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Sexual Harassment - Bill Passed Allowing Damages For Victims Of Sexual Harassment

court president thomas harris

The Senate's confirmation hearings on Clarence Thomas' appointment to the Supreme Court in 1991, during which Anita Hill testified that she had been sexually harassed by Thomas, brought the issue to the forefront once again. With pressure from women's groups, a bill once again went before Congress which would allow for compensatory and punitive damages in cases of sexual harassment. President Bush had vetoed a similar bill in 1990. Partially because of the political heat raised during the Thomas hearings, Congress passed the measure, and President Bush signed the 1991 Civil Rights Act into law. This act provides for damages in cases where sexual harassment is found, although as a compromise measure, limits of $50,000 to $300,000 were set, depending on the number of employees in the company involved.

The November 1993 case of Harris v. Forklift was an important unanimous affirmation by the Supreme Court of its earlier decision of Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson. In Harris, the Court upheld the standard previously applied in Meritor Savings Bank: "To be actionable as `abusive work environment' harassment, conduct need not `seriously affect psychological well being' or lead the plaintiff to `suffer injury.'" In Harris, the Court decided that the woman who complained of numerous sexually based remarks and unwelcome "sexual innuendoes" from the president of the company could indeed seek relief from sexual harassment in spite of the fact that she appeared unharmed psychologically.

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