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Professor Vicki Schultz's ground-breaking article, The Sanitized Workplace, questions whether all sexual conduct is inappropriate in the workplace, whether sexually-charged work environments necessarily disadvantage women, and whether sanitizing the workplace of sexuality impedes gender equality. Her article proposes that a less sanitized workplace with less over-reaction to sexuality would allow for more freedom of sexual expression and be more advantageous to women. According to Professor Schultz, the misuse of sexual harassment law may lead to increased segregation and employers' unwillingness to hire women. In many workplaces today, where office romances are seen as a litigation threat instead of a natural occurrence, sexual harassment laws prevent the realization of a fully human workplace.

Despite recent progress, sexual harassment remains a major problem in the workplace. As Professor Schultz's article describes, many of the landmark harassment cases involved one or a small number of women employed in male-dominated workplaces. Professor Schultz's work seeks to: (1) empower women; (2) decrease the sex segregation that continues to exist in many workplaces; and (3) humanize the workplace to allow for romance or harmless flirting without fear of litigation. Professor Schultz gives us a vision of what the workplace could be like. But in reality, the current workplace has multiple identities and is rapidly diminishing worker bargaining power.

While Professor Schultz contributes to realistically appraising workplace dynamics, the author questions whether her prescription is the right medicine in all situations. This Article begins by discussing whether majority rule in unionized workplaces makes instances of sexual harassment difficult to remedy by examining the real-life case that formed the basis for the movie North Country. Next, the Article will discuss how re-inserting sexuality into the workplace affects same-sex or gender identity harassment. These issues are addressed in the recent Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals case, Rene v. MGM Grand Hotel. Finally, this Article examines whether sexually de-sanitized workplaces might lead to the unintended consequence of more racial harassment.

Publication Citation

29 T. Jefferson L. Rev. 55 (2006)