Eight former employees of S&S Activewear have filed a lawsuit against the company after rap music was played while they worked. Seven of the eight former employees are women. They allege that the songs’ raunchy lyrics created a hostile working environment. According to reports, songs like Eminem’s “Stan” and Too $hort’s “Blowjob Betty” were blasted in the 700,000-square-foot warehouse where hundreds of employees, including women, were working. The Marshall Mathers EP hit track famously features lyrics about a man killing his pregnant girlfriend.
Chief U.S. District Judge Miranda Du previously dismissed the case in 2021. She claimed then that offensive actions towards both sexes can’t be considered sex discrimination. She also cited employees acknowledging that the action “was not directed at employees of either sex.” S&S had also previously called the music “motivational” to their employees. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco later reinstated the suit. Judge M. Margaret McKeown claims “An employer’s status as a purported ‘equal opportunity harasser’ provides no escape hatch for liability.”
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Employees would place speakers on forklifts and drive around the warehouse. This behavior made it “more difficult to predict — let alone evade — the music’s reach,” McKeown explained. The judge also claims that, “In turn, the music allegedly served as a catalyst for abusive conduct by male employees.” She alleges that male employees “frequently pantomimed sexually graphic gestures, yelled obscenities, made sexually explicit remarks, and openly shared pornographic videos.” Offensive behaviors don’t need to be targeted in order for them to create a less-than-comfortable work environment, according to McKeown.
“Whether sung, shouted, or whispered, blasted over speakers or relayed face-to-face, sexist epithets can offend and may transform a workplace into a hostile environment,” McKeown also stated. She later says that, “Exposing employees to misogynistic and sexually graphic music can be discrimination because of sex, even where the employer exposes both women and men to the material and even though both women and men find the material offensive.”