i t in ju ria a them e sounded in the stu d ent note
w h o se title begins D id She A s k for It? 332 in flu en ced Justice
R e h n q u is ts opinion for the C o u rt in M eritor Savings B ank, F S B v.
V inson333 an d the M eritor-d erived rule that a p la in tiff m u st prove th at
sh e did not w elcom e the challenged conduct.334 A s m a n y com m entato rs arge, the rule a b ou t w elcom en ess is akin to the com m on law
b e lie f th a t rape claim s are often lies that are asserted to n u llify past
consent: a cco rd in g to the prejudice, a w om an w h o is n ow a p la in tiff or
a p rosecu trix w a s a w illin g p articip an t w hen the con d u ct occu rred .33S
TVial courts h a v e acqu iesced to this effort b y a llo w in g defend ants to
a rg e w elcom en ess w ith an array o f testim ony for instan ce, that the
p la in tiff used coarse lan gu age at w o rk, talked to colleagu es abou t her
se x u a l activities, or told risqu jo k es.336 L aw y ers w h o d efen d T itle V II
332 See A nn C . Juliano, Note, D id She Ask F or It?: The Unwelcome R equirem enl in Sexual
H arassm ent Cases, 77 C o r n e l l L. R e v . 1558 (1992).
333 477 U.S. 57, 68-69 (1986) (stating that the com plainants fantasies and sexually provocativ e speech or dress are obviously relevant to the issue o f voluntariness (citation omitted) (in
te rn a l quotation m arks omitted)).
334 See M ovan v. M aries County, 792 F.2d 746, 750 (8th Cir. 1986) (holding that the plaintiff
m u st prove th at she w as subject to unwelcom e sexual harassment); M ary F. R adford, By Invitatio n Only: The P r o o f o f Welcomeness in Sexual Harassment Cases, 72 N .C . L . R e v . 499, 519
(1994) (noting that alm ost all federal circuits follow this rule); Childers, supra note 122, at 862 n.29
(read in g M eritor to state a presumption o f welcom eness that the plaintiff m ust rebut).
335 See Janine Benedet, H ostile Environm ent Sexual Harassment Claims and the Unwelcome
In flu en ce o f Rape Law , 3 M i c h . J. G e n d e r & L. 125, 132 (1995); Estrich, supra note 4, at 816;
Ju lian o , supra note 332, at 1573 - 7 5 336 See Reed v. Shepard, 939 F.2d 484, 491-92 (7th Cir. 1991) (ruling against the p laintiff in part
b ecau se o f her history o f enjoying sexually suggestive jokes); Weiss v. Am oco O il C o., 142 F.R.D.
3 1 1 , 316 (S.D. Io w a 1992) (perm itting discovery, on the question o f welcom eness, regarding the
co m p lain a n ts practice o f sending and pinning up risqu cards); G an v. Kepro C irc u it Sys., 28 Fair
E m p l. Prac. C as. (B N A ) 639, 639 (E.D . Mo. 1982) (noting sexually explicit rem arks o f the plain
tiff). In W einsheim er v. Rockw ell International Corp., 754 F. Supp. 1559 (M .D. F ia. 1990), affd
w ith o u t opinion, 949 F.2d 1162 ( n t h Cir. 1991), the plaintiff made extensive allegations o f ha-




sexual harassm ent claim s have said that welcom eness is am ong their
b est w eap o n s o f defense.337
T h e rule about welcom eness shuttles uneasily betw een tw o truths.
O n e is th a t people are different: one person s m eat is a n oth ers poison.
A s Justice S ca lia has noted, once the courts are w illin g to hear com plaints o f sexual harassm ent w ithout proof of severe injury, the m ost
stra ig h tfo rw a rd w a y to ju d ge the m agnitude o f the harm is to ask
w h a t the cond uct m eant to the com plainant, and the su b jective them e
o f the w elcom eness requirem ent reaches tow ard an answ er.338 A lthough this reasoning m ight arge for retaining the w elcom eness rule,
it w o u ld also arge for its banishm ent it is equally true that a w e l
com eness in q u iry som etim es slurs the com plainant, overlaps at least
p a rtia lly w ith her burden to prove an ob jective w rong,339 and exposes
her to pretrial m aneuvers likely to prove hum iliating.340
A s w ith avoidability, the Feinberg-derived volenti criterion can
w o rk w ith a respectful person standard to encourage sim u ltaneou sly
the respectful treatm ent o f w orkers and attention to in d ivid u a l circu m stances th a t could support a defense. T h is approach w o u ld m a rk an
im portan t contrast. T h e opinion o f the C o u rt in M eritor asks: D id she
a sk for it? D id she d eserve it because of her clothes and conversation?
M erito r indulges trial ju d ges w ho w ant to evade their duties w ith a
stereotype. T h e respectful person standard, however, chooses another
query: D id the d efendant behave as a respectful person? T h a t is, did
the d efen d an t regard the com plainant as a person, self-propelled and
unique, w ith a range o f potential reactions to sex-based conduct in the
w o rk p la ce? T h is ran ge is intelligible to actors w illin g to render re
sp ectful attention; they m ay blunder, b u t their respect w ill be discerna ble. In d eed the concep t o f welcom eness, w hen used ap p ro p ria tely to
ev al a te the conduct o f an actor rather than the reaction o f a co m
p lainant, is a t its root a question whether respect w as rendered.

rassment, in cluding a claim that one defendant had pressed his penis into her hand while she was
looking elsewhere. See id. at 1561. The court found that although this incident was g ra p h ic,
the p laintiff had reported it to m anagement too casually and had generally failed to make a case
because o f her proven, active contribution to the sexually explicit environm ent. Id. at 1563-64.
337 See Jared H. Jossem, Investigating Sexual Harassment Complaints: G uidelines fo r E m ploy
ers, in L i t i g a t i n g t h f . S e x u a l H a r a s s m e n t C a s e , supra note 95, at 103, 113 (suggesting that,
as part o f trial preparation, law yers for employers should investgate the clothing and joke-tellin g
proclivities o f complainants).
338 See supra notes 25-29 and accom panying text (noting the sparseness o f the p lain tiffs prim a
facie case under current doctrine).
339 See Estrich, supra note 4, a t 830.
340 See Snchez v. Zabihi, 166 F.R.D. 500, 502 (D. N.M . 1996) (limiting the defen dan ts e ffo rt to
seek discovery on a sexual aggressor defense); Priest v. Rotary, 98 F.R.D. 755, 757 (N .D . Cal.
I 9^3) (quoting intrusive questions posed by defense counsel); Ellen E. Schultz & Ju n d a Woo,
P la in tijfs S ex Lives Are Being Laid Bare in Harassment Cases, W a l l S t . J., Sept. 19, 1994, at
A i.



[Vol. 111:445

C o u rts obscure this essence w h en th e y impose the burden o f proof

on this question on the p la in tiff. L ik e the defenses associated w ith
vo len ti non f i t in ju ria consent and assum ption o f risk w elcom e
ness o u gh t to be p ro v ed b y the d efend ant. Volenti, if successful, ena b les a d efen d an t to describe a situ ation in w hich the p la in tiff received
ju s t w h a t she w a n ted , in a fair exch an ge. G ood defense law yers can
sk etch a plau sible m otive to exp lain the bargain.341 T h e co m p la in a n ts
a u to n o m y and clearhead ed n ess are dem onstrated.342 A s num erous
cases indicate, courts can w o rk c a p a b ly w ith this un derstan ding o f
w illin gn ess.343
T h e third F ein b erg-d erived criterion, relating to hypersensitivity,
requ ires careful construction. T h e E q u a l E m ploym ent O p p ortu n ity
C om m ission has d eclared th at T itle V I I cannot vin d cate the petty
slights suffered b y the h yp ersen sitive;344 this declaration seems logical
a n d sensible.345 A s fem inist com m en tators point out, how ever, h yper
sen sitiv ity is a prob lem atic term , tend ing to m arginalize the experiences and perceptions o f w om en .346 In practice, a concern w ith h yper
sen sitiv ity lessens focus on the actor and focuses scrutiny on the
co m p la in a n t instead.347 Y e t it is d ifficu lt to dispense w ith the catego ry
o f the h ypersen sitive p la in tiff if one w ishes to retain an o b jective ref341 S ee Sw en tek v. U SA ir, 830 F.2d 552, 555-56 (4U1 Cir. 1987) (describing the partial success o f
the b argain tactic).
342 F o r a parallel argum ent, com pare the reasoning w ith Abrams, cited above in note 121, at
1 2 1 4 -1 5 , w hich raises the possibility th at defendants m ay attempt to demnstrate that the plain
t i f f s response to the d efen d an ts behavior is idiosyncratic. A classic instance o f volenti appears in
M urphy v. Steeplechase Amusem ent Co., 166 N .E . 173 (N .Y . 1929), in which C h ief Judge Cardozo
regarded the hapless p lain tiff w ith respect: a man, he reasoned, m ight w an t to take a rough ride
in an am usem ent park. See id. at 174. So too m ight a woman w ant to hear rough jokes at the
jo b , or to have another em ployee touch her breast. T h e respectful person standard adm its these
possi bilities.
343 S ee, e.g., C a rr v. A llison G as TUrbine D iv., 32 F.3d 1007, i o n (7th Cir. 1994) (T h e asymmetr y o f positions m ust be considered. She w a s one wom an; they were m any men.); Burns v.
M c G re g o r E lec. Indus., 989 F.2d 959, 963-64 (8th Cir. 1993) (acknowledging that the workplace
beh avio r could have offended the com plainant despite her having posed nude for a m agazine, and
n otin g th a t the trial co u rts contrary rationale w ould allow a complete stranger to pursue sexual
b eh a vio r at w o rk that a fem ale w orker w ould accept from her husband or boyfriend); Jenson v.
E v e le th Taconite Co., 824 F. Supp. 847, 883 (D. M inn. 1993) ([The fact] [tjhat women say fu c k
a t w o rk does not im ply th at they are in v itin g an y and every form o f sexual harassm ent.); cf.
K elly-Z u ria n v. Wohl Shoe C o., 27 C al. Rptr. 2d 457, 463 (Cal. Ct. App. 1994) (refusing to adm it
evidence o f p lain tiffs abortions, taste for pornography, and prior sexual history).
344 E E O C Policy G uidance, supra note 330, at 669 (quoting Z abkow icz v. West Bend C o., 589
F. Supp. 780, 784 (E.D . Wis. 1984)) (internal quotation m arks omitted).
345 O ne reform er adm its that there is some validity to this point of view. See F rank S. Ravitch,
H ostile Work Environm ent and the O bjective Reasonableness Conundrum: Deriving a Workable
Fram ework from Tort Law fo r Addressing Know ing Harassment o f Hypersensitive Employees, 36
B .C . L. R e v . 257, 265-66 (1995).
346 See A bram s, supra note 1 2 1 , at 1 2 1 1 ; D olkart, supra note 1 9 1 , at 2 10 ; cf. Estrich, supra note
4, a t 845-47 (arguing that the mere fact o f a com plaint m ay brand a wom an as hypersensitive).
347 See Sara N eedlem an Kline, Com m ent, Sexual Harassment, Wrongful Discharge, and Em
ployer Liability: The Em ployers Dilemma, 4 3 A m . U . L . R e v 7. 1 9 1 , 1 9 9 - 2 0 0 (19 9 3 ).



50 3

erent for hostile en viron m ent sexual harassm ent claim s.348 T h e re
spectful person stan dard suggests a cautious interpretation o f hypersen sitivity that preserves the gains o f the objective standard b u t still
accom m odates the need for a standard that guides behavior in the
w orkforce.
O n this question, the respectful person standard would, fo llo w in g a
fram ew ork used in dign itary-tort law, function as follow s. O n ce the
p la in tiff produces evidence that the defendant did not conform to the
stan dard of a respectful person, the cou rt w ould perm it the d efen d an t
to arge that he did indeed conform to the standard, and th a t the
p la in tiffs feeling or experience of disrespect resulted from her hypersensitivity. L ia b ility w o u ld depend on w hether the p la in tiffs unu su al
sen sitivity w as k n ow n b y or kn ow ab le to the defendant.349 I f the de
fen d an t could not have k n o w n or predicted the reaction, then the de
fen d an t w ould not be liable. If, how ever, the defendant kn ew abou t
the hypersensitivity and acted deliberately to provoke a pained reac
tion, then the defendant w ou ld be liab le.350 A corporate em p loyer
w o u ld be liable if it knew o f and condoned its em ployees d eliberate
exploitation o f the p la in tiffs hypersensitivity.351
Parallels to current doctrine are evident. T h e question o f hypersen
sitiv ity is em bedded in the dialectic betw een objective and su b jective
assessments o f conduct.352 T h e respectful person standard, w h ich partakes of both ob jective and su b jective m easures o f behavior, va lid ates
both the (objective) principie o f reasonable know ledge and the (su b jec
tive) principie o f in d iv id u a l difference. A t the same time, h ow ever, the
348 See supra p. 4 7 7 . Consistent w ith this view, tort law generally discourages plaintiffs from
labeling themselves as extrem ely sensitive. See R e s t a t e m e n t ( S e c o n d ) o f T o r t s 4 6 cmt. j ,
313 cmt. c, 652D, cmt. c (1965).
349 F ran k Ravitch offers as an illustration a female worker whose boss thinks that wom en do
not belong in the workforce. In an effort to drive her out, the boss exploits what he kn o w s to be
her sensitivity to loud noise and sets up a noisy m achine near her office. The noisy m achine
w ould not bother the reasonable person. Under current analysis, a hostile environm ent sexual
harassment claim would fail, even though the supervisor deliberately imposed detrim ental working conditions based on the gender o f his subordnate. See Ravitch, supra note 345, at 257.
350 Longstanding tort rules are in accord. See C la rk v. Associated Retail Credit M en, 105 F.2d
62, 65-67 (D.C. Cir. 1939) (allow ing a remedy for the deliberate exploitation o f the p la in tiffs vulnerability to stress); Bundren v. Superior Court ex re. Los Robles R e g l Med. Ctr., 193 C a l. Rptr.
671, 676 (Cal. Ct. A pp. 1983) (reversing a grant of sum m ary judgm ent for the defendant in a case
in w hich the plaintiff sought recovery for the d efen d an ts rude questioning of p laintiff while
plaintiff w as recovering from surgery); G reat Atl. & Pac. Tea Co. v. Roch, 153 A. 22, 23 (Md.
1931) (allowing similar recovery for defendant grocers packing a dead rat in a loaf o f bread);
R e s t a t e m e n t (S e c o n d ) o f T o r t s 46 cmt. f (1965) (noting that, in the case o f an acto r who
know s o f the plaintiffs peculiar susceptibility conduct m ay become heartless, flagrant, an d outrageous when the actor proceeds in the face o f such know ledge).
351 T h is sum mary is largely congruent w ith the recommendation of Ravitch, cited above in note
345, except that Ravitch is com m itted to the concept o f the objectively reasonable person. Id. at
271. It is also congruent w ith the burden-shifting argum ent proposed in Abrams, cited ab ove in
note 121, at 1214-15, and Childers, cited above in note 122, at 862 n.29.
352 See supra p p . 4 8 0 -8 2 .



[V o l. 111:445

re sp e ctfu l person stan dard depart* from , and im proves on, current
d o c trin e b y p ro v id in g redress for deliberate, hostile con d u ct aim ed at
a n em p lo yee because o f her gender. A lth o u g h the ultrasensitive em
p lo y e e app ears to be m ore a creature o f w o rrie d im aginations than real
case s,3S3 sexual harassm en t doctrine ou ght to have a place for this in
d iv id u a l. In d ealin g w ith the possibility o f a claim b y such a litigant,
th e resp ectfu l person bu ild s on traditions o f both o b jectivity and indi
v id u a l attention.
T he Law /Fact D iv id e . In asm uch as courts h a ve adm itted the
d iffic u lty o f their task o f d ivid in g the la w from the fa cts in sexual
h a ra ssm en t cases,354 one m a y w on d er h o w the respectful person stan
d a rd w o u ld function to preserve this distinction w ith its atten d an t
b e n e fits.3SS S upp orters o f the distinction can endorse the respectful
p erso n standard; in su p plan tin g references to reason in hostile e n v i
ro n m e n t sexual harassm en t claim s, the respectful person standard
w o u ld coexist w ith the curren t dich otom y betw een questions o f law
a n d q u estion s o f fact. S u m m ary ju d g m e n t and dism issals o f com
p la in ts w o u ld still be a vailab le to d efendants on m ost o f the same
g ro u n d s curren tly deem ed dispositive in fed eral courts. P rocedural
bases for dism issals an d su m m ary ju d gm en ts, such as the statute o f
lim ita tio n s356 and the failure to exh au st adm in istrative rem e

353 S e e E llison v. Brady, 924 F.2d 872, 879 (91 Cir. 1991) (referring to the rare hyper-sensitive
e m p lo yee); A ndrew s v. C ity o f Philadelphia, 895 F.2d 1469, 1483 (3d Cir. 1990) (stating that the
o b je ctiv e standard is necessary to protect em ployers from hypersensitive employees). Reported
case la w contains few decisions in which a court ruled against a plaintiff on the ground that the
p la in tiff w as hypersensitive. One such case m ay be Sand v. George P. Johnson Co., 33 Fair Em pl.
Prac. C a s. (B N A ) 716, 72c (E .D . M ich. 1982), although the San d rationale included other considerations. Instead the issue o f hypersensitivity emerges as a defense la w yers tactic, a labe! to pin
on a p lain tiff. See Robinson v. Jacksonville Shipyards, Inc., 118 F.R.D. 525, 531 (M .D. Fia. 1988)
(d en yin g a defense motion for a com pelled psychiatric exam ination that w as intended to show
th a t the p lain tiff w as hypersensitive to pornography); Feldm an-Schorrig & M cD onald, supra note
1 1, at 28 (recom m ending this tactic).
354 S e e Scarfo v. C abletron Sys., Inc., 54 F.3d 931, 935-36 (ist Cir. 1995); cf. Sw anson v.
E lm h u rst C h rysler Plym outh, Inc., 882 F.2d 1235, 1238 (7th Cir. 1989) ( U nder Rule 52(a) w e are
o bliged to correct errors o f law including mixed findings o f law and fact, and any finding o f fact
p rem ised upon a rule o f law . (citations omitted)).
355 A distinction between law and fact offers the possibility o f consistency am ong like cases,
an d ap p rop riate reliance on the relative capabilities o f lay persons and legal experts. See Stephen
A . W e in e r , The C iv il Jury Trial and the Law-Fact D istin ctio n , 5 4 C a l . L . R e v . 1 8 6 7 , 1 9 2 2 - 2 5
( 1 9 6 6 ) . C r i t i c i s m o f th e d i s t i n c t i o n c o m e s f r o m v a r i e d q u a r t e r s . See, e.g., J a n i c e S c h u e t z , T h e
L o g ic

o f

W om en


T r ia l:

C ase

S tu d ie s

o f

P o p u la r

A m e ric a n

T r ia ls


( 19 9 4 )

(w[ B ] o t h l a w a n d f a c t a r e f r a m e d b y t h e c u l t u r e o f th e in t e r p r e t e r s w h o c r e a t e n a r r a t i v e s t o e x -

Law, Fact or Justice?, 66 B .U . L . R e v . 4 8 7 , 4 8 9 ( 19 8 6 ) (o fSee J a m e s

B . T h a y e r, Law and F a ct" in Jury Trials, 4 H a r v . L . R e v . 147 (1890). For one Realist view, see
L e n G r e e n , J u d g e a n d J u r y 279 (1930), w hich calis the distinction a tautology.
356 S e e G allo w ay v. General M otors Serv. Parts Operations, 78 F.3d 1164, 1167 (7th Cir. 1996);
E lle rt v. U niversity o f Tex., 52 F.3d 543, 545 n.8 (5th Cir. 1995).
p l a i n t h e m . ); A d r i n A . S . Z u c k e r m a n ,

f e r i n g a d e c o n s t r u c t i o n i s t c r it iq u e ) .

T h i s c r i t ic is m p r e c e d e s t h a t o f th e L e g a l R e a lis t s .



d ies,357 w ou ld continu unchanged. T h e p la in tiff w ou ld retain fu lly

her burden o f proof; the substitution o f a defendant-focused respectful
person for a com plainant-focused reasonable person (or w om an , target,
or the like) w o u ld not relieve plaintiffs o f their current ob ligation to
su p p o rt their com plaints w ith evidence.358
E v e n w hen the p la in tiff can clear these hurdles, and even w hen the
d efen d an t did not behave as a respectful person, a T itle V I I claim
m igh t fail under the respectful person standard because o f its poor fit
w ith the antidiscrim ination purposes o f the statute. D isrespectful con
d u c t not based on sex w ou ld rem ain outside the rem edial boundaries
o f T itle V II, consistent w ith the view n ow p revailin g in the cou rts.359
W h en disrespectful conduct is too trivial, isolated, or am biguous to be
deem ed p e rv asiv e, sum m ary ju d gm en t w ou ld be proper under the
respectful person standard.360 T h e respectful person stan dard is also
a n a lytica lly severable from the question w hether sam e-sex h arassm ent
o u g h t to be actionable under Title V II;361 like current reasonableness
stan dards, the respectful person approach does not n ecessarily m and ate acceptance o f sam e-sex claims.
T h e law /fact divide m ay appear at odds w ith a respectful person
stan dard. In everyd ay language, treating another person sum m arily, as
in sum m ary ju d gm en t, or w ith dism issal, challenges respect in
som e sense. Y e t by supporting pretrial disposition, the respectful person stan dard honors the concept o f respect. In preserving the virtues
357 See Park v. H ow ard Univ., 71 F.3d 904, 905 (D .C. Cir. 1995), cert. denied, 117 S. C t. 57
(1996); H um phrey v. Potlatch Corp., 74 F.3C 1243 (8th Cir. 1996), cert. denied, 117 S. C t. 616
(19 9 6 )-

358 On this burden in sexual harassment cases, see Evans v. Technologies Applications & Serv
ice Co., 80 F.3d 954, 959 (41 Cir. 1996); and Felty v. Graves-Humphreys Co., 818 F.2d 1126, 1128
(4th Cir. 1987).
359 S ee Stahl v. Sun Microsystems, Inc., 19 F.3d 533, 538 (io th Cir. 1994); VValk v. Rubberm aid,
Inc., 913 F. Supp. 1023, 1027 (N .D . Ohio 1994), a jfd w ithout opinion, 76 F.3d 380 (6th Cir. 1996).
Som e conduct m ay be based on sex and yet not be central to Title V I I s concern w ith discrim ination; thus, it too would fall outside the scope of the respectful person standard. S ee G olu szek v.
Sm ith, 697 F. Supp. 1452, 1456 (N .D . 111. 1988) (rejecting a claim based on heterosexual man-tom an harassment, in which plaintiff w as teased for having no wife or girlfriend and for liv in g with
his mother, and stating that this behavior, though rude and childish, did not fall w ithin Title V I I s
concern with discrimination against a discrete and vulnerable group).
360 F or current treatments o f pervasiveness, see Callanan v. Runyun, 75 F.3d 1293, 1296 (8th
-C ir. 1996), and Gross v. Burggraf Construction Co., 53 F.3d 1531, 1537 (io th Cir. 1995). Present
doctrine treats severity and pervasiveness as mixed quesons of law and fact. See Jordn v.
C la rk , 847 F.2d 1368, 1375 n.7 (91 Cir. 1988); A nthony v. County o f Sacram ento, 898 F. Supp.
1435, 1447 (E.D. C al. 1995). T he respectful person standard would com port with this approach.
361 T h e Supreme C ourt has agreed to decide whether Title V II covers same-sex harassment.
See O ncale v. Sundowner Offshore Servs., Inc., 117 S. Ct. 2430 (1997). T h is issue has d ivid ed the
circuits. Compare G arcia v. E lf Atochem N. Am., 28 F.3d 446, 451-52 (5th Cir. 1994) (holding
that same-sex sexual harassment claim s are not actionable under Title VII), with H opkins v. B a l
timore G as and Elec. Co., 77 F.3d 745, 752 (41 Cir. 1996) (allowing the claim, but im posing extra
burden o f proof on the plaintiff to show that harassment was based on his gender), cert. d en ied ,
117 S. Ct. 70 (1996), and Griffith v. Keystone Steel & Wire, 887 F. Supp. 1133, 1136 (C .D . 111.
1995) (allow ing the claim).


[V o l. 111:445

o f an o b je c tiv e standard, the* resp ectfu l person stan dard va lid ates a
su b set o f all sexu al harassm ent com p lain ts as grievances a b o u t be
h a v io r th at is w ron g, con trary to statu te, and am enable to un iversal
ju d g m e n t. T h e respectful person approach spares d efendants from
p ro tra cte d co u rt proceedings w h en no reasonable factfin d er co u ld conc lu d e th a t the p la in tiff w a s entitled to relief. M ore generally, the dich o to m o u s law /fa ct distinction is consonan t w ith the cen tral im porta n c e o f dich otom ies w ith in respect betw een in d ivid u al an d groupb a se d identities; betw een the o b ject as som ething other than the subje c t an d the o b je c t as c ritically like th e subject; betw een separation as
iso la tin g p un ishm en t and separation as affirm ation and thus in its
b a sic question s com ports w ith a resp ectfu l person standard.362 In barrin g som e accou n ts o f harassm ent, the respectful person stan dard does
n o t im p licitly slur them as a reaction contrary to reason, u n like the
p r e v a ilin g o b je c tiv e criterion for hostile environm ent case analysis. In
o th er aspects, the tw o standards are sim ilar for purposes o f pretrial
d ispo sition as a m atter o f law.
IV .


V ir t u e s


th e



A respectfu l person stan dard w o u ld im prove the law o f sexual h a

rassm en t in several w ays. B ecau se it grasps the distinction betw een
a g e n t and o b je c t a distinction th a t the reasonableness stan dards obsc u re the respectful person stan d ard im proves the d escrip tive functio n o f sexual harassm ent law , a fu n ction that the ju d icia l opinions o f
J u stice S an d ra D a y O C on n or and the precedent o f race discrim ination
h a v e illum in ated . D evelopm en t o f a respectful person stan dard w ou ld
a lso connect sexu al harassm ent la w w ith im portant strands o f A m e ri
c a n ju risp ru d en ce: the concep t o f resp ect perm eates A m erican law, and
th e respectful person stan dard reveis the com m on ground o f this new
le g a l su b ject and venerable terrain.

D escrip tive Accuracy: O ffensive B eha vior and Harm to D ignity

It is the accused, not the victim w h o is on trial, and it is therefore

th e con d u ct o f the accused, not th a t o f the victim , that should be subje c te d to scru tin y, w rote Judge A lb e r t Lee Stephens, dissenting from
the reason ab le w om an and reason ab le victim prescripdons in E lliso n
v. B ra d y .363 Stephens, a snior d istrict court ju d g e sitting b y designation on the E lliso n panel, b rou gh t to E lliso n an im portant trial-focused
p e rsp ective on the ob jective stan dard problem , and his sensible doubts
a b o u t the reasonable w om an stan d ard have w on praise in the law re-

362 See supra pp. 484-92.

363 924 F.2d 872, 884-85 (9th Cir. 1991) (Stephens, J., dissenting).




view s.364 B u t the Stephens criticism ,36S extended logically, w o u ld

co ver the entire set o f reasonableness standards in sexu al harassm en t
cases. W hether em bodied as man, wom an, person, victim , o r a n y
other noun, this en tity diverts attention from the cond u ct o f a p u ta tiv e
harasser and forces the com plainant to ju stify her perspective. In stead
o f layin g d ow n a stan dard of conduct, reasonableness tests p u rp o rt to
ju d g e a reaction.366
B y contrast, the respectful person is a standard that m easures a c
tion rather than reaction. T h e actor is charged w ith a d u ty to refrain
from offend ing others b y keeping his behavior w ithin the b ou nd aries
o f respect. C om p lian ce w ith this d u ty should lead to con d u ct sim ilar
to that en couraged by conventional reasonable person rules, b u t it is
critically d ifferen t in th at the actor know s it is he, rather than his accuser, w ho w ill be held directly to the standard. E m p h asis on th e a c
to r s offense, rather than on the v ic tim s perception o f the offen se,
w o u ld m ove hostile environm ent doctrine closer to the a n a lytica l cen
ter o f civil law .
T h is shift w ou ld ackn ow led ge that reasonableness in q u in es w o rk
w ell in a ran ge o f other situations, as long as such inquiries focu s on
the person w hose cond u ct has been challenged as u n law fu l. N e g li
gence law uses reasonableness to exam ine the actions o f a d efen d an t367
or o f a p la in tiff accused o f contributory negligence.368 C rim in a l n egli
gence is also established w ith reference to reasonableness.369 C rim in a l
procedure perm its searches by plice officers based on their reasonab le
suspicion,370 w h ich in turn is based on specific and articu lab le fa c ts
th at w ould lead a reasonable person to conclude that crim in al a c tiv ity
w as afoot.371 T h e law holds trustees to a reasonableness stan dard:
reasonable care, skill, and caution.372 In their analyses o f contested
understandings in com m ercial contract litigation, courts use reason
ableness tests in order to determine w hat the parties w an ted .373 A ll o f
364 See Johnson, supra note 169, at 633; Walter Christopher Arbery, Note, A Step Backw ard fo r
Equality Principies: The Reasonable Woman Standard in Title VII H ostile Work Environm ent
Sexua l Harassment Claim s, 27 G a . L. R e v . 503, 545 & n.269 (1993); Turner, supra note 275, at
365 See E lliso n , 924 F.2d at 884 (Stephens, J., dissenting).
366 See Juliano, supra note 332, at 1570.
- 367 See supra note 125.
368 See United States v. C arroll Tow ing Co., 159 F.2d 169, 172 (2d Cir. 1947).
369 See, e.g., State v. C row dell, 487 N.W.2d 273, 277 (Neb. 1992) (inferring mens rea from con
duct); Hill, supra note 324, at 651-52.
370 See Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 27 (1968).
371 Robert J. Burnett, Com m ent, Random Plice-Citizen Encounters: When Is a Seizure a S eizure?, 33 D u q . L. R e v . 283, 284 (1995) (citing Terry, 392 U.S. at 30).
372 R e s t a t e m e n t ( T h i r d ) o f T r u s t s 227 (1992).
373 See, e.g., 2 S a m u e l W i l l i s t o n , A T r e a t i s e o n t h e L a w o f C o n t r a c t s 6:52, at 611
(M ichael A. Lord ed., 4th ed. 1990) (applying a reasonable person standard to the in terpretation o f
silence as acceptance o f an offer); see also Em bry v. Hargadine, M cK ittrick D ry G oods C o ., 105
S .W . 777, 779 (Mo. C t. App. 1907) (placing the plaintiff in the role o f reasonable m an ).


[V ol. 111:4 4 5

th e se reasonableness stan d ares a d d ress actors rather than recipients o f

actio n .
B ro a d e r references to reason p a y tribute to an indispensable con
c e p t in the law . B eyon d a reasonab le d ou b t rem inds the factfin d er to
re ly on its reason w h en assessing w h eth er the evidence supports the
in te lle c tu a l proposition o f crim inal liability. T h e law o f ta x ,374 securitie s,37S ev id en ce,376 antitru st,377 ad m in istrative d ecision m aking,378 and
co n stitu tio n al interpretation 375 ca n n o t be explained w ith o u t the w ords
r e a so n and reason ab le.
T h ese areas in w h ich reason is o f the essence are so w idespread
th a t it m akes for a m uch shorter exercise to stu d y the areas o f law in
w h ic h reason p lays a relativ ely un im p ortan t role. D ign itary harm is
p a r t o f this latter category. R eason can be found only a t its periphery.
T h e in fliction o f an in d ign ity has a lm o st no relation to the core w orld
o f reason, or to the search for resolution of dou bt and disagreem ent
th a t reason facilita tes.380
T h e w o rk o f Joel F ein berg on offense381 again suggests a va lu a b le
p a ra lle l. A c c o rd in g to Feinberg, offe n siv e conduct m ust be ju d ged w ith
referen ce to several variab les, in clu d in g its m agnitude and the diffic u lt y o f a v o id in g the offense.382 B u t reasonableness is not a proper

374 See, e.g., N atio n al M uffler D ealers A s s n v. U nited States, 440 U .S. 472, 477 ( 1979) (establish in g criteria for reasonableness o f tax regulation).
375 See, e.g., A ssociated R an dall B an k v. G riffin, K ubik, Stephens & Thom pson, Inc., 3 F.3d
208, 213 (7th Cir. 1993) (discussing reasonable care standards as applied to broker-dealers);
T h e re se H. M ayn ard , The Affirmative Defense o f Reasonable Care Under Section 12(2) o f the Securities A ct o f j q j j , 69 N o t r e D a m e L. R e v . 57, 1 13 -1 5 (1993).
376 See, e.g., B ourqu e v. F D IC , 42 F.3d 704, 711 ( is t Cir. 1994) (using a reasonableness standard
to decide w h eth er a docum ent was probative); F e d . R. E v i d . 20i(b) (discussing reasonableness as
ap p lied to ju d ic ia l notice); F e d . R. E v i d . 7o6(b) (perm itting reasonable com pensation for courtap p oin ted expert witnesses).
377 S ee Stand ard O il Co. v. United States, 221 U .S. 1, 63-64 (1911) (setting forth the antitrust
rule o f reason).
378 S ee A ylett v. Secretary o f Hous. and U rban Dev., 54 F.3d 1560, 1567 (io th Cir. 1995) (dis
cu ssing the nature o f reason in reviewing the decisin o f an adm inistrative judge).
379 See M ich ael L. Perry, The Constitution, the Courts, and the Question o f M inim alism , 88'
N w . U . L. R e v . 8 4 , 119-20 (1993) (describing the role o f reasonableness within a minim alist parad igm o f constitutional interpretation); C arol S. Steiker, Second Thoughts About First Principies,
107 H a r v . L . R e v . 820, 824 n.21 (1994) (noting the interpretive difficulty posed by the w ord reaso n a b le in the Fourth Amendment).
380 O ne o f the handful o f doctrines that refer to the perspective o f those who receive action is
the tort o f offensive batterv that is, intentional contact that offends a reasonable sense o f per
sonal d ignity. R e s t a t e m e n t ( S e c o n d ) o f T o r t s 19 ( 19 6 5 ). T h is form ulation o f an objective
stan d ard addresses actors prim arily, w ith only secondary em phasis on the recipients o f action.
T h e ad jective reasonable serves to assert an o bjective standard and to define out hypersensitivities un kn ow n and unknow able to the actor. See J o s e p h W . G l a n n o n , T h e L a w o f T o r t s :

x am ples a n d

381 See F

ib e r t y

x p l a n a t io n s

e in b e r g

7 (19 9 5 ) .

supra note 33; J o e l F e i n

9 6 - 1 0 9 (19 8 0 ).

382 S ee supra p p . 4 9 8 - 5 0 1 .

ber g

, R ig

h ts

, Ju

s t ic e

an d

th e






elem ent o f the inquiry.383 O ffen d ed states, writes Feinberg, are n ei

ther reasonable or unreasonable but sim ply non reasonable.384 Ind ign ity and hum iliation, eq u ally nonreasonable, fall w ithin the u n d er
standing o f a respectful person standard.
T h e b oundary Crossing
im plicit in offense to others relates fundam entally to the delineation
around in d ivid ual persons, w hich is central to respect.385 D efam ation
la w provides another an alogy to the harm o f hostile en viron m ent sex
ual harassm ent and additional support for a respectful person stan
dard. To be defam atory, a statem ent need not be unreasonable, or
need it seem defam atory to the reasonable person.386 O fferin g a n o ta
ble precedent for sexual harassm ent law, defam ation law rejects p lu
ralism and consensus as core principies, using these concepts o n ly to
set the outer lim its o f liability: a statem ent is not defam atory if it w ill
offend on ly those w hose standards are so clearly antisocial as to b e offensive 387 L ik e the respectful person standard, moreover, d efam ation
law shows th at repudiating reasonableness does not entangle d octrin e
in a bog o f sub jec vity. T h is doctrine is relational, sited firm ly in a
com m unity.388
T h a t hostile environm ent sexual harassm ent is fu n dam en tally an
in ju ry to d ign ity escapes few w ho have experienced and studied the
phenom enon. T h e m ajority o f such persons are wom en, and althou gh
one hesitates to join the unending discussion o f w hether Justice S an d ra
D a y O C on n or speaks in a fem inine voice,389 during her tw e lv e y e a rs
as the only w om an on the Suprem e C ourt, Justice O C onnor p rod u ced
several distin ct assertions concerning discrim ination in em ploym ent

383 See F e i n b e r g , supra note 33, at 35.

384 Id. at 36. Feinberg adds that some offended states are understandable w ith reference to
reason: it is perfectly reasonable to take offense at a racial epithet, for example, and profoundly
contrary to reason to be offended by the sight o f an interracial couple. Id.
385 See id. at 24; cf. Linda C. M cClain, Inviolability and Privacy: The Castle, the Sanctuary,
and the Body, 7 Y a l e J.L. & H u m a n . 19 5 ( 19 9 5 ) (invoking boundary imageiy).
386 See P eck v. Tribune Co., 214 U.S. 185, 189-90 (1909) (rejecting the defendants contention
that a defam atory statement m ust tend to offend a general consensus, and noting that d efam a
tory nature is not a question o f a m ajority vote); Grant v. R eaders Digest A ss n, 151 F.2d 733,
735 (2d Cir. 1945) (rejecting the contention that the communication must offend right-thinking
p e o p le ).
387 See W. P a g e K e e t o n , D a n B D o b b s , R o b e r t E. K e e t o n & D a v i d G . O w e n , P r o s s e r
a n d K e e t o n o n T o r t s 1 n , a t 778 (5th ed. 1984) [hereinafter P r o s s e r & K e e t o n ].
388 See id. at 771.
389 One author has even concluded that my opinions differ in a peculiarly feminine w a y from
those o f m y colleagues, wrote Justice O Connor, sounding skeptical. Sandra D ay O Connor, Portia s Progress, 66 N .Y .U . L. R e v . 1546, 1553 (1991). Compare Suzanna Sherry, C ivic Virtue and
the Fem inine Voice in Constitutional Adjudication, 72 V a . L. R e v . 543, 592-613 (1986) (m aking
the above argum ent noted by Justice O Connor), with M ary Joe Frug, Progressive Fem inist Legal
Scholarship: Can We Claim A Dijferent Voice ?, 15 H a r v . W o m e n s L.J. 37, 60-64 (1992) (differing with Sherry). The debate, which has engaged political scientists as well as law yers, is
sum marized in M ichael E . Solimine & Susan E . Wheatley, Rethinking Fem inist Judging, 70 I n d .
L.J. 891 ( 1995 )-


[Vol. 111:445

th a t w ere b road er than the prop osition ad vanced here. T o Justice

O C on nor, em p lo ym en t d iscrim in ation is a tort in all b u t am e.390
D elib era te, restrain ed in her an a lytic approach, and inclined to
re a d statutes n arrow ly,391 Justice O C on nor cannot p rop erly be accu sed o f d isten d in g antid iscrim in atio n doctrine in pursuit o f a rem edial
a g e n d a .392 S h e offers her ju d ic ia l positions on w orkp lace d ign ity contin u a lly in the sp irit o f carefu l sta tu to ry construction.393 In their refu s a l to fram e sex d iscrim ination as indignity, her colleagues on the
C o u r t h ave n ever e ffe ctiv e ly refu ted Justice O C o n n o rs cogent positio n th a t em p lo ym en t d iscrim in ation is a tort in all but am e.394
T h e respectfu l person stan d ard falls m odestly w ithin the confines
o f Justice O C o n n o r s a p p roach to T itle V II and related statutes.
W h e re a s Justice O C o n n o r deem s all em ploym ent discrim ination a
k in d o f indignity, the respectfu l person standard addresses sexual h a
rassm en t only, and harassm en t (un like other types o f sex d iscrim in a
tio n , such as the gender-biased p a y schedules at issue in U n ited S tates
39 W riting separately in Price Waterhouse v. H opkins, 490 U.S. 228 (1989), Justice O Connor
em ph asized the valu o f tort concepts causation, deterrence, compensation, and e v il in the
ad ju d icatio n o f sex-discrim ination actions brought under Title V II. See id. at 261-65 (O Connor,
J., concurring). In an earlier case, she wrote separately to insist on a fault-like intent standard for
em ploym en t discrim ination claim s brought under Title V IL See Guardians A s s n v. C iv il Serv.
C o m m n, 463 U .S. 582, 612 (1983) (O Connor, J., concurring). In a third case, U nited States v.
B u rk e , 504 U .S. 229 (1992), in w hich the m ajority characterized the p lain tiffs sex-discrim ination
a w a r d as quasi-w ages rather than personal in ju ry dam ages for purposes o f federal incom e taxation , see id. at 242, Justice O C onnor dissented to insist that Title VII Offers a tort-like cause o f
a ctio n to those w h o suffer the in ju ry o f em ploym ent discrimination. Id. at 254 (O Connor, J.,
dissenting). Justice O C onnor asserted: Functionally, the law operates in the traditional m anner
o f torts: C o u rts aw ard com pensation for invasions of a right to be free from certain in ju ry in the
w o rk p la ce. L ik e dam ages in tort suits, m oreover, m onetary relief for violations o f Title VTI serves
a p ublic purpose beyond offsetting specific losses. Id. at 250.
Som e years later, in the context o f a discrim ination claim based on disability, Justice O C on n or
reasserted her v ie w that em ploym ent discrim ination is equivalent to tortious conduct. See Com m issioner v. Schleier, 515 U .S. 323, 339-40 ( 1995 ) (O Connor, J., dissenting).
391 See sources cited supra note 389.
392 S ee T am m y Bruce & Julianne M alveaux, Can We Talk?, O n ISSUES, Sum m er 1996, at 16, 17
(fau ltin g Justice O C onnor for dem anding p roof o f past discrimination in affirm ative action
cases); Sh eila M . Smith, Com m ent, Justice R u th Bader Ginsburg and Sexual Harassment Law:
W ill the Seco n d Fem ale Supreme Court Justice Becom e the Courts Womens Rights Cham pion?,
63 U. C lN . L. R e v . 1893, 1893 (r 995 ) (calling Justice O C onnors record on sex discrim ination
cases som ew h at m ixed ).
393 See sources cited supra note 389.
394 Some Justices have attem pted to refute her position. See, e.g., Burke, 504 U.S. at 243
(Scalia, J., concurring in the judgm ent) (using the Latn maxim noscitur a sociis to contend that
th e phrase personal injuries or sickness should be read narrowly); id. at 248 (Souter, J., concur
rin g in the judgm ent) (stating that although good reasons tug each way, the p lain tiffs aw ard
m u st be ch aracterized as taxable because exclusions from income must be n arrow ly construed).
T h e Burke m ajo rity opinion by Justice B lackm u n is narrower and does not constitute a barrier to
the respectful person thesis offered here, because the injury in Burke pertained to gender-biased
s a la ry schedules rather than the indignity o f sexual harassment; moreover, in rejecting the tort
analogy, the C o u rt relied on portions o f the C iv il Rights A ct o f 1964, 42 U .S.C . 20006 (1994),
th a t are now superseded by the 1991 am endm ents, see Burke, 504 U.S. at 237 n.8.



v. B u rk e395) closely resem bles tort-rem edied indignities such as inten

tional infliction o f em otional distress.396 W hether or not the A m erican
jud iciary, under the leadership o f a prom inent w om an Justice o f the
Suprem e C o u rt, w ill treat gender discrim ination as a violation o f a
person s sense o f dignity, the respectful person standard offers a prudent d octrin al expression o f this understanding.
T h e respectful person standard also brings to sexual harassm ent
doctrine a strong influence of A frican -A m erican culture. A s in other
areas o f antidiscrim ination law, the precedents o f racial history pertain
closely to the building o f new sexual harassm ent rules.397 R espect, for
m any years a core them e o f A frican -A m erican literature and legal
scholarship,398 needs to be integrated more closely w ith current ju d i
cial understandings o f antidiscrim ination doctrine. T o w a rd this end,
consider R obin D illo n s description o f respect:
Respect is, we m ight say, object-generated rather than subject-generated;
it is som ething we render, something that is called for, com m anded, elicited, due, claim ed from us. T hus it differs from liking or loving, and from
fearing, to take another emotion w ith which respect is som etim es confused, all o f which have their source in the a ge n ts ow n desires and interests. W hen we respect something, we heed its cali, accord it its due, a c
know ledge its claim to our attention


I f D illon is correct to vie w respect as a vector extended and received,

then it is appropriate to think about conditions th at im pede this
m ovem ent. A m on g these conditions is the obtuseness that d erives
from com fort. G aps in social pow er block the flo w o f respect, especially its rendering b y the subject. In a relation o f respect, the su b ject
m ust ackn ow led ge the claim s of the object w hile refusing the tem ptation and distraction o f feeling too socially exalted to render w h a t is
395 504 U.S. 229 (1992).
3,6 Cf. Robert C . Post, Racist Speech, Democracy, and the First Amendment, 32 Wm. & M a r y
L. R e v . 267, 273-74 (1991) (presenting the argument that racist speech should be treated as a dignitary tort).
397 S ee Vande Zande v. State D e p t o f Admin., 44 F-3d 338, 541 (7th Cir. 1995) (discussing an
analogy between race and physical disability); Dittman v. General M otors Corp., 941 F. Supp.
284, 286-87 (D. Conn. 1996) (exploring an analogy between reverse age discrim ination an d re
verse race discrim ination); Barton, supra note 316, at 435 n.58 (noting analogies between race
discrimination and sex discrimination); Andrew Koppelman, Note, The Miscegenation Analogy:
Sodomy Law as S ex Discrim ination, 98 Y a l e L.J. 145, 149 (1988).
398 Am ong the m id-twentieth-century classics, see C l a u d e B r o w n , M a n c h i l d i n t h e
P r o m i s e d L a n d (1965); R a l p h E l l i s o n , I n v i s i b l e M a n (1932); L o r r a i n e H a n s b e r r y , A
R a i s i n i n t h e S u n (1959); and R i c h a r d W r i g h t , N a t i v e S o n (1940). For the argum ent that
respect ought to be an urgent priority for African-Am ericans, see M a l c o l m X , T h e
A u t o b i o g r a p h y o f M a l c o l m X , at 273 (1963). Legal scholars widen the discussion. See, e.g.,
O kianer Christian D ark, Just M y 'Magination, 10 H a r v . B l a c k L e t t e r J. 21, 22-25 ( * 993 ) (de
scribing race in the law school environm ent, including the belief that A frican-Am erican fem ale
professors lack credibility); A li Khan, Lessons from Malcolm X: Freedom by Any Means N ecessary, 38 H o w . L.J. 79, 124-32 (1994) (linking respect to a human-rights conception o f racial stru g
399 Dillon, supra note 43, at 108.



[Vol. 111:443

d u e. R a c ia l in eq u ality m akes w h ite A m erican s more susceptible to

th is self-perception o f su p erio rity an d , w h en unexam ined, tends to obstru c t the rendering o f respect.
A tten tio n to racial eq u a lity a ccom p an ies a respectful person stan
d a rd in other particu lars. A s th e E n g lish philosopher R ichard N o r
m a n arges, respect is cru c ia lly d ifferen t from sym pathy; unlike sym path y, respect em phasizes sep araten ess, a reaction o f distancing
o n ese lf.400 T h e A frica n -A m e rica n stru gg le to achieve respectful sepa
ratio n coexistence com b in ed w ith liv in g apart401 has echoes in
th e struggle o f w om en w o rk e rs to b e left enough alone to do their
jo b s; the argu m en t a d va n ced for resp e ct here recalls A frican -A m erican
a n d social Science ju d gm en ts o f th e n eed to ackn ow led ge separateness
as a step to w a rd equality.402 F in a lly , A frican -A m erican experience
sh ed s ligh t on sexual harassm en t itself. In case law, A frican -A m erican
w o m e n h ave c o lle ctively d escrib ed w o rk p lace behavior whose contem p tu ou s an d oppressive n atu re becom es clear through the lens of
ra c e and can n o t read ily be d ism issed as badinage or good fun.403
M a n y sexual harassm ent claim s d ra w p o w erfu lly and d irectly on the
ra c ia l preced ent o f caste op pression .404 Sexual harassm ent law cannot
coh ere w h en it neglects its d eb t to race-based perception, and a re
sp ectfu l person stan dard helps to k eep this ancestry at the heart o f
d octrin e.

D octrin al Harmony: R esp ect Elsew here in the Law

A m e rican law frequ ently en cou rages, and even requires, citizens to
ren d er respect o f the sort d escrib ed in this A rticle. T h is section sug
gests that analogies can be d ra w n b etw een the ideas o f respect that are
im p lic it in m an y o f the curren t le g a l doctrines and the respectful person stan dard proposed here. F r a n k ackn ow led gem ent o f respect as a
con stitu en t o f law, rath er than a p a r t o f a system o f m orality that is

400 N orm an, supra note 241, a t 325-26.

401 See L e r o n e B e n n e t t J r ., B e f o r e t h e M a y f l o w e r : A H i s t o r y o f B l a c k A m e r i c a
217 (5th ed. 1982) (citing F red erick D o u g la ss s p lea of let him alone); G e o r g e M.

r e d r ic k so n

n it e d

, B

Sta tes

la ck
an d


ib e r a t io n

. A C

f r ic a

o m p a r a t iv e

is t o r y o f



e o l o g ie s in t h e

1 37-78 (1995) (discussing a utopian separatist m ovem ent

led by M arcus G arvey).

402 See A lex M . Johnson, B id Whist, Tonk, and U n ited States v. Fordice: Why Integrationism
F a ils African-Am ericans Again, 81 C a l . L . R e v . 14 0 1, 1432 (1993).
403 See sources cited supra note 49.
404 S ee M unford v. James T. Barnes & C o ., 441 F. Supp. 459, 466 (E.D. Mich. 1977) (describing
th e p la in tiffs effort to persuade the court, using statistical evidence, that the sexual harassment
sh e suffered constituted race discrimination); C a th arin e A. M acK innon, From Practice to Theory,
o r What Is a W hite Woman Anyway?, 4 Y A L E J.L . & F e m i n i s m 13, 17-21 (1991) (describing the
ra cia l identity o f M echelle Vinson, the p lain tiff whose experience of sexual harassment became
fam o u s follow ing Meritor)-, cf. Conn, supra note 281, at 548-50 (arguing that the sexual exploitation that accom panied siavery has m erely evolved into sexual harassment).

1 9 97 ]


w h o lly separate from the law, w ou ld refine understandings o f la w in

m an y areas apart from sexual harassm ent.
Visual A rtists Rights. T h e continental doctrine o f droit
moral, w hich recognizes an a rtists unique rights of integrity, attribu tion, m odification, and w ithd raw al relatin g to her w o rk,40S h as long
been acknow ledged in the U nited States.406 U nder this doctrine, the
artist retains rights th at inhere in the w o rk itself, even after she no
longer possesses or ow ns the w ork.407 O n e o f these rights is k n o w n
expressly as the right o f respect,408 but all o f these rights fall w ith in
the category of recognition respect.409
T h e Visual Artists Rights A c t ( V A R A ) refers specifically to the
honor o f the artist, n oting that m odifications and alterations o f a
w ork can be prejudicial to an a rtists honor.410 O ne com m entator explains honor in this context as an entitlem ent to preserve the authenticity o f [a] visual m essage.411 A n other com m entator notes that, consistent w ith the general obligation o f recognition respect, the duties
generated b y honor are in essence n egative, restraining h arm fu l ac
tions.412 Although som e object to the presence o f this m ed ieval and
arcan e term in the U nited States C od e,413 its presence is useful to reform ers w h o seek to im prove the law o f hostile environm ent sexu al
harassm ent.
D ra w in g on V A R A , its predecessors in the com m on law, and i n t e
lectual property agreem ents betw een nations, one can extract concepts
pertinent to sexual harassm ent doctrine. O ne is the relation b etw een
separation and affiliation. T h e visu al artist is separate from her w o rk
(for exam ple, some rights conferred under V A R A are w a iv a b le) but
also bound up in that w o rk (such that harm to a thing m ay be eq u ated
w ith harm to her).414 A second pertinent concept is the repudiation o f
m arket-thinking and m arket analogies. V A R A deems the artist connected to her w ork notw ithstanding its sale. Sim ilarly, claim s o f enti405 See J e s s i c a L . D a r r a b y , A r t , A r t i f a c t & A r c h i t e c t u r e L a w 9 .o 3 [ i] (19 9 5 ).
406 T h is acknowledgem ent has been somewhat reluctant in the common law but has been mandated by federal statute since 1991. See Visual Artists Rights A ct of 1990, Pub. L . No. 101-650,
104 Stat. 5128, 5132 (1991) (codified at 17 U .S.C. 106A (1994)).
407 See D a r r a b y , supra note 405, at 9-03[i].

408 d.

409 On the extensive secondary literature discussing moral rights, see the sources cited in G eri J.
Yonover, The Precarious Balance: Moral Rights, Parody, and Fair Use, 14 C a r d o z o A r t s &
E n t . L.J. 79, 81 n.6 (1996).
410 See H.R. Rep. N o. 101-514, at 5 (1990). T he word honor comes from the statutes predecessor, the Berne Convention.
411 E d w ard J. Damich, A Critique o f the Visual Artists Rights Act o f 1989, 14 N o v a L . R e v .
407, 408 (1990).
412 See N eil Netanel, A lienability Restrictions and the Enhancement o f Author Autonom y in
U nited States and Continental Copyright Law, 12 C a r d o z o A r t s & E n t . L.J. 1, 36-37 (1994).
413 See D a r r a b y , supra note 405, at 9-03[i].
414 I m ake an analogous argument concerning products liability. See A nita Bernstein, How
Can a Product Be Liable?, 45 DUKE L.J. 1, 43 (1995).


[Y o l. 111:445

tle m e n t to respect in the w tfrkplace sh ould not be dim inished b y rejo in d e rs th a t the p la in tiff chose the jo b and w as p aid to a ccep t w o rk
in g con d itio n s.415 B oth V A R A an d th e respectful person standard
r e le g a te reasonableness to a su p p ortin g role and, in particular, confne
it to excep tion s an d defenses. B o th V A R A and the respectful person
sta n d a r d gu ard again st incursions and b ou n d ary Crossing, rath er than
im p o se a ffirm a tiv e duties. T h e v isu al artist is entitled to in ju n ctive
r e lie f a ga in st inten tional or grossly negligent distortion, m odification,
o r d estru ction th a t w ou ld be p reju d icia l to the w ork;416 the w o rker is
e n title d to respectfu l distance.
E n viron m en tal Law. A s the phrase hostile en viron m en t
su g g ests, en viron m en tal law can inform a respectful person approach
to sex u a l harassm en t in the w o rk p lace.
A s the ph ilosopher Paul
T h o m p so n w rites, a respectful person is a person w h o m easures his or
h e r a ctio n in term s o f its consisten cy w ith[,] and [effect] on[,] a netw ork
o r w e b o f relationsh ip s.417 W ith in this ecosystem the w orksite,418 a
la r g e r social com m unity,419 or the p h ysica l w orld the respectful perso n accep ts the m ediating effects o f external circum stances. T h o m p
son p o in ts out th a t both con sequ en tialist ethical ph ilosophy and K a n
tia n abso lu tism tend to understate the im pact the en viron m ent has on
e th ics. N o b le ch aracter traits m ay becom e vices w h en taken to ex
trem es, b ut the en viron m ent in w h ich a virtuous person lives w ill reinfo rce the ten d en cy o f virtu es to b alan ce one another.420 T h e en viron
m e n ta l constitu en t o f ethics, w h ich T hom p son calis the ecology of
v ir tu e , suggests th at en viron m en tal la w can inform and gu ide the de
v e lo p m e n t o f a leg al stan dard o f respect.
C on sider, for exam ple, th e p recau tion ary principie,421 an en viron
m e n ta l tenet endorsed in the 1992 R io D eclaration 422 and by A m erican
c o u rts.423 T h e precau tion ary principie asserts that society should an
tic p a te , rath er than sim ply attem p t to remedy, activities that h arm the
415 S e e supra pp. 469-70.
416 S e e 1 7 U .S.C . 1 0 6 A (aX3)(AH B) ( 19 9 4 ) .
417 E lectronic mail from Paul B. Thom pson, D irector o f the C en ter for Biotechnology Policy
a n d E th ics and Professor o f A gricultural Econom ics at Texas A & M University, to Carolyn Raffensperger, Director, Science and E nvironm ental H ealth N etw ork (M ay 12, 1997) (printout on file
w ith the Harvard Law Review).
418 S e e supra note 280 and accom panying text.
419 S e e supra p. 489.
420 S e e Thom pson, supra note 417.
421 T h e p recautionary principie, or vorsorgeprinzip, emerged in West G erm any in the 1970S.
S e e K o n ra d von M oltke, The Vorsorgeprinzip in West Germn Environm ental Policy, in R o y a l

o m m is s io n o n

n v ir o n m e n t a l


l l u t io n

, T

w elfth

epo rt

: B



a c t ic a b l e

n v i-

app. 3 , at 58 (19 8 8 ).
422 S ee D avid A . Wirth, The R io Declaration on Environm ent and Development: Two Steps
F orw ard and One Back, or Vice Versa?, 29 G a . L . R e v . 599, 634 (1995). I elabrate on the precau
tio n a ry principie in A n ita Bernstein, Form ed by Thalidomide: Mass Torts as a False Cure fo r
T o xic Exposure, 97 C o l u m . L . R e v . (forthcom ing 1997).
423 S ee infra note 427.




en viron m ent.424 U rging policym akers to err on the side o f nonencroach m en t and distance, the precautionary principie expresses re
spect.425 T h is em phasis on avoiding harm rather than m axim izing
u tility has affronted econom ics-focused critics, w h o arge th at better
safe than sorry as a policy provides little gu idance abou t the optim al
m ix o f risks and contains a tacit prejudice in favor o f the status q u o.426
T h ese criticism s stem from a utilitarian prem ise that runs co n tra ry to
the concep t o f recognition respect. D espite this utilitarian criticism ,
h ow ever, the principie retains strong appeal for courts, ad m in istrative
agencies, and com m entators.427 L ik e the ethical d u ty to refrain,428 the
precau tion ary principie counsels hesitation; the respectful person understands the prudence of caution.
E lsew here, current environm ental law recognizes the tenet o f re
spect. A n im al rights, linked analytically to en viron m entalism ,429 are
en forced b y an array o f laws. A t the federal level, statutes protect
v u ln erab le species430 and provide for the hum ane transport o f anim als.431 A t the State level, anticruelty statutes declare the w ron gfu l-

424 S ee von M oltke, supra note 4 2 1 , at 57-58.

425 I discuss the connection between the respectful person standard and the precautionary prin
cipie in a forthcom ing work. See A nita Bernstein, Precaution and R espect, in S t r a t e g i e s f o r
I m p l e m e n t i n g t h e P r e c a u t i o n a r y P r i n c i p l e (Carolyn Raffensperger & Joel T icken er eds.,
forthcom ing 1998).
426 S ee F ra n k B. Cross, Paradoxical Perils o f the Precautionary Prin cipie, 5 3 VV a s h . & L e e L .
R e v . 8 5 1 , 8 5 9 - 6 1 (19 9 6 ); see also Bernstein, supra note 42 2 (sum marizing these criticisms).
427 Several courts have discussed the attraction o f the precautionary principle. See Industrial
Union D e p t, A F L -C I O v. American Petroleum Inst., 448 U.S. 607, 656 (1980) (plurality opinion)
(endorsing risking error on the side o f overprotection rather than underprotection); A S A R C O ,
Inc. v. O S H A , 746 F.2d 483, 495 (9th Cir. 1984) (deferring to agency cautions); Lead Indus. A ss n
v. E P A , 647 F.2d 1130, 1155 (D.C. Cir. 1980) (rejecting feasibility considerations in setting air
q u ality standards and choosing to err on the side o f caution); C entral Platte N atural Resources
D ist. v. C ity o f Frem ont, 549 N.W.2d. 112, 122 (Neb. 1996) (VVhite, C .J ., concurring) (supporting
the decisin to err on the side o f caution); see also S t e p h e n B r e y e r , B r e a k i n g t h e V i c i o u s
C i r c l e 47 (1993) (describing the tendency to overstate risks); Cross, supra note 426, at 853 (finding a precautionary principle theme in California State law and the U nited N ations W orld C h arter
for Nature); id. at 857 (noting the conservatism of E P A risk-assessment procedures).
428 See supra pp. 486-92.
429 See T h e A n i m a l R i g h t s / E n v i r o n m e n t a l E t h i c s D e b a t e : T h e E n v i r o n m e n t a l
P e r s p e c t i v e , at ix -x (Eugene C. Hargrove ed., 1992); J u d i t h D . S o u l e & J o n K. P i p e r ,
F a r m i n g i n N a t u r e s I m a g e . A n E c o l o g i c a l A p p r o a c h t o A g r i c u l t u r e passim (1992),
L a u ra W estra, Ecology and Animis: Is There a Joint E th ic o f Respect?, 11 E n v t l . E t h i c s 215
passim (1989).
430 See M arine M am m al Protections Act of 1972, 16 U .S.C. 1361-1421 (1994); Endangered
Species A ct o f 1973, 16 LT.S.C. 15311544 (1994); VVild Bird Conservation A ct o f 1992, 16
U .S .C . 4901-4916 (r994).
431 See 16 U .S.C. 3372 (1994)-


[Vol. 111:445

ness o f gratuitous anim al uffering.432 E ven negligence vis- -vis an

an im al m a y constitute a crim e.433
In an im ate objects also receive recognition respect in the law .434
F ro m the arch aic la w o f deodands, w h ich attributed blam e to an ob
je c t th a t caused the death o f a person, through m odera forfeiture,
A m e ric a n legal traditions a ffirm the separate iden tity o f things distinct
from the id en tity o f their ow n ers, m akers, buyers, and users.435 State
statutes crim in alizin g graffiti and van dalism rest on the prem ise that a
th in g possesses a unique identity, even integrity, th at is vio la ted by
m ed d h n g or alteration.436 S ta tu to ry and judge-m ade law also enforces
respect for corpses: n egligent m ish an d lin g o f a dead hum an b od y w as
an a ccep ted basis o f claim s for em otional in ju ry lon g before a general
recogn ition o f n egligent infliction o f em otional distress em erged in the
com m on law o f torts.437 S ta te statutes dem and decent treatm ent o f
432 S e e G


r a n c io n e

, A

n im a l s

, Pr

o pe r ty


th e


1 2 1 - 2 2 ( 19 9 5 ) .

P r o fe s s o r

F r a n c i o n e , a n a n i m a l r ig h t s a c t i v i s t , n o t e s t h a t t h e s e l a w s a r e f a r fr o m s e lf - e n f o r c i n g a n d , in a n y
e v e n t , n e v e r c h a l le n g e t h e f la w e d h u m a n c e n t r i c p r e m is e t h a t a n i m a l s m a y , o r p e r h a p s m u s t,
s u f f e r w h e n s u c h s u f f e r i n g w o u l d b e n e f i t h u m a n b e in g s .

See id. a t 1 2 9 - 3 0 .

W h e th e r o r not

F r a n c i o n e is r i g h t to q u a r r e l w it h t h e s c o p e a n d e n f o r c e m e n t o f a n d c r u e l t y s t a t u t e s , t h e i r e x is t e n c e d e m o n s t r a t e s a d e g r e e o f r e c o g n it i o n r e s p e c t o f a n im a ls .

433 See, e.g., C O L O . R e v . S t a t . 1 8 -9 -2 0 2 ( 1 ) (19 9 6 ) ( c r im i n a l iz i n g n e g l ig e n t o v e r w o r k i n g a n d

c o n f i n e m e n t a s w e l l a s c r i m in a l n e g l i g e n c e in f a il u r e to f e e d o r s h e lt e r a n

a n i m a l in o n e s

c h a r g e ) ; N . Y . A g r i c . & M k t s . L a w 3 5 3 ( M c K i n n e y 19 96 ) ( r e fe r r in g to th e f a il u r e t o p r o v id e
p r o p e r s u s t e n a n c e ).
434 I n a 19 8 5 s e q u e l t o h is c l a s s ic c l a i m t h a t t r e e s w a r r a n t r e s p e c t , C h r i s t o p h e r S t o n e g r o u p e d
t o g e t h e r e n t it ie s t h a t , t h o u g h n o t p e r s o n s a n d h e n e e n o t m o r a l a g e n ts , n e v e r t h e le s s c o m m a n d l e

Revisited: H ow Far
Will Law and Moris Reach? A Pluralist Perspective , 5 9 S . C a l . L . R e v . i , 1 2 - 1 3 (*9 8 5 ). T h e s e

g a l o r m o r a l a t t e n t i o n . C h r i s t o p h e r D . S t o n e , S h o u ld T Y e es H a v e S t a n d in g ?

e n t it ie s i n c l u d e e m b r y o s , a n i m a ls , c o r p s e s , l i v i n g o r g a n is m s , h a b it a t s , s p e c ie s , t r ib e s , n a t io n s ,
c o r p o r a d o n s , e v e n i n t a n g i b le s l ik e t h e q u a l i t y o f th e l ig h t in th e A r i z o n a d e s e r t a t s u n s e t .
2 1-2 2 .

S t o n e u s e s s p e c ia l l a n g u a g e

Id. a t

d i s in t e r e s t e d e n t it ie s , m o r a l o b l ig e e s , m o r a l p a tie n t[ s ]

t h a t e l u c i d a t e s t h e i n f r m i t ie s o f a r e a s o n - b a s e d s t a n d a r d f o r j u d g i n g o f f e n s iv e n e s s a n d h a r m to

S ee supra p p . 4 5 6 - 7 1 . T h e t e r m m o r a l p a t i e n t , f o r e x a m p le , w h i c h S t o n e b o r r o w s f r o m
see S t o n e , supra, a t 45 & n .1 2 5 ( c it in g T o m R e g a n , T h e C a s e f o r

d i g n it y .

t h e p h i lo s o p h e r T o m R e g a n ,
A n im a l R ig h t s
r im e te r .

1 5 1 - 5 6 (19 8 3 )), s u g g e s t s a t e r r a in o f r e s p e c t e x t e n d in g b e y o n d t h e K a n t i a n p e -

L i k e t h e r e s p e c t f u l p e r s o n s t a n d a r d , S t o n e s a r g u m e n t a b o u t m o r a l p l u r a li s m

t h a t m o r a l c l a i m s c a n b e o b je c t - g e n e r a t e d a s w e l l a s s u b je c t - g e n e r a t e d .

g u m e n t is t h a t d i s in t e r e s t e d e n t it ie s a r e f u n d a m e n t a l l y e n t l e d to r e c o g n it i o n r e s p e c t .
o g n it io n

v a r e s d e p e n d i n g o n th e e n t i t y

t h e e n t it le m e n t s o f e m b r y o s d i f f e r f r o m

c o rp s e s , w h ic h d iffe r fro m th o se o f n a tu r a l h a b ita ts

a c c e p ts

A t it s c r u x , S t o n e s a r
S u ch rec
th o se o f

b u t th e c la im s o f a l l in c lu d e a t t e n d o n , fo -

S ee D i l
supra n o t e 4 3 , a t 1 0 8 - 1 0 . O n b e h a l f o f d i s in t e r e s t e d e n t it ie s , S t o n e a s s e r t s th e c la i m m a d e in
t h e r e s p e c t - f o r - p e r s o n s l it e r a t u r e th e p e r s o n s r ig h t to b e t r e a t e d a s th e p e r s o n h e o r s h e is . See
S p e lm a n , supra n o t e 2 6 1 , a t 1 5 2 - 5 3 .
435 S e e B e r n s t e in , supra n o t e 4 1 4 , a t 4 4 .
436 S ee C a l . P e n a l C o d e 6 4 0 .5 ( W e s t 19 9 6 ) ( c r im i n a liz i n g th e m a k i n g o f g r a f fit i) ; H a w .
c u s , a w a r e n e s s o f s e p a r a t io n , a n d c o m b i n a t i o n s o f u n iv e r s a l a n d p a r t ic u l a r i s t i c r e g a r d .
lo n ,


. St

a t


n n

. 2 9 8 -2 7 ( M i c h ie 19 9 6 ) ( a d d r e s s i n g v a n d a l is m o n p u b li c s c h o o l p r o p e r t y ) .

437 S o m e e a r l y j u d i c i a l w r it n g e x p r e s s e d r e s p e c t f o r c o r p s e s .

See E n g l a n d v. C e n t r a l P o c a h o n -

t a s C o a l C o . , 1 0 4 S .E . 4 6 , 4 7 (W . V a . 19 2 0 ) ( a l l o w i n g a c la im f o r u n a u t h o r iz e d d is in t e r m e n t) ; L a r s o n v. C h a s e , 5 0 N .W . 2 38 , 2 4 0 ( M in n . 1 8 9 1 ) ( a l lo w i n g a w i d o w s c la i m f o r u n a u t h o r iz e d d is s e c tio n );

see also P r o s s e r & K

eeto n

supra n o t e 3 8 7 , a t 362 ( r e fe r r in g to a s e r ie s o f c a s e s a l l o w i n g

r e c o v e r y f o r n e g l ig e n t e m b a lm in g , n e g l ig e n t s h i p m e n t , r u n n in g o v e r th e b o d y , a n d th e l i k e ).




corpses, including decent burial,438 and federal legislation recogn izes

sacred land.439
j . The F irst Am endm ent.
Speech. T hose w h o assert the prim acy o f civil rights o v e r civil
liberties,440 or w h o arge that freedom o f speech m ust be understood
in conjunction w ith the Fourteenth A m endm ent prom ise o f eq u ality,441
stake out territory covered b y recognition respect.
R o bin W est
sketches a recognition respect approach in an article that defends the
suppression o f hate speech on com m unitarian grounds.442 R e je ctin g
pur civil-libertarian view s o f free speech, West and other w riters identify the vast pow er and appeal o f a countervailing concept o f respect.
T h e respect-oriented side o f this debate has lost several k e y S u
prem e C o u rt cases, in w hich freedom o f speech argum ents h a v e trium phed over statutory attem pts to enforce recognition respect.443 A lthough respect-based argum ents often fail to carry the day, th e y have
been influential in shaping understandings o f w h at is at stake, as even
their antagonists have adm itted.444 T h e debates over speech regulation thus describe recognition respect, show ing that it is am p ly precedented in A m erican law, and incidentally help to refute the cla im that
rem edies for sexual harassm ent in the w orkp lace vilate the rig h t to
free speech 44S
In Toward a F irst Am endm ent Jurisprudence o f Respect, W est contrasts a com m un icative interpretation o f speech w ith the d om inan t,

438 See, e.g., A l a s k a S t a t . 47.25.230 (Michie 1996) (mandating decent burial); N .Y . P u b .

e a l t h L a w 4200(1) (M cKinney 1996) (decreeing that every body of a deceased person, within
this state, shall be decently buried or incinerated within a reasonable time after death). S ee generally W illiam Boulier, Note, Sperm, Spleens, and Other Valuables: The N eed to Recognize Property Rights in Human Body Parts, 23 H o f s t r a L . R e v . 693, 704-07 (1995) (sum m arizing com
m on law precepts regarding corpses).
439 See 42 U .S.C. 1996 (1994) (m andating that land worshipped by N ative A m ericans be protected and preserved).
440 For an expression o f this dichotom y and a sum m ary of the contrasting views, see O w e n M.
F i s s , T h e I r o n y o f F r e e S p e e c h 1 0 - 1 8 (19 9 6 ), and Thom as C . Grey, C ivil Rights vs. C ivil
Liberties: The Case o f Discriminatory Verbal Harassment, 8 S o c . P h i l . & P o l y 8 1 , 8 1 - 8 3 (1 99 i)441 See 2 H a t e S p e e c h a n d t h e C o n s t i t u t i o n ( S t e v e n J. H e y m a n e d ., 1996) [ h e r e i n a f t e r

H a t e S p e e c h ].

442 See Robin West, Toward a First Amendment Jurisprudence o f Respect: A Com m ent on
George Fletchers Constitutional Identity, 14 C a r d o z o L. R e v . 759, 762 (1993). A lth o u gh West
rejects the idea of privileging equality over liberty, her hybrid equality/liberty argum ent describes
m any o f the elements o f recognition respect. See id.
443 See, e.g., R.A.V. v. C ity o f St. Paul, 505 U.S. 377, 392-94 (1992); Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S.
397, 4 11 -14 (1989). T h e Supreme C o urt sum marily affirm ed a Seventh C ircu it case th a t had
struck dow n an ordinance defining pornography-caused harms as civil rights violations an d creating a prvate right o f action to redress these injuries. See American Booksellers A s s n v. Hudnut, 771 F.2d 323, 324, 325 (7th Cir. 1985), a ffd mem., 475 U.S. 1001 (1986).
444 See H enry Louis Gates Jr., Let Them Talk: Why Civil Liberties Pose No Threat to C ivil
Rights, N e w R e p BLIC, Sept. 20 & 27, 1993, at 37, 46-47 (addressing the harms o f racist speech).
445 See sources cited supra note 7 and accom panying text.


[V ol. 111:445

liberal un derstan d ing o f speech as exp ressive.446 Speech creates a

bond, a relationship, or a com m u n ity th at w as not there previously be
tw een sp eaker and listener or w riter and reader, the creation o f w hich
is both the p rim ary purpose and prim ary consequence o f the
sp eech .447 D espite the im portance o f this com m unity, W est contines,
it w o u ld be a m istake to suppress speech sim ply because it can have
belittling, injurious, en d an gerin g, subordinating, spirit m urdering
consequences.448 W h a t W est calis the progressive altern ative to the
d om in an t liberal tradition shou ld not use the Fourteenth A m endm ent
as a w eapo n against the F irst and arge that eq u ality outw eighs lib
B y protecting com m u n ication rather than w ords them selves,
W est arges, the F irst A m en d m en t is faith ful to ideis o f both liberty
and equality.449
S im ila rly rejecting the prem ise o f a zero-sum contest betw een lib
erty and equality, S teven H eym a n offers another respect-focused a c
count o f speech rights.450 A c c o rd in g to Professor H eym an, society m ay
restrict hate speech because o f its tendency to deny recognition and
personhood to its target.4S1 T h e F irst Am endm ent, never understood
as an absolute endorsem ent o f unrestricted free speech,452 is part o f a
w id er social contract th a t m ediates rights and restrictions based on a
con cern a b ou t harm to others.453 R ecognition-denying speech, H e y
m an contines, is a vio lation o f the respect that ord inary citizens ow e
to one another.454 U n d er the social contract, each speaker m ust recognize others as co-ru lers, and render a m inim al degree o f civility and
L ik e other instances o f recogn ition respect encountered in this A r ti
cle, the d u ty H eym an identifies to refrain from inflicting the disre
sp ect o f hate speech is at odds w ith m etaphors o f the m arket. T h e
m a rk etp lace o f ideas, ch am p ion ed in fam ous Suprem e C o u rt opinions
o f the ea rly tw entieth century,456 stands for an aggregation that con446 See West, supra note 4 4 2 , at 7 6 1 .
447 Id.
448 Id. at 7 6 2 . W est credits P a t r i c i a J . W i l l i a m s , T h e A l c h e m y o f R a c e a n d R i g h t s 73
( 1991), for the phrase spirit m urder. West, supra note 442, at 761 & n.7.
449 S ee West, supra note 442, at 765-66.
450 S ee Steven J. Heym an, H ate Speech and the Theory o f Free Expression, in 1 H a t e S p e e c h ,
supra note 441, a t ix, xli.
451 See id. at xv.
452 See id. at xvii.
453 See id. at xviii. For elaboration in another context, compare Steven J. Heym an, Foundations o f the Duty to Rescue, 47 V a n d . L . R e v . 673, 690-99 (1994).
454 See H eym an, supra note 450, at lvii.
456 See W h itn ey v. C alifornia, 274 U.S. 357, 375 (1927) (Brandis, J., concurring) (arguing that
open debate pursues truth), overruled on other grounds by Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444,
449 (1969); A bram s v. United States, 250 U.S. 616, 630 (1919) (Holmes, J.. dissenting) ([T]he best
test o f truth is the pow er o f the thought to get itself accepted in the competition o f the m arket

. . . .).




centrates pow er w ithou t necessarily prom oting the fittest and b est ob
je c tiv e truth.457 Just as notions o f transaction m isdescribe the o b jec
tiv e criterion of hostile environm ent sexual harassm ent claim s458 and
the nature o f visual artists rights,459 th ey do not build a satisfactory
ideal o f free speech. For purposes o f recognition respect, how ever,
m etaphors o f m arket and transaction retain valu in that they describe
the free discussion am ong persons w ho credit one another w ith free
dom and reason.460
T h e free speech debate in general explores the lim its o f recognition
respect, a quest that I describe in this A rticle bu t do not try to resolve
except w ith specific reference to the area o f sexual harassm ent law . A
respectful person standard, im plicit in the W est and H eym an visions o f
the right to free speech, m ay even tu ally enter First A m en d m en t d oc
trine. B u t rather than arge here in favor o f this m igration, I connect
respect and free speech only to contend that one cannot posit a rig h t o f
free speech w ithout considering a distinction betw een expression and
com m unication. T h e idea o f recognition respect sums up w h at m akes
free speech a valu able right, w h at lim its the right to free expression,
and w h a t is at stake in construing the F irst A m endm ent guarantee.
R eligin. T h e Free Exercise and E stablishm ent C lau ses of
the F irst A m endm ent sim ilarly link recognition respect w ith civil liber
ties. One fam ous m etaphor envisions the boundaries that characterize
recognition respect461 b y perceiving constitutional religious protection
as shielding a garden from the encroachm ent o f w ilderness.462 T h e re
spectful person, as discussed above, m aintains a distance from others
and recognizes that individual w ill arises u n iq u ely in each hum an be
ing.463 P ointing occasionally in opposite directions, the Free E xercise

- 462


H e y m a n , supra n o te 4 5 0 , a t l ix - lx i.
supra p . 488.
supra p. 513-14H e y m a n , supra n o te 4 5 0 , a t lx ii.
supra p . 509 .
M a r k d e W o l f l H o w e , T h e G a r d e n a n d t h e W i l d e r n e s s ( 19 6 5 ) .

s o n , w h o s e v i e w o f th e R e lig i n C l a u s e s c o m m a n d s s t r o n g a ll e g ia n c e to d a y ,

J a m e s M a d i-

see LA U R EN CE H .

T r i b e , A m e r i c a n C o n s t i t u t i o n a l L a w 1 1 5 9 - 6 1 (2 d e d . 19 8 8 ), m a i n t a in e d t h a t in th e U n it e d

See L e t t e r f r o m J a m e s
reprinted in 5 T h e F o u n d e r s C o n s t i t u t i o n 10 7 , 1 0 7 - 0 8

S t a t e s r e lig io n s m u s t s t a y s e p a r a t e fro m o n e a n o t h e r a n d f r o m th e s ta te .
M a d i s o n to R e v . A d a m s (18 3 2 ),

( P h il ip B . K u r l a n d & R a lp h L e r n e r e d s ., 19 8 7 ) ( u r g in g t h a t th e g o v e r n m e n a b s t a in f r o m d e a l i n g
w ith

r e lig io u s e s t a b lis h m e n t s , e x c e p t to p r e s e r v e th e p u b li c o r d e r a n d to p r o t e c t e a c h s e c t

[ a g a i n s t ] t r e s p a s s e s o n its le g a l r ig h t s b y o th e r s ).

L a u r e n c e T r ib e id e n t ifi e s t h e m a in t h e m e s o f

c o n s t it u t io n a l r e lig io u s fre e d o m a s v o lu n t a r is m a n d s e p a r a t is m , b o th o f w h ic h a r e c e n t r a l to
r e c o g n it i o n r e s p e c t f o r p e r s o n s .

See T

r ib e ,

supra , a t 1 1 6 0 - 6 1 ( d e f in in g v o lu n t a r is m a s t h e f r e e

fro m c o m p u l s i n in m a t t e r s o f b e l i e f a n d s e p a r a t is m

a s th e p r in c ip le t h a t r e l ig i n a n d

g o v e r n m e n t f u n c t io n b e s t i f e a c h r e m a in s in d e p e n d e n t o f th e o t h e r ).

463 See supra p . 49 2 .



[Vol. 111:445

a n d E stablishm en t C lau ses fcxpress a com m on concern abou t autonom o u s hum an w ill and the d anger o f disrespectful encroachm ent.464
In recognition o f the v a lu o f com m itm ents to or principled
sta n ces again st religin, the A m e ric a n ju d icia ry has lent support to
conscien tious postures and p ractices, favorin g the perspective o f re
sp e c t for persons over altern ative buttresses for religin that other societies h ave chosen.46S A n d as w ith free speech, the Suprem e C o u rt
cases that strike dow n statu tory attem p ts to achieve recognition re
sp e c t for religious practices or institution s illum inate the w ays in
w h ic h A m erican law seeks to foster recognition respect. T h e E s ta b
lish m en t C lau se m ay be seen as a con strain t on statutes that ad van ce
recogn ition respect for religions, b u t w h en the C o u rt invalid ates such
statu tes, it renders respect to the religin in question w h ile insisting on
th e principie of separation b etw een ch u rch and state.466 T h e recent
in v a lid a tio n o f the Religious F reed o m R estoration A c t sim ilarly reveis
a solicitude for liberty o f conscience: in deem ing this statute unconstitu tio n a l, the Suprem e C o u rt based its decisin on congressional pow ers
u n d e r section 5 o f the F ourteenth A m end m en t, takin g care not to imp u g n religious freedom as a leg isla tiv e goal 467 Failed claim s for exem p tion likew ise reveal the C o u r t s respect for religious liberty: every
o n e o f the great free-exercise preced ents ruling against conscientious
p ractitio n ers o f religin contains a t least a bow, if not a paean, to spiritu a l freedom .468 T h e tangled c la im s o f religious liberty and religious
n eu tra lity continu to vex ju d g e s and scholars, w ho struggle over
w h ic h valu com es first. T h ese w riters h ave found com m on ground in
recogn ition respect.469
464 See M ichael W. M cConnell, Religious Freedom at a Crossroads, 59 U. CHI. L. R e v . 115, 168
(1992) (T h e great evil against which the Religin Clauses are directed is governm ent-induced
hom ogeneity . . . . ).
465 Cf. Ugo M attei, Three Pattem s o f Law: Taxonomy and Change in the Worlds Legal System s,
45 Am. J. Com p. L. 5, 23 (1997) (noting th a t the W estern legal tradition, unlike other legal system s, relies on a separation o f law from religin); Sheldon H. Nahm od, The Public Square and the
Jew as Religious Other, 44 H a s t in g s L.J. 865, 867-68 (1993) (describing role played by antiSem itism in European nationalism leading up to the Holocaust); Richard Smith, Why the Taint to
R eligi n ? The Interplay o f Chance and R eason, 1993 B Y U L. R e v . 467, 468 (adverting to religion-state relations in Germany).
466 See, e.g., Board o f Educ. v. Grum et, 512 U .S. 687, 690 (1994) (observing that tenets o f Satm ar H asidic faith do not require a separate school district); Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 431
(1962) (noting that a unin o f church and state w o uld threaten to destroy governm ent and to d e
g ra d e religin).
467 See C ity o f Boerne v. Flores, 117 S. C t. 2157, 2172 (1997).
468 See, e.g., O Lone v. Estate o f Shebazz, 482 U .S. 342, 344, 352 (1987) (discussing efforts o f
p rison adm inistrators to cooperate with in m ates sincerely held Muslim beliefs); Bow en v. Roy,
476 U .S. 693, 700 (1986) (quoting with ap p roval congressional resolutions concerning Am erican
In d ian religious freedom); Reynolds v. U nited States, 98 U.S. (8 Otto) 145, 166 (1878) (noting that
la w s cannot interfere with . . . religious belief and opinions).
469 S ee J e s s e H. C h o p e r , S e c u r i n g R e l i g i o u s L i b e r t y : P r i n c i p l e s f o r J u d i c i a l
I n t e r p r e t a t i o n o f T H E R e l i g i n C L A U S E S 31-32 (1995) (referring to indignation and of
fe n se); A bner S . Greene, The P olitica l Balance o f the Religin Clauses, 102 Y a l e L .J . 1611, 1643




A ssociation. F irst Am endm ent doctrine connects personhood
and hum an dignity to build a freedom o f association:470 in the w ord s
o f L auren ce Tribe, virtu a lly every invasin o f personhood is also an
interference w ith association . . . 471 For C h arles Fried, the essence
o f p riv a c y another constitutional liberty linked w ith the F irst
A m en d m en t is the po w er o f an individual to share and w ith h o ld intim a cy based on in d ivid u al choice.472 Suprem e C ou rt case law on the
freedom o f association expounds on these vales, connecting associational rights w ith boundaries,473 self-definition,474 and protected sanctuaries.47S
L ik e the concept o f respect, freedom o f association rests on both
liberal and com m unitarian bases. F rom a liberal van tag e point, associational rights recognize that persons cannot flourish in isolation. A
com m unitarian perspective em phasizes that association in grou p s is
m ore than a right: com m unities are as central as individuis are to this
F irst Am endm ent-guaranteed liberty.476 H ere the contrast b etw een
reason and respect reappears. Successful claim s o f associational rights
h a ve com e from groups and com m unities united around variou s v a l es
an d characteristics religin, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity,
fa m ily status all o f w hich, like sexual harassm ent, have little or
nothin g to do w ith reason. T h e im pulse to associate com es from a desire o f individuis to find their place in a com m unity. T h is place can
be identified, expressed, confirm ed, refined, m odified, and rejected
o n ly through the function o f respect.

om m on

Sen se


R espect

H a vin g discussed respect as a m atter o f philosophy and socioc u ltu ral history as w ell as legal doctrine, w e m ay now explore respect
as a com m onsensical norm that lay persons understand and apply.
T h e proposed ju ry instruction below, interspersed w ith com m entary,
(1993) (concluding that political participation rights depend upon a recognition o f religious conscience as well as a stance against religious establishment); W illiam P. M arshall, The C oncept o f
Offensiveness in Establishment and Free Exercise Jurisprudence, 66 IND. L.J. 351, 373 (1991)
(noting, with disapproval, the theme o f offensiveness in Religin Clause case law).
470 See G risw old v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 483 (1965) (noting that although the freedom of
association is not expressly included in the First Amendm ent its existence is necessary in m aking
the express guarantees fully m eaningful).
T r i b e , supra note 462, at 1400.
472 See C h a r l e s F r i e d , A n A n a t o m y o f V a l e s 142 (1970).
473 See Griswold, 381 U.S. at 483; see also Eu v. San Francisco County D em ocratic C en tu ry
C o m m n, 489 U .S. 214, 224 (1989) (identifying a right to determine the boundaries o f a political
association); Tashjian v. Republican Party, 479 U.S. 208, 214 (1986) (applying an associational
right to political parties); Bates v. C ity of Little Rock, 361 U.S. 516, 523 (1960) (holding th a t an
associational right protects organizations from governm ent attack and interference).
474 See Roberts v. United States Jaycees, 468 U.S. 609, 619 (1984).
475 S ee Griswold, 381 U.S. at 484-85.
476 See S o i f e r , supra note 138, at 51-52.




[V ol. 111:445

d escrib es the respectful prson standard in ord inary lan gu age. Follo w in g the pattern set elsew here in this A rticle, I h ave w ritten this
m od el ju r y instruction w ith T itle V II claim s in m ind, but one m ay
rea d ily alter this instruction to fit dign itary-tort actions.
X [th e p la in tiff] has alleged that she has been fo rced into a
h o stile work environm ent because o f sexual harassment. To establish a claim o f hostile environm ent sexual harassment, X
m ust prove by a preponderance o f the evidence that the w ork
p la ce was perm eated w ith discrim inatory intim idation, ridicule,
and in su lt that is related to sex, and that is sufficiently severe or
pervasive to alter the cond itions o f her employment and create
an abusive working environment. Exam ples o f such conduct are
sex u a l propositions, sexual innuendo, the display o f sexually exp lic it m aterials, and sexually derogatory language.
C om m ent: T h is sum m ary introduction w ou ld fo llo w a m ore general
op en in g, rea d ily a vailab le in the pattern books and not o f d irect con
cern here, th at w o u ld describe the nature o f a T itle V I I claim .477 T h e
a b o v e p a rag ra p h quotes alm ost verbatim an A B A -a u th o red m odel ju ry
in stru ctio n .478 Tellingly, the passage contains no reference to reason
an d reasonableness.479
U n d er the law, an employer must provide a working en v i
ronm ent in w hich men and women are treated equally, and that
is not hostile or abusive. You may need some guidance about
w hat it means to treat people equally and to provide an en v i
ronm ent that is not hostile or abusive. To help you in your deliberations, I ask you to ask yourselves: D id A B C [th e employer]
behave as a respectful person toward X ? I f A B C treated X as a
respectful person would, then A B C is not liable to X.
Comment'. F ollow in g the contention that the duties o f a respectful
person are prin cip ally n egative the respectful person refrains and
forbears, and stands b ack from boundaries480 this part o f the in
stru ction includes n egative locutions. E vid en ce suggests that although
m ltip le n egative statem ents can harm ju ro rs com prehension o f instru ction s,481 ju d g es can reduce or elim inate these harm ful effects by

477 See, e.g., 3 E d w a r d J . D




a c t ic e a n d


e v it t

, C

s t r c t io n s

: C

h arles

B. B

iv il a n d

& M i c h a e l A. W o l f f , F e d e r a l
104.01, at 10 12-13 (4th ed. 1987 &

lackm ar

r im in a l

Supp. 1996).
478 See Em p loym en t & Labo r Relations Comra., M odel Jury Instrctions: Employment Litiga
tion, 1994 A B A . S e c . L i t . 40.
479 T h ese term s appear in the A B A m odel ju ry charge. S ee id.
480 See supra pp. 486-92.
See R o b ert P. C h arrow & Veda R. Charrow , Making Legal Language Vnderstandable: A
Psycholin g uistic Study o f Jury Instrctions, 79 C o lu m . L. R e v . 1306, 1324-25 (1979) (finding
o nly sm all effects on com prehension when instrctions use single negatives, but identifying double
and triple negatives as p articularly incom prehensible to jurors).




stating the n egatives as contrasts.482 In this m odel instruction, n ega

tive locutions are therefore accom panied b y contrasting affirm atives.
To be a respectful person is to treat other human beings as
persons who are as valuable as you are even i f you have had
advantages that they have not had. It is to acknowledge th eir
dignity and humanity, to recognize that they are like you, yet
have th eir own goals and wishes. It is to pay attention to other
people how they react and what they say. When we respect
people we accord them basic dignity, and we acknowledge their
stake in how we behave.
F o r purposes o f the law, the respectful person m ust refrain
from doing to other people what he or she would not want done
to him or her, except when that is impossible to avoid. F or instance, it may be necessary to fir e an employee, and the respect
f u l person may do so when this decisin is necessary.
The respectful person does not hum iliate another person. The
respectful person appreciates the dignity o f another person. T h is
obligation does not mean that X is en titled to fe e l good about h er
jo b all the time, or that A B C must spare her feeling s at a ll
A respectful person does not have to be perfect. A n employer
acting as a respectful person is entitled to do unpleasant things,
to make a profit from employment, to hire and fire, and to act as
it needs. The respectful person does not have to be generous or
patient, fo r instance. or does the respectful person need to
have a high opinion o f everyone. Respect is not the same as admiration. You might respect Q [am e an athlete] because he is
so good at his game. Thats the kin d o f respect that comes w ith
adm iration fo r a persons special skills or talents. R espect in the
workplace, however, means the fundam ental dignity due to every
person regardless o f unique ability or exceptional talent.
Comment: Jurors are likely to w an t guidance on the outer b o u n d a
ries of a respectful person standard. T h e instruction lists delineated
virtues to cla rify w h a t the respectful person is n o t*83 b y sp ecifically
contrasting appraisal respect. T he instructions also condone w o r k
place capitalism , the absence o f altruism at a w orksite, and general
unsaintliness, all of w hich are ubiquitous in em ploym ent.
You know what it means to be a respectful person outside the
courts o f law. You have been called to ju ry Service because o f
your daily life experiences because you have known both re
spectful and disrespectful persons in real-world situations. You
482 See Jamison VVilcox, The Craft o f Drafting Plain-Language Jury Instructions: A Study o f a
Sample Pattern Instruction on Obscenity, 59 T e m p . L.Q . i 159, 1 1 6 7 & n.28 (1986).
48-? W ilcox incorporate.s contrasts in his proposed model instruction on obscenity, stating th at
such an instruction, in telling the juror to reject certain ideas, helps the juror to make some important distinctions. Id.



[Vol. 111:445

sh o u ld draw on you r own experien ce as you determ ine w hether

A B C a cted toward X as a respectful person would.

O u tsid e the precincts o f law , sexu al harassm ent is understood to be

a k in d o f disrespect. E x a m p les o f this understanding abound. O f the
m u ltitu d e o f statem ents a b o u t respect in relation to harassm ent
from an cien t literature to con versation s w ith friends, in em p loym ent
m a n u a ls and in televisin program m in g, through new spapers and all
oth er m ed ia484 I h a ve p u lled one exam ple from the business com
m u n ity for this C on clu sin . T h is statem ent o f harassm ent as d isre
sp ect ind icates an u n d erstan d in g th at has yet to perm eate legal d oc
T h e A m erican M a n ag em en t A ssociation , addressing m anagers con
cerned a b ou t accu sation s o f harassm en t, urges them to th in k before
th e y speak:
W ould y ou sa y [a du bious rem ark] in front of your spouse, parent, or
W ould you say t if you w ere going to be quoted on the front page o f the
new spaper?
W ould you beh ave that w a y to w a rd a m em ber of your ow n sex?

Why does it need to be said at all? What business is it furthering?483

Would you say that in fr o n t o f your mother? Taken as m ore than
rhetorical, this question id en tifies sexual harassm ent as w ron gfu l co n
d u ct, a sim ple assertion th a t m a n y courts and scholars have d eclined to
m ake. T h e m an agem en t association criteria state burdens in term s o f
an actor rath er th an his target. T h e y allude to pubiic reaction the
fro n t page o f the n ew sp a p e r and thereby express concern w ith
p u b lic h u m iliatio n and th reats to o n e s good ame. T h e criteria h ave
n oth in g to sa y a b o u t reason and reasonableness. T h e y understand the
b asic sexual harassm en t d u ty to be built around restraint. In short,
th is com m onsense u n d erstan d in g a b ou t sexual harassm ent rests on the
id ea o f respect. T h e A m e rica n M an agem en t Association invites the
reader to be or becom e a resp ectfu l person, as a w ay to avoid both the

484 A vast array o f references to respect in the context o f harassment appear in the m edia. See,
e.g.y Sexua l Harassment and M isco n d u ct in the United States Army: Hearing Before the Senate
Comm. on Arm ed Services, io s th C on g. (Feb. 4, 19 9 7 ) (statement of General Dennis J. Reimer,
C h ie f o f Staff, U nited States A rm y), available in L E X I S , Legis Library, C ngtst File; Women
Readers R ea ct, B a n g o r D a i l y N e w s , Jan. 28 , 1 9 9 7 , at A 8 (gathering comments from wom en
n ew spaper readers); Crossfire (C N N televisin broadcast, Feb. 16 , 1 9 9 7 ), available in L E X I S ,
N e w Library, Scrip t F ile (debating w h eth er opening combat positions to women w ould result in
greater respect for wom en soldiers and reduced sexual harassment).
485 T h om as H ead & M ickey Veich, Would You Say That in Front o f Your M other? Sexu a l
Harassment, S E C U R I T Y M g m t ., Feb. 1 9 9 4 , at 4 3 , available in 19 9 4 W L 2 8 2 3 11 4 .




practice o f harassm ent an d the accusation that one has com m itted this
violation o f em ploym ent law.
Sexual harassm ent la w needs to absorb the teachings o f com m on
sense and d aily experience. D octrine in this subject m ust be trued,
brought honestly into alignm ent w ith good sense. T h is process includes several discrete steps.
A s this A rticle has detailed at some length, the respectful person
m ust replace the reasonable person as the gauge by w hich cou rts d e
term ine w hether the alleged harasser has violated the law. R esp ect
and reason are neither m u tu a lly preclusive or oriented in con trary directions. H ow ever, centuries o f experience have connected reason w ith
various biases relatin g to gender and race in particular and caste
oppression in general th at obstruct the rem ediation o f sexual h a
rassment. E m phasis on reason also neglects the em otional and sex u a l
nature o f sexual harassm ent. Standards that dem and reasonableness,
in the sense o f shared understandings or centrist view s, have p ro v e d
problem atic in both theory and practice. Indispensable elsew here in
the law, the reasonable person m ust p lay a lesser role in sexual h a ra ss
m ent doctrine.
Another step is m ore theoretical and m ust be taken slowly. R eco gnizing respect as a legal concept com es cise to treading on the p rin c i
ple that the law ought to refrain from teaching or enforcing virtu e, ex
cept in the m inim al sense o f deterring citizens from endangering one
another. P hilosophical co n flict betw een those w ho favor the right and
those w ho em phasize the good has been underw ay for centuries, w ith
insufficient application to specifics.486 Sexual harassm ent law sh o u ld
enter this liberal-com m unitarian debate at a point near the edge o f lib
eral m inim alism .487 I h ave suggested that the respectful person fa lls
w ithin the b oundary o f w h a t the liberal State is com petent to u n dertake. T he path o f such a person m ay be stated in narrow and n eg a tiv e
terms: the respectful person has a legal duty to refrain from disrespect,
rather than a d uty to a ffirm or esteem another person. R espect in this
sense I have used the philosophical label recognition respect is
consistent w ith various relations now m andated by longstanding d o c
trine 488 E m bedded legal rules o f respect are taken for granted. A
stronger understanding o f the w a y in w hich the law dem ands respect486 Authors have explored the liberal-com m unitarian spectrum in specific areas o f law and p ol
icy. See, e.g., Troven A. Brennan, An E th ical Perspective on Health Care Insurance Reform , 19
Am. J.L. & M ed . 37, 47-5 (1993) (extrapolating from medical ethics to create an ethic o f access to
health care); Enrique R. Carrasco, Law, Hierarchy, and Vulnerable Groups in Latin America:
Towards a Communal M odel o f Development in a Neoliberal World, 30 S t a n . J. I n t l L. 221,
278-310 (1994) (rejecting the strict liberal/communitarian dichotomy to arge that vuln erable
groups are entitled to services necessary for the good life); Fox, supra note 246, at 171-7 8 (criticizing welfare reform).
487 See supra notes 41-42 and accom panying text.
488 See supra pp. 5 12-21.



[V o l.


fu l behavior w ill cla rify vales n ow obscured and shed light on liberal
p o litica l theory in A m erican law.
To com plem ent this theoretical advance, w orkin g law yers should
continu to introduce new extralegal understandings abou t sexual ha
rassm ent into the developm ent o f the law. O ne source o f input comes
from the jury, standing b y in both T itle V II and dign itary-tort actions.
Jurors grapple w ith respect in their d aily lives. T h e form ality o f a
courtroom , though a w o rk a d a y setting for law yers and ju d ges, causes
persons in the ju r y pool to think abou t w hat R obin D illon has called
institutional respect;489 although legal scholars and courtroom regulars
m a y find respect an alien concept in tort or antidiscrim ination law,
those persons assem bled to serve on a ju ry bring a heightened sense o f
the w ord into the court proceedings.490 O ther influences on the d evel
op m ent o f respect in sexual harassm ent proceedings m ay com e from
the w o rk experiences o f those fam iliar w ith other respect-focused dom ain s o f the law. E nviron m en tal law yers and intellectual property
specialists, for instance, m ight be w ell positioned to explain the legal
con cep t o f respect.
T reating sexual harassm ent w ith respect m ust begin w ith the ackn ow led gm en t th at sexual harassm ent is wrong. Such a statem ent, far
from im peding the progress o f w om en w orkers or m ixing tort im prope rly into c ivil rights law ,491 is essential to the prevention and rem ediation o f sexual harassm ent. O n ly after it is deem ed w rong can sexual
harassm ent be abju red and condem ned. Injurers and recipients o f
harassm ent w ill then be able to lcate their decisions and behavior in a
design th at is congruent w ith m orality.
T h e tw o legal dom ains that address sexual harassm ent tort and
antidiscrim ination law or, put m ore quaintly, law and eq u ity conjo in to dem and this m oral design. O nce it is agreed that sexual h a
rassm ent is a w ron g and henee w arran ts a claim at law, the principie
o f eq u ity behind the civil rights statutes lays the stress upon the d u ty
o f the defendant, and decrees that he do or refrain from doing a cer
tain thin g because he ought to act or forbear. It is because o f this emphasis upon the d efen d an ts d u ty th at equity is so m uch more ethical
than law .492 T h e obligations o f sexual harassm ent law derive from


See supra note 232; see also V a l e r i e P. H a n s & N e i l V i d m a r , J u d g i n g t h e J u r y 249

(1986) ([Jury service] imbues all classes w ith a respect for the thing judged, and with the notion
o f right. (quoting A l e x i s d e T o c q u e v i l l e , D e m o c r a c y i n A m e r i c a (1835)) (internal quota
tion m arks omitted)).
490 Several articles discuss ju ro rs experience o f respect in the courtroom. See, e.g., Stephanie
B . Goldberg, Caution: No Exem ptions, A .B .A . J., Feb. 1996, at 64, 65; Joseph H. Hoffman,
W heres the B uck? Juror Misperception o f Sentencing Responsibility in Death Penalty Cases, 70
I n d . L . R e v . i 137, 1155 (1995); Bob Sablatura, Sword and Shield: Grand Juries in Texas,
H o u s t o n C h r o n ., N o v . 25, 1996, at A5.
491 See supra note 39.
492 Ames, supra note 52, at 106. Although the emphasis of Title VII enforcement has shifted
tow ard law from equity since the passage o f the C iv il Rights A ct of 1991, see Developments in the




the tenets o f ethical personal relationships. A standard o f respect for

sexual harassm ent cases w ould em erge from this origin in d ay-to-d ay
life, im provin g the Am erican w orkp lace on its w a y to im p rovin g the

L a w Employment D iscrim ination, 109 H a rv . L. R e v . 1568, 1573-74 n.26 (1996), pre-1991 Title
V II enforcem ent provided exclusively equitable remedies, see N ote, supra note 199, at 1464.