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A Cautionary Note About Music In The Workplace


The Ninth Circuit held this week that music with sexually derogatory and violent content, played constantly and publicly throughout the workplace, can foster a hostile or abusive environment. This, in turn, can give rise to a claim for discrimination based on sex under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Sharp v. S&S Activewear, L.L.C (9th Cir.)

WHY SHOULD YOU CARE? Direct Relevance to Your Business

In general, Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on specific categories, applies to employers with 15 or more employees. California's law, the Fair Employment and Housing Act, applies to employers with 5 or more employees. If you allow music to be played throughout your business, pay attention to the lyrics, and opt for clean and non-explicit content. While not addressed by the Court in this instance, another area that could cause issues for employers is music in vehicles. If you have employees traveling together for work such as to a job site, they should not be playing sexually derogatory and violent content. And if anyone complains about the music in the workplace, take those complaints seriously. The Ninth Circuit reiterated that harassment does not need to be targeted at a specific person in order to pollute a workplace and give rise to a Title VII claim.


1) Review your Employee Handbook's prohibited conduct section and add the playing of explicit music to it; 2) If you have music playing in the background of your business select clean, non-explicit content; and, 3) If anyone complains about the music, take the complaint seriously and determine if a change is needed going forward. *As always, all information contained herein is subject to the Hartnett Law Group Disclaimer below.


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