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

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 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.

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 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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