Is it legally actionable if your boss makes a sexually insulting remark both to you and a co-worker?

After our employee christmas party the following day I walked into the office of my boss. Both he and the HR lady were laughing and my boss said, “Hey Trina, you and your best friend are “eskimo sisters”. When researching I found out that this expression means 2 woman sleeping with the same man. I’m insulted. Am I just being sensitive?

Asked on February 17, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Colorado

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

A sexually insulting remark can be sexual harassment, which is illegal. As a practical matter, unless either 1) you suffer some adverse job consequence, including for reporting the remark (because retaliating against employees who report sexual harassment is also illegal), or 2) the remark or like remarks/behavior is repeated, creating a hostile workplace, there is very little or no compensation you'd get--the law simply does not provide much if anything in the way of compensation for a one-time offensive remark which doesn't lead to practical negative consequences. However, if you do suffer some job reversal due to this, then you would very possibly have a viable claim to discuss with the federal EEOC or your state equal/civil rights agency, or to discuss with a private employment law attorney about possibly bringing a lawsuit.


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