EEOC Finds Library Policy of Unrestricted Internet Access Creates Sexually Hostile Work Environment for Librarians

(May 23, 2001) The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Minneapolis Area Office, issued a Determination that the Minneapolis Public Library subjected librarians employed by the library to a "sexually hostile work environment" in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for maintaining a policy of unrestricted Internet access.

The librarians filed complaints with the EEOC that stated that the library's policy of unrestricted Internet access, which allowed patrons to view and print out any obscene content, combined with the library's policy that librarians enforce a 30 minute time limit on Internet use, forced librarians to observe obscene content, subjected librarians to abuse by patrons accessing obscenity, and exposed librarians to masturbatory scholars.

One of the librarians employed by Library wrote in her complaint that her employer, the Library, "has adopted an Internet access policy which allows for unrestricted access to sexually explicit Internet sites. My employer further allows patrons of the Library to print out on Library printers sexually explicit and obscene picture and materials from the Internet. As a result of this policy I have been forced to view computer screens filled with images depicting explicit sexual activity including bestiality, child pornography, oral, anal and vaginal sexual acts, homosexuality, and explicit photos of male and female genitalia and sexual poses."

The EEOC ruled for the librarians. It wrote: "Based on the Commission' investigation, the Commission is able to conclude that the information obtained established violations of the statutes with regards to the allegations set forth in the charge, that the Respondent did subject the Charging Party to sexually hostile work environment. This is in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended." The EEOC added that "it shall endeavor to eliminate the alleged unlawful employment practices by informal methods of conference, conciliation, and persuasion."

Pro filtering groups, including the Family Research Council and the American Family Association, praised the EEOC's determination. See, FRC release.