profanity in the office

Even though, in our employee handbook, we prohibit the use of profane language, we are finding we must address this issue lately. We have recently experienced a major turnover of staff in our sales dept. I guess the use of this language isn't new, but the new people object to hearing certain words. We are addressing the matter by counseling and allowing the opportunity to repair the working atmosphere. One of the newcomers, however, insists that use of the "f-word", (such as, where is that"X*#&ing" file?)is actionable, as in bring litigation against the company for allowing it to happen. Is this true & if so, under what protection. How about if the same word was used to reference an individual, (such as, get out of my face, you "X*#&ing [female dog]"!) Is this actionable & again, if yes, how?


  • 4 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • If you do not promptly put a stop to the profanity, you are asking for a
    sexual harassment lawsuit under federal and state law.

    John Vering

  • I suggest the profanity stops immediately or prepare for trouble in my opinion. 1.Sexual Harassment 2.Workplace Defamation claims - Remember Title VII protects employees against defamation which may appear too be motivated by discrimination.

  • You have pretty good instincts. While the use of profanity in the workplace
    may not create the most productive and wholesome work atmosphere, it is not
    per se actionable. The courts have routinely cautioned that the prohibition
    on sexual harassment is not intended to create a federal civility code, and
    that Title VII is not the "Clean Language Act." The test is not whether
    someone is offended, but rather whether people of one protected class (in
    the case of sexual harassment, it is male v. female) are being treated
    differently. The use of the "f word" is not actionable unless it is
    routinely being used with, for example, women. Even then its use would have
    to be "severe and pervasive," which requires more than occasional use. The
    use of profanity describing a female dog was recently the topic of a federal
    appeals court decision. Believe it or not, whether it is a problem will in
    part depend on whether it is used as a verb ("Quit your b------g") or a noun
    ("You are a f---g b-----.) What a world! Bob

  • Actionable or not, it clearly is unprofessionable behavior and should be dealt with as a discipline problem as soon as possible. Assuming it is actionable, you will be able to demonstrate that you dealt with it.

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