Copyright (c) 1992 Regents of the University of California
UCLA Women's Law Journal
RECENT DEVELOPMENT: ELLISON v. BRADY: FINALLY, A WOMAN'S PERSPECTIVE
2 UCLA Women's L.J. 249
Debra A. Profio *
In January, 1991, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a groundbreaking decision in the area of sexual harassment law. 1 In Ellison v. Brady, 2 the court determined that in Title VII 3 sexual harassment cases the facts must be judged from the perspective of a "reasonable woman." Ellison marked a change from such cases as Rabidue v. Osceola Refinging Co. 4 which utilized a "reasonable person" standard in adjudicating the plaintiff's sexual harassment claim. In making its decision, the Ellison court stated that by requiring the use of the reasonable woman standard in sexual harassment cases, the court was attempting to bridge the gap between male and female perceptions of what conduct constitutes workplace sexual harassment. 5 This Note reviews and evaluates this Ninth Circuit decision and poses some questions about whether the reasonable woman standard will accomplish the Ellison court's stated goal.
I. The Reasonable Woman Standard
Kerry Ellison, the plaintiff in Ellison, 6 brought a Title VII sexual harassment claim against her employer, the Internal Revenue Service. The action stemmed from obsessive behavior by a co-worker, including a string of love letters, telephone messages, and other inappropriate conduct which frightened Ellison and made her working environment intolerable. 7
Ellison's co-worker, Sterling Gray, first invited her to lunch and she accepted, as it was standard practice for revenue agents to eat lunch together. 8 Gray apparently viewed this luncheon differently than Ellison did and thereafter "started pestering Ellison ...
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