The following are some of the significant cases in this area. They are offered as a start to understanding the issues, and are not intended as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from DOI's Solicitor's Office or private counsel. These summaries are intended neither as a legal analysis regarding specific matters, nor as a complete review of the topic.

  1. Meritor Savings Bank, FSB v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57, 106 S.Ct. 2399 (1986). The Court held that Title VII prohibits sexual harassment in employment, even if the harassment does not cause a direct financial injury. It was the first time the Court recognized a cause of action for sexual harassment based on creation of a hostile intimidating work environment, which is in contrast with the quid pro quo case where sexual favors were demanded in return for favorable personnel decisions, or adverse action was taken based on the denial of sex.
  1. Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 114 S. Ct. 367 (1993). This case establishes the standard and perspective for evaluating whether a conduct is unlawful harassment. The Court confirmed that the severity and pervasiveness of a particular offensive conduct has both an objective and a subjective component.
  1. Burlington Industries, Inc. v. Ellerth, 118 S.Ct. (1998); and Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, 118 S.Ct. 2275 (1998), held that an employer is vicariously liable to an employee for an actionable hostile environment created by a supervisor with immediate or successively higher authority over the employee. If the employer takes no tangible employment action, it may raise an affirmative defense to liability or damages, subject to proof by a preponderance of the evidence.
  1. Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc., 118 S.Ct. 998 (1998). Held that Title VII reaches same-sex harassment cases where the plaintiff can prove that the harassment is because of the plaintiff's sex.