According to one survey, 57% of American employees admit to swearing at work. (Count me in the “yes” column.)
Where is the line between swearing as harmless workplace banter and swearing as harmful unlawful harassment? The seminal case is Reeves v. C.H. Robinson Worldwide, which involved the female plaintiff’s offense to the salty language used by male co-workers in nearby cubicles.
[T]he context may illuminate whether the use of an extremely vulgar, gender-neutral term such as “fucking” would contribute to a hostile work environment. “Fucking” can be used as an intensifying adjective before gender-specific epithets such as “bitch.” In that context, “fucking” is used to strengthen the attack on women, and is therefore relevant to the Title VII analysis. However, the obscene word does not itself afford a gender-specific meaning. Thus, when used in context without reference to gender, “fuck” and “fucking” fall more aptly under the rubric of general vulgarity that Title VII does not regulate.…
[W]ords and conduct that are sufficiently gender-specific and either severe or pervasive may state a claim of a hostile work environment, even if the words are not directed specifically at the plaintiff.… It is enough to hear co-workers on a daily basis refer to female colleagues as “bitches,” “whores” and “cunts,” to understand that they view women negatively, and in a humiliating or degrading way. The harasser need not close the circle with reference to the plaintiff specifically: “and you are a ‘bitch,’ too.”
- General vulgarities are not actionable as harassment.
- Severe or pervasive gender-specific words or phrases are actionable as harassment even if the words are not specifically directed at one employee, but merely generally used in the workplace.
- Severe or pervasive conduct targeting a protected group also qualifies as actionable harassment.
What is the word for a string of typographical symbols (such as %@$&*!) used in place of an obscenity, especially in comic strips?
The correct answer: grawlix.
Congrats to Ken Dzierzawiec, the lone person to send me the correct answer. Your prize is my eternal esteem for your wealth of useless, yet fun, knowledge.