Hostile work environment

I'm in favor of laws that punish employers who harass employees. Harassment is wrong regardless of the nature of the harassment (i.e., it doesn't have to be sexual in nature to be harassment). But I have long been a critic of the so-called hostile work environment clause of the sexual harassment statute because it does not explicitly require a quid pro quo (i.e., a demand for sexual favors in return for favorable treatment) for an action to be considered harassment. This vaguely worded clause encourages frivolous lawsuits by people who are merely uncomfortable or insecure with adult topics of conversation, and not actually targets of harassment.

So I was pleased to read yesterday that the lawsuit brought by a former writer's assistant against writers of the hit Friends TV series and against Warner Brothers was found to be without merit. The plaintiff had claimed that the writers of the show had created a hostile work environment by discussing sexual topics in the course of the writing process.

The justice who wrote the decision put it succinctly:
We simply recognize that, like Title VII, the [Fair Employment and Housing Act] is not a 'civility code' and [is] not designed to rid the workplace of vulgarity.
Score one for common sense. I hope that this ruling sets a precedent that will discourage people from filing lawsuits just because they're offended by sex talk at the office. Otherwise, litigious prudes will create hostile work environment.

1 comment:

daniel said...

Now, if someone would just introduce common sense in the SCO vs. IBM litigation we could all be walking happily into the sunset. :)