OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE IN THE WORKPLACE

The “cussing” problem in the workplace has gotten so bad that a seminar is now offered to help people control their tongues. One Texas company decided to create a code of language ethics when their women employees complained about the amount of vulgar and crude language that was used at work, even though the remarks were not directed at them. The use of foul language is more common in high stress jobs, with women suffering the consequences more directly then men. One woman commentedthat when obscene language is used in her presence she sees it as a  desecration of her beliefs and she finds it so very upsetting that it’s difficult to work in that kind of atmosphere. If this is happening at your office, a harassment lawyer in New York City can help.

What sort of language is unlawful?

Crude, sexually explicit, lewd and suggestive language describing private parts of the anatomy  fall within the range of inappropriate and offensive language in the workplace, and may be considered unlawful, depending upon the circumstances in which the language is used. Federal, state and city laws prohibit workplace discrimination based on sex, membership in a religious group, race or national origin. When the discrimination is based on sex, it is only actionable if it involves conduct that treats one gender differently than the other. Even though men and women are exposed to the same discussions in the workplace, many conversations are considered to be more degrading and humiliating to women than to men and can give rise to a claim of unlawful workplace sexual harassment.

How much offensive language is too much?

Under federal and state law, the offensive conduct must be severe and pervasive, which means that insults, ridicule and intimidation  are so common in the workplace that current work conditions are very different from those you anticipated before you took the job. On the other hand, a claim can be based on even one incident of harassment, if it is sufficiently severe. There are four factors identified by the United States Supreme Court that determine whether the conduct is unlawful:

  • The frequency of the conduct
  • The severity of the conduct
  • Whether the conduct involves humiliation or threats
  • Whether work performance is disturbed by the conduct

An employee claiming discrimination under the New York City Human Rights Law does not have to show that the offensive conduct was severe and pervasive, as those factors are considered only in regard to damages, but only that they were not treated as well as other employees because of their gender or other relevant characteristics under the law. The experienced, knowledgeable attorneys at the Akin Law Group can help you protect your rights as an employee.