Lawsuit Against S&S Activewear Over Workplace Harassment Dismissed
S&S Activewear (PPAI 256121, S12) – ranked the second leading supplier in this year’s PPAI 100 – has reached a resolution with eight former employees who sued the Bolingbrook, Illinois-based firm over allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, according to court documents.
The lawsuit stemmed from an issue at the company’s facility in Reno, Nevada. It alleged that S&S permitted its managers and employees to routinely play “sexually graphic, violently misogynistic” music throughout its warehouse, creating an environment that “catalyzed” abusive behavior.
- On November 22, S&S and the plaintiffs filed a joint stipulation in the U.S. District Court of Nevada to have the lawsuit dismissed with prejudice, with each party bearing its own attorney fees and costs.
- On November 27, Chief U.S. District Judge Miranda Du signed an order approving the stipulation and dismissing the case.
In 2021, a lower court had dismissed the case, reasoning that the music’s offensiveness to both men and women and the fact that it was audible throughout the warehouse nullified any discriminatory potential.
In June, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit vacated that decision on two key principles:
- Harassment, whether aural or visual, does not need to be directly targeted at a particular plaintiff in order to pollute a workplace and give rise to a Title VII claim.
- The challenged conduct’s offensiveness to multiple genders is not a certain bar to stating a Title VII claim.
As a result, the Ninth Circuit ruled that derogatory music playing at work could violate sexual discrimination laws, clearing the way for the lawsuit to move forward.
Issuing a statement on the case to PPAI Media following the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, S&S Activewear said, “We strive to make our workplace both safe and inclusive for all, while ensuring our team members feel respected, fulfilled and motivated. We remain confident that the U.S. District Court will once again determine – as previously concluded in 2021 – that the plaintiff’s suit is without merit.”
S&S Activewear isn’t the first company to run afoul of offensive music playing at work. Another court case, this time involving Tesla and also in Nevada, was filed in October 2022. It claims the automaker failed to take action on complaints of “obscene and misogynistic” music and inappropriate touching and comments from coworkers.
For businesses seeking to maintain a safe and welcoming work environment, the challenges these cases represent require scrutiny and care. Most employers have policies against sexual or race-based harassment. They must be diligently followed and enforced, particularly when a complaint is made.