Answered By: Linda Kern Last Updated: Dec 12, 2016 Views: 45
Legal research is always difficult for those of us who are not lawyers, but I believe I have a starting point for you. In the course of my research I began with the Business LibGuide at http://libguides.brenau.edu/business . The books tab or the articles tab is often a good place to start. In the course of the research I searched our library catalog (books tab), ABI Inform Complete, Business Source Complete, and LexisNexis (articles tab) and the open web. I began with the search term "harassing letters" based on your question. The research led to the appropriate legal framework, the concept of employer liability for third party harassment of its employees. I crafted this search string to query the resources: "employer liability" AND "third party" AND (harass OR harassment) . The results were fairly thin, however I found a few good resources to jump-start your research.
In the Library Catalog (click the Books tab in the Business LibGuide, scroll to the middle of the page and paste in the search string above) I found this relevant article (Yes! The catalog now searches some of our journal articles as well as books!): Hoft, J., & Thomson, N. F. (November 01, 2007). Employer liability for non-employee sexual harassment. Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies, 13, 6, 87-94.I linked to the full text in Business Source Complete.
You did not specify sexual harassment, but the research indicates that harassment of various kinds falls under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In LexisNexis (click the Articles tab to link to this database) I clicked on the Advanced Search, pasted in the same search string, Specified a Date of the previous 5 years, and selected Source: By Type: U.S. Law Reviews. Once I had results, I changed the sort from Most Recent Date to Relevance. This lead to (among others) an interesting article in the Columbia Law Review: Zatz, N. D. (2009). Managing the macaw: Third-party harassers,
accommodation, and the disaggregation of discriminatory intent. Columbia Law Review, 109(1357).
I also searched the open web for law reviews using this search: "employer liability" AND "third party" AND (harass OR harassment) site:.edu . The site:.edu limits the results to educational institutions. Here I found Chanin, J. C. (2006). What is it good for? Absolutely nothing: Eliminating disparate treatment of third party sexual harassment and all
other forms of third party harassment. Pepperdine Law Review, 33(2). The article includes a history, case law, and landmark cases. The search also yielded other relevant articles.
Searching the open web with "employer liability" AND "third party" AND (harass OR harassment) yielded an article from the GP/Solo section of the ABA publication Law Trends & News: Litigation entitled How to avoid liability under federal civil rights laws for third-party harassment. It is written by Allison Fetter-Harrott and contains an overview and case law.
Although I didn't see anything specifically about harassing letters, the definitions of the types of discrimination listed in Title VII and the case law can certainly be used to build a case against harassment via letters. The difficulty may lie in the anonymity, and the extent of the employer's duty to stop third-party harassment. This should also be addressed in the articles available using these searching techniques.
Good luck writing on this most interesting topic!