[lg policy] Linguistic hygiene in the work place

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Fri Aug 5 11:13:27 EDT 2016

Does your workplace need a​ profanity policy?
Aug 4, 2016, 7:20am EDT
Industries & Tags

   - Share


*Get Newsletters and Alerts*
Morning Edition >> Afternoon Edition >> Breaking News

Enter your email address
*Kyra Kudick* <http://www.bizjournals.com/bizjournals/bio/30022/Kyra+Kudick>
*Related* Content
​What to do when employees refuse to sign company handbook receipt
Use caution when checking workers’ compensation claims
Know your responsibilities as an employer when employees quit

In some workplaces, cursing is not tolerated under any circumstances, while
in other work environments, a strict ban on profanity is likely to be met
with more than a few choice words.

The debate over swearing in the workplace has kept tongues wagging for some
time, with some surveys asserting that it makes employers and colleagues
question the intelligence, control, and professionalism of vulgar workers,
and other studies insisting that cursing relieves stress and creates
camaraderie among coworkers.
[image: Defining what is offensive will likely be your most difficult
challenge in drafting a policy because the concept is entirely subjective.]

Defining what is offensive will likely be your most difficult challenge in
drafting a… more

Image provided by Getty Images (sdominick)

With no definitive rules or regulations about profanity, companies are left
to their own devices to develop policies that work for them, and company
culture plays a significant role in developing and enforcing such a policy.

Company policies about profanity should be as specific as possible, and
should be included in the employee handbook and other training materials.
The handbook should also outline disciplinary measures when employees
violate the rules (a progressive policy starting with a verbal warning is

Consider the following if drafting a company policy about profane language.
Describe context

If you are not going to place an all-out ban on profanity (and really, do
you want to enforce that?), then you are going to need to describe the
context of acceptable and unacceptable cursing.

If most of your employees work in a manufacturing environment where cursing
has long been allowed on the factory floor, you might inform employees
that, while cursing may be overlooked in the shop, it is generally
prohibited in front of customers, visitors, or while representing the
company during interaction with the general public (for example, while
wearing a logoed shirt or uniform).

Keep in mind that profanity used in connection with exercising protected
rights (such as filing a harassment claim) might need to be excused. The
National Labor Relations Board has ruled numerous times that simply
prohibiting “offensive” language is an overbroad policy that could be
interpreted as prohibiting discussions of terms and conditions of
Define ‘offensive’

Defining what is offensive will likely be your most difficult challenge in
drafting a policy because the concept is entirely subjective. What might
offend one person will be perfectly tolerable to the next person, and it
all depends on context.

To that end, you can absolutely ban specific language that is unacceptable
in any context, such as slurs about race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual
orientation, as well as sexual innuendo. Such language can invite claims of
harassment or a hostile work environment, and you are required by law to
address such issues.

Profanity can also be an indication of potential workplace violence. The
Department of Labor considers “verbal abuse including offensive, profane,
and vulgar language” to be included in the forms of violence among
coworkers, so you can also ban profane language that is specifically used
to intimidate or bully.

You might also require that employees respect the views and sensitivities
of coworkers, and if they are asked to refrain from using certain words or
phrases, they should make every effort to accommodate the wishes of those
around them.
Discipline consistently

If you choose to create a policy about profanity, be prepared to
consistently enforce the disciplinary process you put in place. Failure to
consistently enforce policies makes them toothless, and inconsistency in
discipline can leave you open to claims of discrimination.

*Kyra Kudick is an associate editor at J. J. Keller & Associates. J. J.
Keller is a leader in the regulatory compliance field, helping more than
300,000 customers work to ensure their businesses are in compliance with
applicable government statutes and regulations in health and safety,
employment law, the environment, etc. Kudick holds a bachelor’s degree from
the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.*


N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to its
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner or
sponsor of the list as to the veracity of a message's contents. Members who
disagree with a message are encouraged to post a rebuttal, and to write
directly to the original sender of any offensive message.  A copy of this
may be forwarded to this list as well.  (H. Schiffman, Moderator)

For more information about the lgpolicy-list, go to
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/lgpolicy-list/attachments/20160805/c6f462b0/attachment.html>
-------------- next part --------------
This message came to you by way of the lgpolicy-list mailing list
lgpolicy-list at groups.sas.upenn.edu
To manage your subscription unsubscribe, or arrange digest format: https://groups.sas.upenn.edu/mailman/listinfo/lgpolicy-list

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list