Oct 14, 2017

The workplace sexual harassment case that changed the rules

Photo: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Mechelle Vinson, a bank teller in Washington, sued her bank's branch manager, Sidney L. Taylor, in 1978 for "repeatedly sexually [assaulting] her," leading to a landmark Supreme Court case that "redefined sexual harassment in the workplace," according to a Washington Post report.

Vinson told the Post in 1986 that Taylor threatened to fire her if she refused to sleep with him; he also assaulted her in front of other employees, and "forcibly raped her on several occasions."

  • A U.S. District judge said Vinson "had not suffered job discrimination."
  • A U.S. Court of Appeals reversed that, saying "women did not have to prove discrimination...to prove they had been sexually harassed."
  • The Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous decision "that sexual harassment violated federal laws against discrimination."

Why it matters: This set the tone for workplace sexual harassment. For the first time, sexual harassment was "an illegal form of discrimination."

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