Discrimination and Employment Laws

Discriminationand Employment Laws

Discriminationand Employment Laws

Casesof sexual harassment are quite common in the modern workplaces, whereemployers are often sued for failing to protect employees who feelharassed by their co-workers. In most cases, harassed employees suefor psychological damages since material damage is rare in thesetypes of case. This paper will analyze the case of Reeves versus C.H.Robinson, where the Reeves, a female worker at C.H. Robinsonexperienced sexual harassment as the male co-workers engaged indissections that touched on female anatomy. The paper will focus onpossible defenses that the employer could use, bases on the court’sdecision, and implications of a similar incident in the case of anindependent contractor.


Theuse of vulgar language may be considered as sexual harassment even incases where such language is not directed to the plaintiff. Thisprecedence was set in the case of Ingrid Reeves, where her coworkers,who were men, engaged in vulgar discussion in the presence of Reeves.There are about four types of possible defenses that could be used inthe case of Reeves. The first and the most obvious defense is aneffort to weed out aggregated or false claim where the defendant canclaim that sexual harassment did not happen (Weitzman, 2000). Thiswill provide Reeves with a hard time to prove that she was actuallyharassed sexually.

Secondly,the First amendment provides some defense since the accused can claimthe freedom of expression. The defendants can show the court that thenature of their discussion could be protected by the First amendment,both in the workplace and outside the workplace, which can succeed ifthey show that the discussion did not make the workplace hostile forReeves.

Third,the defense of “equal opportunity harasser” can apply if theemployer can prove to the court that the male employees include someissues of male sex in the in their discussions (Weitzman, 2000). Thisis an appropriate defense that the employer can use to show that thediscussion was not discriminative in nature as Reeves claimed.

Thedefense of “no adverse action” can help the employer show thecourt that Reeves did not suffer any tangible employment detriment(such as a threat of termination or demotion) that can be directlyattributed to alleged sexual harassment. Although this defense is notconsidered to be pivotal, it can be used to strengthen othercategories of defense. Alternatively, the employer can prove to thecourt that it applied the necessary measures to prevent furtherharassment soon after being informed and Reeves failed to takeadvantage of the opportunities provided by the employer (Findley,Vardaman &amp He, 2011).

Basisof court ruling

Theappeal court in the case of Reeves versus C.H. Robinson Worldwide,Inc held that sexual discussion or language that is trulyindiscriminate can be used to establish the bases of sexualharassment. In the case of Reeves, much of the language used wasindiscriminate and general in nature, but a substantial portion ofthe discussion or the language was gender specific. This is becausethe discussion included issues of promiscuity and women’s anatomy,which proved that part of the discussions targeted women (Findley,Vardaman &amp He, 2011). Even if the vulgar language did notdirectly target women employees who were present in the office, theemployer could still be held liable since the discussion wasdiscriminative in nature. The court based its ruling on the fact thatthe work environment was no longer gender neutral, since Reeves felthumiliated by the discussion more than her male counterparts. Inaddition, the ruling could be based on the principle of “requisiteintent to discriminate” since the employer was warned about theongoing sexual harassment, but failed to take measures to protectwomen who were targeted by male workers.

Thecase of an independent contractor

Mostof the labor relation laws explain the relationship between anemployer and an employee, but do not protect independent contractors.For example, in the case of Lockard v. Pizza Hut, 1998, it was heldthat the employer could not be liable for any form of discriminationthat was made by an independent contractor (Hoft &amp Thompson,2007). Similarly, an employer may not be held responsible or liablefor a discrimination that was done by an employee of an independentcontractor, unless it has been proven that exerted some requisitecontrol over the contractor in question. This implies that theAnti-Discrimination Law or sexual harassment legislations can onlyapply when the employer has a substantial influence or control overthe independent contractor.


Sexualharassment at the places of work is among the key actionable offensesthat can lead to litigations against the employer. However, employersare held directly liable for any form of sexual harassment when theyare aware of such forms of harassment, but fail to prevent it. Someof the key defenses that the employer can use include the freedom ofspeech at the place of work as stipulated by the First Amendment, thelack of adverse actions related to plaintiff’s allegations, and thelack of adequate proof of the discriminative nature of theallegations.


Findley,H., Vardaman, L. &amp He, P. (2011). A hostile sexual harassment: Alegal update. Journalof Legal Issues and Cases in Business,1, 2-12.

Hoft,J. &amp Thompson, F. (2007). Employer liability for non-employersexual harassment. Journalof the International Academy for Case Studies,13 (6), 88-94.

Weitzman,H. (2000). Employer defense to sexual harassment claims. DukeJournal of Gender Law and Policy,6 (27), 28-59.