Q. We have a supervisor who frequently makes "crude" and embarrassing sexual remarks to both men and women in our work group, but no one specifically. We're a pretty "rowdy" group and some of us even respond with approval at times. It can't be sexual harassment if no one person is the "target" of this behavior, right?
A. Wrong. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that harassing, abusive, and crude remarks can constitute sexual harassment, even though a supervisor directed the comments to all employees. The important question to ask in all sexual harassment cases is this: Is the supervisor's conduct sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of employment and create a hostile or abusive working environment. If so, the issue turns to whether the employer, when informed of the abusive behavior, took prompt action to remedy the situation. If supervisors remember this description, much of the gray area of questionable behavior will become clear. Also, even if a supervisor's conduct is equally degrading to both men and women, it does not make the conduct immune from liability for sexual harassment.