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Harris Vs Forklift Systems, Inc.

United States Supreme Court

Teresa Harris was a rental manager working with Forklift Systems. She worked in the company for two years, between 1985 and 1987. Charles Hardy was the President of the company at that time, and Teresa sued him. Before Teresa filed a lawsuit against Charles, she allegedly had to suffer two years of mental torture. Charles Hardy was not a chivalrous man, lacked public manners, and allegedly did not conduct himself with propriety. He would be name-calling women, especially Teresa, and creating a difficult environment for a woman to work. Charles Hardy would call Teresa a stupid woman and would pass vulgar and indecent comments on her. Teresa said that Charles was always making sexist comments about her and that he treated women differently than men. Charles was also alleged to be heard saying regarding the salary of Teresa that they both would have to go to a hotel to talk about giving Teresa a raise in salary. Teresa also claimed that Charles would ask the women working in the company to take out a coin from his pockets. He was also charged with improper behavior by dropping certain things on the floor and then asking them to collect those things from the floor in front of him (Schultz, 717).

The question or the issue was whether the behavior of Charles Hardy affected Teresa psychologically by creating hostile surroundings. The well-being of Teresa psychologically was concerned. The court had to make a decision on whether the environment that Charles created was so deplorable that it affected Teresa psychologically. But more importantly, the main question was whether Charles sexually harassed Teresa or not. It was a sexual harassment case.

The court recognized that Charles’s behavior was below standards and, through his comments, might have created a difficult working atmosphere for the women but did not find concrete evidence to indict him with the charge of sexually harassing Teresa. The court dismissed the sexual claims made by Teresa Harris.

The United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announced the ruling of the court. According to the court, there was a lack of character exhibited by the president of Forklift Systems, and he might be responsible for making a very uncomfortable place for women to work, but the court did not find any concrete proof that would compel the court to take a stance that Charles Hardy had sexually harassed Teresa Harris. The court did not ask or demand Teresa to show any injury that might have happened during a constant harassment period. There were two extreme sides to go to: the first one was that Charles Hardy did sexually harass her employee, and the second was that the claims of Teresa have no strong grounds to make a case for her. However, the court tried not to go to extreme measures and decided that due to the paucity of accurate tests that would determine if the office atmosphere was intimidating and unfriendly to the point that an employee of the company would feel threatened. The court decided not to go to the extreme and took a middle stance. The judge said that in order to give a ruling on creating an offensive environment, it has to be subjectively and objectively taken into consideration (Leskinen, Veronica & Lilia, 192). The subjective part deals with Teresa, who did feel that the environment Charles was creating was offensive, but it should be looked at objectively: whether other people in the company feel the same way as Teresa or not. The case was ultimately remanded, and the court reversed the decisions made by the Sixth Circuit on the grounds that the decision was based on the standards that were specious and flawed. The case between Teresa and Charles was ultimately settled outside the court, and the terms and conditions were not made public.

Works Cited

Leskinen, Emily A., Verónica Caridad Rabelo, and Lilia M. Cortina. “Gender stereotyping and harassment: A “catch-22” for women in the workplace.” Psychology, Public Policy, and Law 21.2 (2015): 192.

Schultz, David. “From Reasonable Man to Unreasonable Victim: Assessing Harris v. Forklift Systems and Shifting Standards of Proof and Perspective in Title VII Sexual Harassment Law.” Suffolk UL Rev. 27 (1993): 717.



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