Wednesday, June 11, 2003

When is gender-based harassment not sexual harassment?

I am dumbfounded by this report from Michigan of a state law employment discrimination case where the appeals court held that "[c]onduct or communication that is gender-based, but is not sexual in nature, does not constitute sexual harassment."

What can this possibly mean? I thought that harassment was actionable as employment discrimination only where it was gender-based. Maybe they have some different kind of laws in Michigan.

It makes me think of a discussion I had about the Virginia Supreme Court's Mitchem v. Counts case, some years ago, where it struck me that the majority was saying "we're not talking about sex, we're talking about fornication" in their effort to distinguish the anti-Lockhart statute passed by the General Assembly to prohibit wrongful discharge claims based on sex discrimination.

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