Music in the workplace can constitute discrimination: Sharp v. S&S Activewear, LLC

“[M]usic with sexually derogatory and violent content, played constantly and publicly throughout the workplace, can foster a hostile or abusive environment and thus constitute discrimination because of sex.” Sharp v. S&S Activewear, LLC, No. 21-17138, 2023 WL 3857491 (9th Cir. June 7, 2023)  

In Sharp v. S&S Activewear, LLC, NO. 21-17138, 2023 WL 3857491 (9th Cir. June 7, 2023), eight former employees (7 women and one man) of a former apparel manufacturer filed suit alleging that “sexually graphic, violently misogynistic” music blasted from commercial-strength speakers placed throughout the 700,000 square foot warehouse where they worked amounted to sex discrimination. Managers and employees played the music throughout the massive warehouse, and it was so loud that it “overpowered operational background noise and was nearly impossible to escape.” It also “served as a catalyst for abusive conduct by male employees, who frequently pantomimed sexually graphic gestures, yelled obscenities, made sexually explicit remarks, and openly shared pornographic videos.” And even though the music was particularly demeaning toward women, it also offended some male employees. Employees complained almost daily about the music for nearly two years, but the company management defended the music as motivational.  

The trial court granted the company’s motion to dismiss without leave to amend, reasoning that it could not amount to discrimination since the music was offensive to both men and women. The Ninth Circuit disagreed, reversing the trial court to reconsider the employees’ pleadings in light of two key principles: (1) “Harassment, whether aural or visual, need not be directly targeted at a particular plaintiff to pollute a workplace and give rise to a Title VII claim;” and (2) “the challenged conduct’s offensiveness to multiple genders is not a certain bar to stating a Title VII claim. An employer’s ‘status as a purported equal opportunity harasser’ provides no escape hatch for liability.”  

If you have been subjected to workplace harassment, sexual assault, or another form of sexual misconduct at work, you may be able to file a claim against your employer. Give our law office a call at (949) 506-1494 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation with an Orange County attorney who represents employees who have been wrongfully terminated, harassed, or retaliated or discriminated against, helping them obtain the justice they deserve. 

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