Sandra Bundy may have guessed that her new job with the District of Columbia Department of Corrections would be a challenge. What she may not have expected was that she would have to meet the challenge under very different conditions than those faced by her male coworkers. Ms. Bundy's work was continually interrupted by one of her supervisors, who kept calling her into his office and forcing her to listen to his theories about how women ride horses to obtain sexual gratification. He repeatedly asked Ms. Bundy to come home with him in order to view his collection of pictures and books on this topic. Another supervisor repeatedly propositioned her, asking her to come with him to a motel or on a trip to the Bahamas.
None of Ms. Bundy's male counterparts, in contrast, had to listen to their boss's sexual fantasies and proposals. When Ms. Bundy tried to remove this gender-based obstacle to her job performance by reporting it to a third supervisor and pleading for help, he only exacerbated the problem, telling her that "any man in his right mind would want to rape you," and asking her to have sex with him.
Ms. Bundy successfully sued the Department of Corrections for sexual harassment in violation of Title VII, the federal statute outlawing workplace discrimination.
The implicit holding of the Bundy case-that speech alone can create a discriminatory hostile work environment-went unquestioned for many years. Recently, however, defense attorneys have challenged the constitutionality of this principle, arguing that a prohibition on discriminatory workplace expression violates harassers' First Amendment rights.
84 Geo. L.J. 399
Scholarly Commons Citation
Epstein, Deborah, "Can a 'Dumb Ass Woman' Achieve Equality in the Workplace? Running the Gauntlet of Hostile Environment Harassing Speech" (1996). Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. Paper 1712.