Court rules you can't swear like a trucker in trucking office

Dennis Baron debaron at
Wed May 7 20:59:15 UTC 2008

There's a new post on the Web of Language:  Court rules you can't  
swear like a trucker in trucking office

Swearing at work may be good for morale, but according to the  
Eleventh Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, if you want to swear  
like a trucker, you’d better not do it while working for a trucking  

Last week an appeals court panel ruled that an employee lawsuit  
against the transportation company C. H. Robinson Worldwide could go  
forward because “language and radio programming that are particularly  
offensive to women” create a “hostile work environment.” According to  
the court, even if the offending language doesn’t target the  
plaintiff, its persistent use violates Title VII of the Civil Rights  
Act of 1964.

Ingrid Reeves sued the shipping company she worked for because her  
male co-workers used sexually explicit language on a daily basis, the  
kind of language that would make a sailor blush. They also tuned the  
office radio to a morning program featuring explicit sexual comments,  
and when Reeves changed the station because it made her  
uncomfortable, the men in the office changed it back.


The lower court acknowledged that the work environment at CHRW may  
have been unprofessional, but since both men and women were subjected  
to the continual foul and sexually-explicit language, there had been  
no sex-based discrimination, and so it dismissed Reeves’ suit.

But the appeals court disagreed, noting a parallel between racially-  
and sexually-offensive speech: just as previous rulings have found  
that racial epithets have a disproportionately negative effect on  
members of the targeted racial group even if they’re not directed at  
the individual who finds them offensive, the words Reeves called into  
question . . . were “more degrading to women than men.”   ...

read the rest on The Web of Language

Dennis Baron
Professor of English and Linguistics
Department of English						
University of Illinois	

608 S. Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801

office: 217-244-0568
fax: 217-333-4321

read the Web of Language:
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