Unfiltered Internet Access=Sexual Harassment

UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh has an interesting look at the next big thing in web filtering — if you don’t filter access, you or your company may be subject to sexual harassment lawsuits.

Writing for Reason Volokh details a case involving a Minnesota library that offered unfiltered access to the Internet. Of course inevitably some patrons browsed sexually explicit materials on the web terminals and printed out those materials on printers supplied by the library, which apparently offended several of the librarians. They filed sexual harassment complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

And the Commission agreed with their claim. According to Volokh, “In late May, the EEOC agreed, concluding that the library’s toleration of unfiltered access created a ‘sexually hostile work environment.’ … According to press accounts, the EEOC is encouraging the library to settle the case by paying the librarians a total of $900,000.”

As Volokh puts it, “When the federal government insists that even libraries must become offense-free zones — on pain of massive liability if the libraries should choose a more liberal approach — our First Amendment rights are in serious jeopardy.”


Squeamish librarians. Eugene Volokh, Reason, June 4, 2001.

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