Sticks and stones can break my bones-you know the rest of that rhyme. But as many a child can tell you, it's not true. Words can hurt-especially if they are part of a hostile work environment claim.
Most managers don't consider it a part of their responsibility to monitor foul language in the workplace. Depending on the type of workplace it is, casual swearing may be fairly common. However, if an employee is made to feel uncomfortable or the language is directed at a protected class such as race, religion, sex, age, or another protected class, the swear jar can fill up fast.
Take a recent case in Oregon, where a City of Portland employee felt harassed by her coworker's use of religious profanity and filed a complaint after asking her employees to stop using profanity-in this case, taking the Lord's name in vain-several times. The court divided use of profanity in the workplace into two categories-religious profanity and simple expletives-concluding that the plaintiff may be able to show that much of the religious profanity occurred because of her religion, constituting workplace harassment.
If profanity is occurring because of your status as a protected class, it's illegal. If you have been the target of workplace harassment, discrimination or unfair termination, Bouchillon, Crossan & Colburn, L.C. represents clients in federal court and before the EEOC, MSPB and in state and union grievance hearings. Call Bouchillon, Crossan & Colburn, L.C. at 304.523.8451 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.