Offensive Language

News & Analysis as of

Are Things Getting Nutty at the USPTO?

As we enter the Thanksgiving and holiday season this year, it is particularly apropos to ponder the following question: Is the TTAB going nuts? Congress tells us that the PTO cannot register trademarks that are scandalous...more

Student-Athletes Strike Back: Will the University of Missouri’s Football Team Strike Reinvigorate the Labor Movement in College...

On Saturday, November 7, 2015, several African American members of The University of Missouri’s varsity football team announced their intention to go on strike—refusing to attend practices, play in scheduled games or...more

TTAB Makes Double Brown Ale Open to Nut Sack Mark

In a ruling bound to please 15 year-old boys everywhere, the USPTO Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”) reversed the Examining Attorney’s refusal to register the trademark NUT SACK DOUBLE BROWN ALE (in standard character...more

Second Circuit Affirms NLRB View That Facebook "Likes" Are Protected Concerted Activity

Last week, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals backed the National Labor Relations Board’s position that employee social media postings are protected concerted activity under federal law, even if they use obscenities that...more

Sexist Comments in Blog Post by Union President not Discrimination “With Respect to Employment”

In Taylor-Baptiste v. Ontario Public Service Employees Union, the Ontario Court of Appeal was faced with the question of whether sexist and offensive posts on a blog created by a union member to discuss workplace issues...more

Top 10 Workplace Investigation Mistakes: Part I

Resolving conflict in the workplace is a key issue for employers. Legal requirements have continued to expand in terms of what courts expect employers to do in order to prevent and correct wrongful behavior. In response,...more

NLRB Judge Orders Reinstatement Of Employee Who Made Racist Taunts Toward African-Americans

The National Labor Relations Board promotes itself as a government agency that “safeguards employees’ rights,” but you would not know it from a recent ruling upholding racist statements made by union supporters on a picket...more

Party Time: Mixing Drinks at the Company Picnic

It’s summer, and time for company softball tournaments, picnics, and outdoor happy hours. These are functions at which employees get a chance to relax with each other, meet each other’s families, and bond over outdoor games...more

Teacher Fired Over Racist Facebook Post

In the age of social media, many people post their opinions on sites, such as Facebook, without carefully considering the possible consequences and resulting backlash. For example, Karen Fitzgibbons, a teacher at the Frenship...more

In Fresenius, the NLRB Admits It Was Wrong . . . Sort Of!

On June 24, 2015, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a new decision involving allegations that an employer had unlawfully discharged an employee who had scrawled sexually-oriented obscenities and threatening...more

Thanks a LOT, Mr. President!

As you know, I strongly disapprove of use of the “N” word in the workplace. I don’t think African-Americans should say it, and I really, really don’t think people who aren’t African-American should use it....more

Labor & Employment E-Note - June 2015

In This Issue: - Debruge and Childs Alabama Law Survey on Employee Privacy Laws Published to Practical Law - "WTF", Under the NLRB, Employers Should "Cut the Crap?" - Tom Brady, Deflategate, and Florida...more

When Bad Things Happen to Good People...On the Internet

The internet has generated countless new ways to communicate and share thinking. Some posted information is negative, which can still be useful when messages are truthful, in good taste, and constructive. But some negative...more

NLRB Rules 'Vulgar' Union Buttons Allowed

In our prior alerts, we notified you of the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) recent decisions clarifying when, in the current board's estimation, an employer violates Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act...more

In re Tam – Federal Circuit Orders En Banc Review of Trademark Act’s Ban Against Registration of Disparaging Marks

The Slants is a Portland-based band composed of musicians of Asian-American descent who characterize their genre as “Chinatown Dance Rock.” The band’s bassist, Simon Tam, filed a trademark application for THE SLANTS for...more


WTF already?! As in, “where’s the fairness?” Time for an acronym update from our favorite government acronym, the NLRB. You will certainly remember that we have recommended asking yourself three questions before determining...more

Fourth Circuit Lowers Bar for Employees in Title VII Retaliation Claims

The case involved an African American cocktail waitress who claimed she was called a “porch monkey” by another employee twice within a 24 hour period. Shortly after reporting the incidents, her employment was terminated. She...more

Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Holds Hostile Work Environment Can Be Created With A Single Racial Epithet

Despite consistent direction from the United States Supreme Court that courts should look at "all the circumstances" in determining whether a workplace environment is sufficiently hostile or abusive to give rise to an...more

Trademarks Can Be a Bitch

And I mean that literally. We’ve laid down a lot of digital ink in the past about pejorative marks – lately in reference to the Redskins and The Slants, both of which have been deemed disparaging enough to deny them a...more

Is Posting Obscenities Aimed At Supervisor On Facebook A Terminable Offense?

Maybe not, according to a recently published NLRB decision. In Pier Sixty LLC, a majority of a three-member NLRB panel affirmed an ALJ’s decision that the employer violated Section 8(a)(1) and (3) of the National Labor...more

To Fire or Not to Fire for Employee’s Social Media Posts

After watching the firing of the digital communications manager for the Houston Rockets during their run through the playoffs (read the story here in the Houston Chronicle).  I figured it would be a good time to revisit the...more

Fenwick Employment Brief - April 2015

Ninth Circuit Reviews Enforceability of Waiver of Right to Reemployment - Does California Business and Professions Code § 16600 prohibit employees from waiving their right to reemployment with prior employers? The...more

NLRB determines vulgar Facebook posts protected concerted activity

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) determined that Pier Sixty LLC, a New York catering service, violated federal labor law by firing an employee server after he posted a Facebook message protesting supervisory abuse...more

Illinois Court Finds Teaching the “N” Word is Not Protected by the First Amendment

Recently, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois addressed whether a teacher could be disciplined for using the word “n*gger” in a sixth grade classroom. In Brown v. Board of Education of the...more

NLRB Holds Employee’s Obscene Facebook Post Criticizing Supervisor is Protected

We have written previously about the expanding scope of social media activities that the National Labor Relations Act protects and the tight limits the NLRB places on an employer’s ability to discipline employees for...more

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