Case Study of Oncale V. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc.

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Week 1: Case Study of Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc.

The legal case of Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc. is a sex discrimination case under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. “Title VII specifically forbids any employer to … discriminate with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment in any way that would deprive any individual of employment opportunity due to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” (Twomey, 2013, p. 397). In this case, Oncale claimed that he was being discriminated against in his workplace because of his sex. In reading the case online, Oncale was “was forcibly subjected to sex-related, humiliating actions against him … in the presence of the rest of the crew.” He was also physically assaulted in a sexual manner, and threatened with rape. He quit the job and filed suit. The Fifth Circuit Court determined that under Title VII, a male has no cause for harassment by same sex (male) co-workers. On appeal, the Supreme Court concluded that sex discrimination consisting of same-sex sexual harassment is actionable under Title VII. The Court of Appeals reversed the Fifth Circuit Court’s decision on the case and Justice Thomas concurred. (Twomey, 2013, p. 428). Although Title VII doesn’t cover sexual orientation discrimination, it does protect employees from same-sex harassment. The Oncale case became precedent for numerous cases that followed regarding discrimination based on same-sex harassment – especially in cases of sexual orientation, gender stereotyping theory of discrimination, and more recently, to include transsexual discrimination. While some thought same-sex sexual harassment would turn Title VII into a general civility code for the workplace, there is sufficient language regarding the requirements of the statute to prevent that from happening; Title VII applies to situations where workplace behavior is so offensive that it changes the “conditions” of...
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