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Workplace Culture Is Irrelevant When Defending Against Harassment Claims

SUMMARY: Some work environments are more rough-and-tumble than others.  In fact, in upholding a trial court’s decision to dismiss a sexual harassment case, the California Court of Appeal relied on the fact that the Plaintiff worked in a “salty” environment.  It noted that “profanity, vulgarity and sexual taunting were commonplace [in the environment in which the Plaintiff worked] and apparently generally accepted.”  Beginning this year, “It is irrelevant that a particular occupation may have been characterized by a greater frequency of sexually related commentary or conduct in the past.  In determining whether or not a hostile environment existed, courts should only consider the nature of the workplace when engaging in or witnessing prurient conduct and commentary is integral to the performance of the job duties.” 

TAKEAWAYS: While the state mandates anti-harassment training, employers may wish to include workplace culture and sensitivity training.  They may also wish to ensure their human resources professionals are well trained and receive the support from upper management to enact the changes necessary.   


Please contact Phillip Maltin for further information about these changes to California law.