The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco recently opined that sexually derogatory music can “foster a hostile work environment that constitutes sex discrimination,” vacating a prior decision on the subject. Ultimately, the court determined that music with sexist epithets “can offend and may transform a workplace into a hostile work environment,” regardless of whether it is targeted (think back to the infamous Seinfeld case here in Wisconsin).
Business Takeaway: While the 9th Circuit is not binding in Wisconsin, this court decision still merits a closer look. Many businesses already ban employees from listening to audio that is perceptible to others (i.e., without headphones), and more may do so now, simply to avoid the pitfalls of potentially fostering a hostile work environment. On the other hand, employees using headphones may interfere with or preclude camaraderie and, in other circumstances, be unsafe. How have you handled workplace conflicts regarding divisive radio shows, controversial music, or similar situations? And, just for fun, how do the lyrics you know from years back (but perhaps never gave much thought to) compare to those at issue in this case?