Friday, April 22, 2011

Hey, what a great group of cool people we have in our office

Okay so you have nice informal work environment, no ties, everybody "high-fiving", no problems--even a softball team! So you make frequent "crude" and embarrassing sexual remarks to both men and women in your work group. Not one has ever complained, plus you're not talking and much less not targeting anyone. Hey, it like TV! You know, "that's what she said". You're 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.

See the special educational products at

That would be great, and just like TV, but unfortunately, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (one that many don't particularly enjoy hearing from) 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.