We Are Open (With Safety Precautions) & Ready To Help:  Click Here To Watched Our Covid-19 Webinar — What Employers Need to Know

Cultural Sensitivity in Wording Now a Legal Necessity

Written on .

While many oppose the concept of "political correctness," in some senses it is now a legal necessity.  And what is deemed culturally sensitive seems to be changing, sometimes in controversial ways. While many oppose the concept of "political correctness," in some senses it is now a legal necessity.  And what is deemed culturally sensitive seems to be changing, sometimes in controversial ways. 

Consider the case of certain teachers, who have been disciplined and even terminated for quoting the words used in a legal case, for example, or even citing speeches by Martin Luther King.  Many cases now suggest use of the "N" word in any context, whether a quotation from something else or not, warrants strong disciplinary action.  In a recent example, a case involving an Emory law professor who was terminated for using a quotation from a legal case, the termination was overturned by a faculty committee, and the American Association of University Professors' made efforts to support the professor.  The situation gets more complex where certain affected groups may use discriminatory language towards their own class members, who do not consider such language offensive since it is directed to themselves.  The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) takes the position that offensive words used even among a protected class is prohibited and applies equally to everyone.  
It is quite questionable now to use the term "you people," for example, to refer to anyone.  The term "boy" has been found in several rulings to be racially offensive and thus discriminatory, but a recent case finds the word "good boy" not to be inappropriate.  Brown v. Dignity Health, 2020 BL 229178, D. Ariz., 6/19/20.  This writer recently had occasion to address the Supreme Court's recent transgender ruling, when an issue arose about the use of the word "queer."  Apparently, young homosexuals or transgender persons and others like to describe themselves and use the term "queer," while the older generation finds the word to be highly offensive.  Even terms like Black, African-American, Hispanic, Latin, Asian, and others are sometimes debated as to appropriateness.
The bottom line is that everyone must be extremely careful with the words they use.  It simply is not worth the risk of offending someone by the use of terms that may be considered inappropriate.  Perhaps "cultural sensitivity" is not the proper term, the concept is that one should avoid the risk of using words which may be offensive to some, i.e., "fighting words."  Let's be tactful, and keep the best relationship possible with everyone.

Get Email Updates

Receive newsletters and alerts directly in your email inbox. Sign up below.

Recent Content

medical healthcare, indoors

Supreme Court Again Upholds Affordable Care Act

California v. Texas, the Supreme Court has again upheld the provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), often known as ObamaCare. A fede...
sticky notes, wall, indoors

No-match Social Security Letters Discontinued

In the past, the Social Security Administration (SSA) during periods of time has issued so-called "no-match letters" to employers with "a...

Supreme Court Allows Catholic Group to Exclude Foster-care Rights

The public and the courts continue to debate whether there should be religious exemptions to LGBT anti-discrimination laws. In other word...
restroom neon light

EEOC Addresses Controversial LGBT Restroom Policies

A year ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County that Title VII outlawed workplace bias based on sexual orientation a...
buttons on a table, indoor

Labor Board to Reconsider Employer Restrictions on Wearing Buttons and Other Insignia in the Workplace

Many employers do not like the idea of employees wearing pro-union shirts or buttons on the job. In the past, however, and particularly d...
monopoly houses on a wooden table indoors

Supreme Court Rejects Union Access to Employer's Property in California

A strong ruling for employers' private property rights was issued by the U.S. Supreme Court in June in Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid, No....

Wimberly, Lawson, Steckel, Schneider & Stine

3400 Peachtree Road, Ste 400 / Lenox Towers / Atlanta, GA 30326 /404.365.0900

Where Experience Counts

Thank you for visiting the firm's website. Please note that this website is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute an offer of representation or create an attorney-client relationship with the firm. The firm welcomes receipt of electronic mail but the act of sending electronic mail alone does not create an attorney-client relationship. You may reproduce materials available at this site for your own personal use and for non-commercial distribution. All copies must include the firm's copyright notice.

© 2020 Wimberly, Lawson, Steckel, Schneider & Stine P.C. | Site By JSM