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University of Pittsburgh Law Review

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In June, 1998, the Supreme Court issued two decisions, Burlington Industries, Inc. v. Ellerth and Faragher v. City of Boca Raton that established new standards for employer liability for sexual harassment. Although the two cases presented different questions and factual predicates, the Court adopted a unified holding with respect to employer liability for supervisor harassment. Many commentators interpreted the new standards as a blow to employers based on the perception that employers would now be held accountable for workplace harassment without regard to their culpability.

The thesis of this article is that the conventional wisdom with respect to Faragher and Ellerth is dead wrong. Those decisions, far from imposing additional liability on innocent employers, have instead created a virtual safe harbor that protects employers from liability unless their own conduct is found wanting. This protection for employers comes at a high price, depriving some victims of actionable sexual harassment of legal redress.



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