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CHR crude, lewd—But not discriminatory

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in HR Management,Human Resources

Julie Gallagher joined the Cleveland office of logistics company C.H. Robinson Worldwide (CHR) as a sales representative. She quit four months later in disgust over what she described as “a guys’ locker room” atmosphere.

Gallagher claimed co-workers, primarily men, used foul language to refer to women, left pornographic magazines lying in plain sight and frequently talked about their sexual desires and exploits. On one occasion, an employee came in from the gym next door in just a towel, saying he was going “commando,” and sat on her desk. She also said employees frequently drank beer on Fridays and once did Jell-O shots during an NFL playoff party.

Gallagher sued, alleging the environment was hostile toward women. She described numerous rude comments and gestures made toward her, including one employee who called her a heifer and mooed at her.

But the court determined that the conduct was pervasive, not aimed particularly at Gallagher and not based on her sex. Web site and e-mail records revealed few incidents of employees sharing or accessing pornographic or off-color content. Further, the court found women at CHR engaged in the lewd behavior alongside men.

The court’s conclusion? The conduct was “unprofessional and inexcusable,” but it was not discriminatory. Further, Gallagher could not show she suffered an adverse employment consequence, as she left for a better-paying job.

Foul behavior, yes. But in court, as in sports—no harm, no foul.

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