Who was the First Person Fired for Sexual Harassment?

I suppose the case could be made for someone in some royal court getting the ax for looking the wrong way at a princess.

But in the modern epoch, when did companies start firing people for sexual harassment? When did such behavior become actionable, possibly exposing an employer to penalties?

The Wikipedia page on Sexual Harassment lists a few early cases.

Williams v. Saxbe is the first one chronologically listed. That seems to be about a male supervisor firing a female underling for refusing his sexual advances, so pretty textbook sexual harassment employment discrimination.

Looks like Williams (the woman) won damages, but there’s no indication in the court decision that the harasser faced termination for his behavior.

I expect that some people were fired for actions like this prior to modern law terming it “sexual harassment”, but the firing probably went along traditional power lines.

Like, probably no executive was fired for grabbing the secretaries, but I bet some junior somebody-or-other got fired for treating the boss’s daughter in an unladylike fashion.

Agreed, and this probably has happened throughout the past few millennia.

“Burt Saxbe? Tell him he’s fired!”

Right at the very top of the link it says William Saxbe.

Also, lest we malign Saxbe further than necessary, he was the first named defendant, but not the one who harassed Williams.

i think it was Adam…

The accusations were made against a Mr. Harvey Brinson.

More details in this WaPo article. He was not in fact fired (as on 1979):

I would guess however that the first person fired was NOT connected to a high profile lawsuit like the one mentioned above. I imagine they were quietly let go to avoid bad PR (as in the recent Google cases)

Or, in the case of employees of equal ranking (for instance, a group of factory workers), quite possibly the safety of other employees.

Just because sexual harassment wasn’t talked about in, say, the 1930s doesn’t mean everyone thought it was OK.

There’s the documented case from 1636 from the East India Company :

nm, just realized GQ, will comment elsewhere

Saxbe’s middle initial is ‘B’, and the classic I referenced had nothing to do the case. I even put in quotes to help clue everyone in!

…and I was so proud of the reference. <sob>

That’s a big assumption you’re making, thinking that nobody would have been fired before modern times over such an issue. Even if it wasn’t taken as seriously as it is now, it’s not like grabbing a woman in the workplace was considered a perfectly fine thing to do. I don’t have any link, but I read about strikes over this very issue as early as the 19th century. Or about a foreman being fired for harassing factory workers, along with the plant manager for not doing anything about it (both in France, but I’ve no reason to assume it would have been different elsewhere). People in past times had moral principles too, sometimes very rigid, even. Think of a 19th century wealthy man and factory owner, very respectable by the standards of the time. Do you think that he would necessarily take kindly that his underlings would allow themselves to grab respectable women he employs? I grant you that complaining about it might have been risky or pointless in many cases, but assuming that no boss would have faced serious consequences for such behavior before the last 30 years or so is an extraordinary claim and definitely shouldn’t be assumed.

Given the extraordinarily light treatment of harassers and even rapists in the present day, I have no idea how we can be confident that stern treatment of sexual misconduct was anything like the norm in days past. I suggest that the reason we know about men punished for this behavior is because it was so extraordinary, not because women’s rights were so protected.

I note that the country of France, clairobcur’s supposed cradle of equal rights, is happy to celebrate Roman Polanski–a fugitive from justice who pled guilty to raping a minor.

The key difference would be that in the past, it would be just as likely the blame the woman as the man. That would especially true if (as iamthewalrus points out) the power structure was in favour of the man (if the boss’s daughter gets harassed by a peon on the factory floor, then she was the victim, if the boss harassed a secretary, he was the victim being enticed by a loose woman).

Thank you all.

In 1969 we had a male faculty member caught making out with a female student. He was fired on the spot. Quite the scandal. Does that count?

I got it. Sorry it took so long for me to get to this thread. That was worth at least a <snerk>.

I guess that pre-dates my guess, Caligula.

There’s a difference between “not the norm” and “would never happen unless it’s a lowly employee harassing the boss’ daughter”. I find the later statement an extraordinary claim and some people in this thread seem to think that before 1990 or so it was prehistoric times during which everybody thought that grabbing a woman ass was a perfectly normal action and nobody would have ever faced any consequence for doing so. Once again, try to picture in your mind a person deeming itself respectable in 1950,1900,1850 and wonder what this person would have thought of ass-grabbers.

Answering to the query by “I’m sure nothing ever happened to those people in the past” isn’t a factual answer, it’s a guess, and on top of it an unbelievable guess in my opinion.

I’m not sure how a cheap shot at France is supposed to have anything to do with the issue at hand. Maybe you intended to offend me or something? I mentioned France for the obvious reason that being French I tend to read more about France than about, say, Bangladesh, and as result what I read on this topic happened in France and not in Bangladesh.