Adjunct Law Prof Blog

Editor: Mitchell H. Rubinstein
New York Law School

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

9th Issues Interesting Reverse Sexual Harassment Decison


Equal Employment Opportunity Comm'n v. Prospect Airport Servs., Inc., No. 07-17221, 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 18447 (9th Cir. Sep. 3, 2010), is an interesting case. The 9th held that a female co-worker's repeated sexual advances to a male colleague can form a prima facie case of sexual harassment where the man informed her the conduct was unwelcome and repeatedly complained to various supervisors, who did not take steps to stop her behavior.

Over a six-month period, the female harasser, who was married, sent notes of an explicit sexual nature to her male colleague. The notes became more frequent as he continued to deny any interest in her. The female harasser even began to involve co-workers, asking them to deliver her notes to plaintiff and to tell him of her attraction to him. There are additional facts, but I think readers get the gist of things. 

The decision in unremarkable, except it confirms that the laws against sexual harassment apply equally to men and women.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

Employment Discrimination | Permalink


This is not a reverse harassment case. It is a harassment case. Why do people insist on calling things 'reverse'? All it does is call out the prejudices of the author, who assumes that only women (or minorities, or...) can be victims. Harassment, discrimination, etc. are what they are, regardless of the offender and victim.

Posted by: William O'Brien | Feb 4, 2011 11:28:12 AM

How is this "Reverse" sexual harassment at all? This is sexual harassment, plain and simple. Not reverse. The genders involved are totally irrelevant to the definition of sexual harassment.

Posted by: Jonathan | Feb 4, 2011 11:42:42 AM

Dear Mr. Rubenstein: No, not really. What's notable is that the case had to come to the 9th circuit. Why? Because the district court snickered and in the 9th's words:

"The district court concluded that as a matter of law Munoz's conduct was not severe and pervasive enough to amount to sexual harassment objectively for a reasonable man, noting that “Lamas admits that most men in his circumstances would have ‘welcomed’ the behavior he alleged was discriminatory, but that due to his Christian background he was ‘embarrassed.’ “"

That is, "Girls will be girls, stud, and whatsa matter with you? Most men'd grab a chance to make such an easy score."

Note too, that the victim did not appeal, but the EEOC had to. I expect that the victim didn't feel like appealing, after the District Judge, one Kent Dsawson, representative Billyboy appointee, dragged him over the coals. The appeal was also fortunate in the panel it drew. Imagine if it had come up before a panel with 200 proof liberal bigots such as Harry Pregerson or Stephen Reinhardt on it? the poor victim would have had to flee to Egypt to be safe...

You may be right that the law commands men and women be treated the same. But Dawson didn't get the word or didn't care. Given that, what matter what the law says? To be sure, the victim got a happier result at the 9th, but with a lot of extra time and worry, which doubtless will give Dawson some comfort.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster
(not of CUNY)

Posted by: Gregory Koster | Feb 4, 2011 12:43:02 PM

Is there a "reverse" robbery or a "reverse" fraud? No? So by what logic is there such a thing as "reverse" sexual harassment?

At this stage, I think the term mainly serves to reveal the mindset of the person who uses the term. Specifically, in this case, the mindset that some man is always the expected perpetrator, so if a woman does it it's "reverse".

I suggest it's time to cease referring to such things as "reverse" crimes - the term is no longer useful, descriptive--or needed.

Posted by: John Fembup | Feb 4, 2011 1:55:24 PM

"The decision in unremarkable, except it confirms that the laws against sexual harassment apply equally to men and women."

I guess what's remarkable is that the law being applied equally to men and women (instead of just against men) is something sufficiently unusual that its happening is worthy of note.

Posted by: Steve Murphy | Feb 4, 2011 2:10:31 PM

I agree with your assessment that this "decision is unremarkable, except it confirms that the laws against sexual harassment apply equally to men and women." The Equal Protection clause demands this result. But how can you square this analysis with the assertion in your headline that this decision involved "reverse" sexual harassment?

Is this not simply sexual harassment? What makes it "reverse?"

This sexist wording implies that only men can perpetrate actual sexual harassment; that when a woman sexually harasses a man, it is not sexual harassment, per se, but rather "reverse" sexual harassment. This is analogous to descriptions of "reverse" racism that play into the hands of those promoting the racist claim that only white people can be racists.

Please don't internalize and then propagate the linguistic formulations of those who would further their racist or sexist agendas through reframing techniques. In doing so you allow their hypocrisy to become your own.

Posted by: Grant Austin Dickey | Feb 4, 2011 2:13:38 PM

when I say reverse harassment, I'm speaking on the ways in which supervisors try to get co workers to say and find out things about another coworker, they are harassing the worker , but through other co workers.

Posted by: queen terry | Aug 21, 2013 4:11:51 PM

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