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The recession has ratcheted up America’s stress level, and employers are seeing the results spill out in their workplaces.

Boorish behavior and vulgar words are on the rise in U.S. workplaces. In fact, 38% of women say they’ve heard inappropriate sexual innuendoes and taunts in the workplace last year—up from 22% the year before, according to a study by Novations Group, a Boston consulting firm.

Such behavior isn’t just a legal risk, it can crush morale, increase turnover and hurt employee health.

Advice: If you don’t have one, draft a simple employee civility policy or code of conduct that is separate from your harassment policy.

Examples: Google’s “Don’t be evil” maxim has inspired other companies to adopt similar mottos for their internal and external corporate dealings. Southwest Airlines will “fire” passengers who demean their employees.

Such a policy gives you more legal leverage to discipline employees who are equal-opportunity verbal abusers. It could protect you if you’re sued.

Recent case: A California Community College fired a history professor for violating its rule on behavior and dignity after it received numerous complaints about his offensive behavior. He caused a near riot—the police had to be called—after he posted a list of failing students, saying they couldn’t benefit from the education. Another time he screamed obscenities at a student while tearing up a paper she’d written.

The professor sued, alleging he had the right to treat students the way he saw fit. The court tossed out his lawsuit, saying the firing was perfectly legal because the college was simply enforcing its civility rule. (Davenport v. Board of Trustees, No. 1:07-00494, ED CA, 2009)

Final note: Here’s another reason to have and enforce a civility policy. Doing so can help prevent a hostile work environment claim. By enforcing the rule and disciplining violators, you’re showing that you fix problems promptly and aren’t contributing to harassment.

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