Vulgar banter, homophobic epithets and lewd gestures apparently don’t rise to the level of unlawful harassment and discrimination under Title VII, especially if you are not homosexual or noticeably effeminate. So says the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in its decision handed down last week.
Whether it’s an employee complaining of a hostile work environment, unwanted sexual advances by a co-worker, bullying in the workplace, or any other type of harassing behavior, ignoring such employee claims can be costly for employers. Harassment complaints that are not investigated, documented or handled correctly can lead to on-the-job performance issues or — even worse — lawsuits.
Want some free anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training? Well, have I got a deal for you! Mystery Diners is a reality show on the Food Network. The show’s concept involves a father-daughter team who pretend to be employees and/or customers at a target restaurant in order to help the owner uncover the “leaks in the dam” so to speak.
All too often — and it seems to be increasing — I am asked to defend employers against charges or lawsuits alleging “hostile work environment.” Nothing more. Something is missing from these claims — the allegation that the hostility was caused by the plaintiff’s legally protected trait or activity.