Language in the Workplace

Temp"Most people do find it offensive and I think to have a productive workplace with high morale, that generally people should refrain from engaging in objectionable behavior,” he says. “A lot of times when charges are filed with us based on [discrimination or hostile actions because of race, sex, color, national origin, religion, disability or age], there usually is some aspect of profanity involved."


Michael C. Fetzer, District Director
EEOC, Cleveland, Ohio

"Communication is the key element in any environment and when a large percent of that communication is profanity its affects are widespread. It can and does become a part of Sexual Harassment or Hostile Work Environment, plus it diminishes the company culture. Since the inception of this policy we have reduced the problem tenfold, there have been no additional complaints filed, it hasn't been necessary to use disciplinary action, and it is an improved work atmosphere. You'd be surprised--we were--at how easy it was to implement and at the cooperation of employees once we explained the policy and our reasons. I feel confident that if you use the policy as intended, and not as a "Policing Tool" but rather a new company culture, it works."

Thelma Brown, Human Resources Director
Ramtech Building Systems

Inappropriate language, verbal abuse and verbal threats were the incidents most commonly cited by Human Resources professionals occurring in the workplace, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in June 2003. Employers have the right to command professionalism of speech in their workplaces as they do with their dress codes.

As a human resources educator and practitioner with over 30 years of experience, I have followed the erosion of language in the workplace. Due to increased awareness, the requests for the policy have been overwhelming, which indicates companies are becoming more concerned with how employees talk to each other.

The policy, immediately, steers employees in the direction that a business may want to establish as their corporate culture. One where all employees treat each other civilly that will enhance corporate productivity, credibility and profitability.

There are no legal implications with the policy. It differs from sexual harassment policies in that it encompasses ‘all’ forms of harassment (i.e., race, religion, national origin, handicap/disability, veterans status or sexual orientation). Further, it includes all forms of communication in the workplace. It defines what kind of speech is prohibited without violating the first amendment in accordance with the U.S. Supreme Court. The policy is for all employees from CEOs, managers, and supervisors to line staff.

If you are interested in obtaining the copyrighted policy or to schedule a workshop, call 414-581-5189, or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

See what others are saying about the Language in the Workplace policy.