What constitutes actionable language by an employer?

UPDATED: May 30, 2012

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What constitutes actionable language by an employer?

I had a fellow co-worker which is a supervisor, tell me, “Stilettos are not for the work place they belong on a stripper pole or in a bar”. Is this appropriate for her to say this? My manager doesn’t have a problem that I wear stilettos as long as I am dressing appropriate.

Asked on May 30, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, North Carolina


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

That may constitute sexual harassment, since it is a remark directed against you as a woman, which appears to be sexually based. That said, context is important: if even though your manager allows you to wear stilletos, they would more generally be regarded as inappropriate for your workplace, profession, job, etc., it is possible that the remark would not be held to contsitute actionable harassment, particularly if it was an isolated remark and not part of a pattern of sexual harassment.

Moreover--and perhaps more importantly--if there was only the one objectionable remark, it's not clear if there is any effective recourse. The amount of compensation you could received for a single remark, absent continuing harassment or some negative employment consequence, would be nominal at best. Unless there is more or ongoing harassment, or some negative consequence to you (e.g. being paid less, not being promoted, etc.), it is highly unlikely to be worthwhile to file a complaint or take legal action.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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