The U.S. Supreme Court recently let stand a lower court ruling that banned an employee from making racial slurs at work.
In the case, a group of Latino employees sued Avis for harassment, arguing that a supervisor called them vulgar names. They won and were awarded $25,000 each. In an unusual twist, the court barred the supervisor from making any more racially derogatory comments. It also ordered Avis to ban any such racial insults in the future. (Avis Rent A Car System Inc. v. Aguilar, 99-781)
Free-speech advocates oppose the high court ruling, saying that punishing an employee for harassing speech is one thing, but putting restrictions on his future speech goes over the line.
Advice: You have to walk a fine line. While you can ban verbal abuse that would create a hostile environment, don't use this ruling as an excuse to ban all potentially offensive language at work.