Workplace rights: Asterisk you take

Allowing employees to swear at work can have beneficial effects, according to researchers at the University of East Anglia. Yehuda Baruch, professor of management, found that regular use of 'taboo language' reinforces solidarity among staff and helps them cope with frustration and stress. Banning expletives could lead to decreased morale and motivation, he suggests. But from a legal standpoint, bad language in the workplace is more of a curse than a blessing. For example, when City broker Steven Horkulak won close to £1m damages for wrongful dismissal from Cantor Fitzgerald, a key part of his claim was that the CEO, Lee Amaitis - nicknamed 'the Brooklyn Bruiser' - had regularly screamed obscenities at him. It was no excuse for Cantor either that Horkulak was highly paid or that he worked in a pressurised environment where foulmouthed remarks were endemic. Even where strong language is not accompanied by an aggressive management style, it might readily be perceived as racially or sexually offensive or homophobic, putting the employer at risk of discrimination complaints. Put another way, failure to control abusive and offensive swearing at work could lead to you getting comprehensively f****d at an employment tribunal... Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin LLP solicitors - e-mail:

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

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