Does cussing create a "hostile work environment ?


You kiss your mother with that mouth? Evil HR Lady has an entertaining discussion about a nasty e-mail she received from a "cusser" who didn't like the fact that she had expressed opposition to cussing at work. (Not all cussing -- just the "every other word out of your mouth" variety.) Anyway, the e-mail contained -- you guessed it -- cussing just about every other word. To provide the flavor of the e-mail without being too explicit, HR Lady replaced the actual obscenities with "squid lips." The result was funny and made the e-mailer look pretty foolish.

All of which raises the question -- does garden-variety cursing, not directed at an individual, create a hostile work environment? Some of Evil HR Lady's commenters thought so, but I beg to differ.

There are hostile work environments, and then there are "hostile work environments" -- the type that create employer liability for workplace harassment. Excessive cussing can certainly create the first type of hostile environment, in the sense that it can make the workplace unpleasant, hurt morale, and create stress, but it doesn't usually create legal liability for harassment.

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