Publication Title

Michigan Journal of Gender and the Law


third party sexual harassment

Document Type



This article will ask a series of questions. What is third party sexual harassment? Under what conditions does it occur? Does it differ in any significant respects from traditional notions of sexual harassment? Should those differences, if any, make a difference in the way that the legal system addresses third party harassment? And indeed, should the problem be addressed solely through the legal system? What might an employer do to alleviate sexual harassment of this type?

The thesis of this article is that third party sexual harassment is a prevalent form of harassment that the legal system does not currently nor energetically pursue. At a time of breathtaking workplace change, it is just one more destabilizing, and sometimes traumatizing, obstacle for women and their advancement in the workplace. Exposing third party sexual harassment for what it is will act as a catalyst for more vigorous action, both of a legal and non-legal nature, to eradicate it from the workplace. To that end, the conclusion of this Article will pose some suggestions about remedies that affected victims could pursue.

Part I of this article will explore the prevalence of third party harassment, drawing on evidence from a number of different types of workplaces. The purpose of this section is to establish the reality and consequences of third party sexual harassment." In Part II, the response of the legal system to third party sexual harassment will be detailed, beginning with a brief overview of basic sexual harassment doctrine. Part III, on the other hand, will look at the assessment of third party harassment from the point of view of business, and the literature on the role of sexuality in the workplace which forms the basis of an interdisciplinary account of sexual harassment. Suggested directions for the legal doctrine in this area and options for eliminating this form of behavior in the workplace will be suggested. Last, this article will suggest that harassment in any form will not abate until a comprehensive approach to employee dignity is adopted, in which any form of harassment on any basis is deemed inappropriate and illegal.



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