Legal Case Analysis of Oncale vs. Sundowner Offshore Services, Incorporated Essay

Legal Case Analysis of Oncale vs. Sundowner Offshore Services, Incorporated

Statement of Facts

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            The facts of the case are a simple discrimination case involving a company worker. Petitioner Oncale is an employee of Respondent Sundowner Offshore Services. He was assigned as a roustabout in an oil platform operation under the said company. The workplace is composed of 8 workers and three of them allegedly had committed sexual and verbal abuse against Oncale. Due to several occasions of forcible sexual harassment and humiliation against Oncale by his co-worker, he left the workplace with a pink slip stating disgust and disappointment of what his co-workers committed. He did not report to work from then on. He even receives comments that most of his co-workers wanted to have fun and humiliate him in the workplace. After that, Oncale filed a suit against the company on the grounds that he was discriminated against in his employment because of his sex (“Findlaw: Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services”). However, the district court decided the case against Oncale on the reason that in the case of Garcia v. Elf Atochem North America, male victims of sexual harassment has no cause of action under Title VII for discrimination because of gender (“Findlaw: Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services”). Hence, this appeal was elevated to the Supreme Court.

Legal and Ethical Issues Statement

            The legal issue of the case is that: is it legal for the district court to rely on the case of Garcia v. Elf Atochem North America in its decision that Title VII is not available as a protection against a male victim of a male harasser for sexual harassment? For the ethical issue on this case: is it ethical for the respondent company to allow the three male co-workers of Oncale to sexually and verbally abuse the latter? The answers of these questions boil down to the fact that the company failed to exercise due diligence in training its employees in the field for ethical standards application.

Based on the decision, the Supreme Court is aware that men may also have the tendency to commit sexual harassment against other men. As such, the Highest Court of the land failed to support the district court’s decision that Title VII does not apply to same-sex cases of sexual harassment. In other words, the Supreme Court finds no justification from any rule of law as well as judicial precedents including the case of Garcia v. Elf Atochem North America that Title VII does not apply to male-on-male sexual harassment in the workplace (“Findlaw: Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services”). Therefore, petitioner Oncale has a cause of action in filing a suit against Sundowner Offshore Services Incorporated invoking discrimination due to gender based on the provisions in Title VII. Thus, the case was decided in his favor.

Legally, the case is a perfect example of distinct and peculiar situation wherein Title VII is invoked as a protection against discrimination due to sex. Normally, sexual harassment is committed against women in the whole population, but this case strangely points out male-on-male sexual abuse. Since the law has no respecter of person at all times, Title VII definitely protects male victims of sexual harassment in the workplace as intended by lawmakers. However, ethical matters must be seen in this case as relevant as its legal counterpart. Essentially, cases like this occur because companies fail to execute and enforce ethical standards in the workplace. Thus, the role of the company is not only to strengthen the economic condition of the nation but also to make sure that its workers receive the best working terms and conditions possible.

Applicable Legal Rules

            There is a need to embark upon the most significant applicable legal rules in this peculiar case. As such Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids employment discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,” 42 U. S. C. §2000e-2(a), and its anti-retaliation provision forbids “discrimination against” an employee or job applicant who, inter alia, has “made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in” a Title VII proceeding or investigation, §2000e-3(a) (“Findlaw: Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services”).

Support for Ethical Issues

            There are many reasons to prove why this case can be seen as an example of ethical dilemmas in the workplace. Based on the facts of the case, Petitioner Oncale was not given remedial benefits when he submitted his complaints to the supervisory personnel in the company (“Findlaw: Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services”). There was no action on the part of the administration on the case of Oncale and worst some of his co-workers informed him that they thought he was homosexual (“Findlaw: Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services”).

In this point, we do not recommend the actuations of these employees since their first attention should be on being ethical and professional. The case could not have reached the courts if only the supervisory personnel in the company know how to handle ethical issues as stated. Hence, Oncale was right when he quit working in the company and filed a case against it.

In addition, it was not proper for the district court to just rely on judicial precedents in deciding the case of Oncale. Given the uniqueness of the case, it is intelligent and proper to consult the intention of Congress or the lawmakers who enacted the provisions of Title VII in accordance with the Constitution. If we ever deny the rights accorded in Title VII to cases like this one, we intend to select only those who are most likely happen to be victims of discrimination due to gender, like that of women.

Finally, ethical standards must be taught in the workplace and it is the responsibility of the company to see to it that it was imparted to its workers. Borrowing the influential words of the decision taken at Findlaw (2008) we feel that:

“But statutory prohibitions repeatedly go beyond the most important evil to cover reasonably analogous evils, and it is in due course the provisions of our laws rather than the principal concerns of our legislators by which we are governed”(1).

Oncale may be a male victim, strong as we believe, but he is a victim and the law must protect him. In essence, the rule is enacted to protect all workers in the workplace regardless of sex, race, color and religious affiliation. If we intend to depart in this purpose, we need not hope to have a progressive nation.

References

Findlaw. (2008). Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc.. Retrieved September 19, 2008, from http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=

000&invol=96-568.

 

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