lelconfAs I continue recapping various sessions from the ABA Labor & Employment Law Annual Conference last week in Philadelphia, it’s time to turn to what makes claims “actionable” under today’s harassment laws.

In other words, is the single use of an offensive word such as the “n-word” enough to survive a motion to dismiss or even get to trial?

The speakers at this particular program noted the caveat at the beginning: A lot of these cases are fact-specific.

In other words, whether or not a case gets to a jury may depend on the context in which the words that are said.

Here’s my twitter recap of the presentation below.

One key takeaway from this session is that employers still have a duty to investigate claims — whether or not the claims establish a hostile work environment claim.  But not all claims are going to have merit.

Some employees claim that they are being “bullied” by a supervisor, or that they are “uncomfortable” in the workplace.  As courts, though, have said: Federal laws are not civility codes. And not every workplace is going to lead to a “feel good” moment.

That said, having a workplace where employees feel valued and where employees are treated with respect is certainly a laudable goal.  It’s just good knowing that when that goal can’t be reached, it doesn’t mean a lawsuit will succeed either.