The transforming effect of the Supreme Court’s opinion last year in the same-sex harassment case of Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services Inc., 523 U.S. 75, 118 S. Ct. 998 (1998), has made itself clear in several recent decisions from the federal appellate courts. Not surprisingly, Oncale has been applied primarily in opposite-sex cases and has caused the courts to rewrite some of the basic rules of sex harassment litigation.
Plaintiffs may now present their cases to juries even though the on-the-job misconduct allegedly targeted at them included little or no sexual content whatsoever. As a result of Oncale, a far greater number of harassment claims have been made viable. But many employers remain in the dark, still believing that hostile environment sexual harassment must include at least some tawdry conduct of a sexual nature.
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