A group of eight former employees, predominantly comprising women, have taken legal action against S&S Activewear, claiming that their working environment was tainted by the playing of explicit rap music.
This lawsuit stems from the allegations that within the sprawling 700,000-square-foot warehouse, where numerous employees diligently carried out their tasks, songs with raunchy lyrics, such as Eminem's renowned "Stan" and Too $hort's controversial "Blowjob Betty," were blared over the speakers.
These tracks, notorious for their explicit content, included themes of violence and misogynistic language, with Eminem's chart-topping hit even delving into the unsettling realm of a man's murderous actions towards his pregnant girlfriend.
The initial dismissal of the case by Chief U.S. District Judge Miranda Du in 2021 marked a setback for the former employees. She asserted that offensive conduct that affected both genders could not be categorized as s** discrimination, further highlighting that the alleged actions were not specifically directed at employees of either s**, as acknowledged by some of the employees themselves.
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S&S Activewear had even previously defended their choice of music, deeming it "motivational" for their workforce. However, a glimmer of hope emerged when the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco reinstated the lawsuit. Judge M. Margaret McKeown, presiding over the case, firmly stated that an employer's claim of being an "equal opportunity harasser" could not serve as an escape route from liability.
The former employees had described a troubling pattern of behavior where speakers were affixed to forklifts, allowing the rap music to permeate every nook and cranny of the expansive warehouse. This tactic made it nearly impossible to predict, let alone evade, the far-reaching impact of the music, as aptly explained by Judge McKeown.
It was during this time that male employees allegedly engaged in a plethora of abusive actions, including sexually suggestive gestures, profanity-laden outbursts, explicit remarks, and the sharing of po**graphic material in a brazen manner.