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Harris v. Forklift Sys.

Supreme Court of the United States

October 13, 1993, Argued ; November 9, 1993, Decided

No. 92-1168

Opinion

 [*18]  [***300]  [**369]    JUSTICE O'CONNOR delivered the opinion of the Court.

 In this case we consider the definition of a discriminatorily "abusive work environment" (also known as a "hostile work  [*19]  environment") under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 253, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (1988 ed., Supp. III).

Teresa Harris  [****4]  worked as a manager at Forklift Systems, Inc., an equipment rental company, from April 1985 until October 1987. Charles Hardy was Forklift's president.

The Magistrate found that, throughout Harris' time at Forklift, Hardy often insulted her because of her gender and often made her the target of unwanted sexual innuendos. Hardy told Harris on several occasions, in the presence of other employees, "You're a woman, what do you know" and "We need a man as the rental manager"; at least once, he told her she was "a dumb ass woman." App. to Pet. for Cert. A-13. Again in front of others, he suggested that the two of them "go to the Holiday Inn to negotiate [Harris'] raise." Id., at A-14. Hardy occasionally asked Harris and other female employees to get coins from his front pants pocket. Ibid. He threw objects on the ground in front of Harris and other women, and asked them to pick the objects up. Id., at A-14 to A-15. He made sexual innuendos about Harris' and other women's clothing. Id., at A-15.

In mid-August 1987, Harris complained to Hardy about his conduct. Hardy said he was surprised that Harris was offended, claimed he was only joking, and apologized. Id., at A-16.  [****5]  He also promised he would stop, and based on this assurance Harris stayed on the job. Ibid. But in early September, Hardy began anew: While Harris was arranging a deal with one of Forklift's customers, he asked her, again in front of other employees, "What did you do, promise the guy . . . some [sex] Saturday night?" Id., at A-17. On October 1, Harris collected her paycheck and quit.

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510 U.S. 17 *; 114 S. Ct. 367 **; 126 L. Ed. 2d 295 ***; 1993 U.S. LEXIS 7155 ****; 62 U.S.L.W. 4004; 63 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 225; 62 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P42,623; 93 Cal. Daily Op. Service 8330; 93 Daily Journal DAR 14212; 7 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 655

TERESA HARRIS, PETITIONER v. FORKLIFT SYSTEMS, INC.

Prior History:  [****1]  ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT.

Disposition: 976 F.2d 733, reversed and remanded.

CORE TERMS

psychological, work environment, hostile, well-being, conditions, harassment, offended, severe, discriminatory, employees, pervasive, gender, sex

Labor & Employment Law, Discrimination, Actionable Discrimination, Business & Corporate Compliance, Protection of Rights, Federally Assisted Programs, Civil Rights Act of 1964, Disparate Treatment, Employment Practices, General Overview, Harassment, Sexual Harassment, Hostile Work Environment, Title VII Discrimination