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The Use of Reasonable Victim Standard in Employment Law

Courts’ use of reasonable victim standard

The reasonable victim standard is a legal principle used in court to decide cases of workplace harassment to determine whether the work environment was hostile or offensive. The reasonable victim standard assesses whether the alleged harassment was severe enough to create an abusive or offensive work environment. Reasonable victim standard is therefore helpful in determining whether the claim the victim presents is valid and could be viewed as profane or abusive by a reasonable person.

I agree with the court’s use of the reasonable victim standard. It enables fairness and justice in judgment by ensuring that legal conclusions are based on objective criteria, not personal biases or opinions. The standard takes into consideration several factors that are involved in the case. The factors include the frequency and severity of the conduct, the context in which the harassment occurred, the nature of harassment, the position of power of the abuser, and the interference with work performance.

I support the reasonable victim standard because the diligent inquiry into the factors that influence the reasonable victim standard makes the principle effective in determining whether harassment happened, hence ruling out subjective judgments and biases.

According to the case of Ellison v Bradley in question, the issue of sexual harassment at work is explored. The court utilized the reasonable victim standard and established that a reasonable woman would consider the behavior of a fellow employee offensive and severe enough to make the working environment hostile. Therefore, judges should use the reasonable victim standard in court rulings (Ellison v. Brady | Case Brief for Law School | LexisNexis, n.d.)

The reasonable victim standard creates problems for the management

In my opinion, the reasonable victim standard creates problems for management. The standard can be subjective and inconsistent. The principle considers the perspective of the hypothetical person, that is, the reasonable person. The viewpoints and personal biases of the reasonable person may influence judgment. The standard is, therefore, prone to the stereotyped notions of acceptable behavior. Thus, the stereotypes can be a problem for the management to identify behaviors as sexually abusive or not (Reasonable Person Standard: Legal Definition & Examples – Forbes Advisor, n.d.)

Additionally, it may contain limited principles and guidelines, making it difficult for employers to express the cases of sexual harassment as they occur due to the fear that they may not meet the stipulated standard. Thus, sexual harassment cases may be underreported and not adequately addressed. A reasonable person may assume that everybody would react similarly in specific situations.

The reasonable victim standard may be subjective to some extent since there are no clear standards and guidelines. Thus it may be challenging to determine how a reasonable person would respond to a situation. In some cases, the perpetrator may use the reasonable victim standard to justify their misconduct in the workplace since it lacks clear guidelines (Sexual Harassment in the Workplace – the Legal Definition of Sexual Harassment | Australian Human Rights Commission, n.d.)

The reasonable victim standard can also pose problems to the management due to the difficulty in determining what makes a hostile work environment, for instance where the behavior is indirect. It is challenging for the managers, therefore, to be able to prevent and manage behaviors that cause a hostile working environment, balance competing interests of workers, and avoid legal proceedings by employers.

Do you think Ellison was being too sensitive? What would you have done if you had been the supervisor to whom she reported the incidences?

No, I do not think Ellison was being too sensitive. Sexual harassment is a severe case that can cause a hostile and unconducive working environment. Ellison made a very bold step to report the matter to protect herself from the dangerous effects of sexual harassment in the workplace. The behavior was unwanted and abusive and threatened her safety in the workplace. All victims of sexual abuse at workplaces should report such cases to appropriate sources of help to protect themselves.

If I had been the supervisor to whom Ellison reported the incidences, I would take the appropriate steps to ensure that she felt safe and respected. One, I would pay attention to the claims and document them correctly. Additionally, I would take specific investigative measures, like assigning another employee the responsibility to investigate the allegations and present evidence to me. If I find the claims valid, I would talk with the abuser and find out why he behaves in such a manner. I would then warn him and closely examine if he demonstrates change. Furthermore, I would ensure that Ellison or any other victims are protected from harm by Brady. Moreover, I would address sexual harassment at work and inform the employees that they are free to report the cases as soon as they occur.


In conclusion, the reasonable victim standard is a framework for determining whether a behavior creates a hostile working environment. However, it can create challenges for management in the workplace due to the subjective aspect of the principle. It is, therefore, essential to address the discrimination and harassment cases arising in the workplace carefully as a manager.


Ellison v. Brady | Case Brief for Law School | LexisNexis. (n.d.). Community.

Reasonable Person Standard: Legal Definition & Examples – Forbes Advisor. (n.d.).

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace – The Legal Definition of Sexual Harassment | Australian Human Rights Commission. (n.d.).


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