An appeals court rules that the abuse of Eminem and Too $hort in the workplace may constitute sexual discrimination.
After Eminem’s “Stan” and Too $hort’s “Blowjob Betty” were played loudly at a warehouse in Reno, Calif., during office hours, eight former employees filed a lawsuit against the company — a lawsuit previously dismissed by the local judge. However, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco overturned that decision this week. reinstate the lawsuit.
The eight former employees — seven of whom are women — initially filed a lawsuit against S&S Activewear after co-workers played loud music (from company-approved speakers) that repeatedly called women “sluts,” “whores,” and other derogatory names . Chief US District Judge Miranda Du previously dismissed the case on the grounds that acts that offend both sexes could not be considered sex discrimination.
“An employer’s status as an alleged ‘equal opportunity harasser’ does not provide grounds for liability,” noted Judge M. Margaret McKeown in the 3-0 retrial decision.
According to the file, the Music was played loudly in a 700,000-square-foot warehouse with hundreds of employees, half of whom are women. The lawsuit alleged that S&S would allow commercial speakers to be placed at five of the company’s locations so employees could enjoy the music loud enough to drown out the noise of the factory.
However, the staff responsible for music often played music with a distinctly “NSFW” tone, with the songs “Blowjob Betty” by Too $hort and “Stan” by Eminem being specifically mentioned in the suit.
“Sometimes employees would place the speakers on forklifts and drive through the warehouse, making it harder to predict the music’s range — let alone avoid it,” McKeown wrote. “In turn, the music allegedly served as a catalyst for abusive behavior by male employees, who frequently performed sexually explicit gestures, shouted profanity, made sexually explicit comments, and shared openly pornographic videos.”
Previously dismissed in 2021 by a federal judge, who found the defaulting employees acknowledged the conduct was “not directed against employees of either sex,” but against all equally. After several complaints in 2020, management also claimed that the music was “motivating” for the workforce.
McKeown cautions that harassment in the workplace can be a problem, whether it’s targeted or not.
“Whether they’re sung, shouted, or whispered, blasted over loudspeakers, or passed face-to-face, sexist swear words can be offensive and turn a workplace into a hostile environment,” she writes. “Exposing employees to misogynist and sexually suggestive music can constitute gender discrimination, even if the employer exposes both women and men to the material and even though both women and men find the material objectionable.”