Sunday, 21 July

Playing explicit music in the workplace can be treated as discrimination: US court

Odd News
Someone at work

Vulgar music played in a workplace may be a form of sexual discrimination, a US federal appeals court has ruled.

Former employees from S&S Activewear in Reno, Nevada, had said in a lawsuit that the company allowed its managers and other employees to play music featuring "sexually graphic" and "violently misogynistic" lyrics.

The lawsuit claimed that it, therefore, fostered a hostile and abusive work environment at the company's facility.

The people who took offence to the music were eight claimants - seven women and one man.

They claimed the music allegedly "denigrated women" and graphically detailed extreme violence against them.

According to the lawsuit, one of the songs in question included an Eminem single about a pregnant woman being put into a car trunk and "driven into water to be drowned".

The lawsuit also said the music incited abusive behaviour by male employees.

The male colleagues have been accused of openly sharing pornographic videos and yelling obscenities.

Despite employees raising their concerns, management from S&S defended the music, describing it as motivational.

The claimants found it difficult to avoid the music, as it was blasted from commercial speakers to cover the 700,000-square-foot warehouse.

In the lawsuit, the employees alleged the music and related conduct were sexual harassment and in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, this "prohibits employment discrimination based on race, colour, religion, sex and national origin."

At first, a lower court dismissed the claim and agreed with the defendants that as both men and women were subject to the songs, the conduct did not constitute sex discrimination.

The court held that there was no allegation "that any employee or group of employees were targeted, or that one individual or group was subjected to treatment that another group was not".

The claimants appealed, and last week, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the dismissal and remanded the case.

This then allowed the lawsuit against S&S to move forward.

Judge Mary Margaret McKeown wrote in a court opinion: "Harassment, whether aural or visual, need not be directly targeted at a particular plaintiff in order to pollute a workplace and give rise to a Title VII claim.

"The challenged conduct's offensiveness to multiple genders is not a certain bar to stating a Title VII claim."

Mark Mausert, an attorney representing the employees, told NBC News: "The offence taken by a man doesn't magically cancel out the offence taken by women.

"The [lower] court used this semantical misinterpretation to arrive at a result that's not consistent with the purpose of the statute."

Mr Mausert said music with such sexually graphic lyrics and gender pejoratives could re-traumatise survivors of sexual abuse - particularly women.

"Nobody thinks about how it affects the people who don't want to listen to that music," he added.

"You want to have a healthy, interdependent work environment where people take care of each other and respect each other."

Sky News has contacted S&S Activewear for a comment.