Swearing in the workplace

Although swearing in the workplace was often commonplace in what could be viewed as male dominated environments such as construction it has started to migrate to other areas of the working world.Employee’s do need to be careful though as many a company policy on gross misconduct will include swearing within it and so we’d advise any employee to try and keep colourful language to a minimum.

If however you are dismissed for swearing it is important to consider the context of the dismissal as the conduct should never really be viewed in isolation. An older case in which a gardener used a term in a one off to his employer after being provoked by constant criticism was held that he had been wrongfully dismissed. Although not an unfair dismissal claim to do with swearing the tribunal did view that the swearing did not constitute a gross misconduct event.[1] The fact it was a one off and that the parties could have made some sort of reconciliation was in the employee’s favour. However not all one-off incidents of swearing can be sidestepped with the support of this case. A more recent case in which an employee told a line manager to “f*** off” the tribunal found in favour of the employer by a  very slim margin and confirmed that the dismissal was a fair one (although if it was to be found to have been unfair she would have had her award reduced by 90% due to contributory fault).[2]

On the other hand nor should it be seen that employers can get away with constantly swearing at their employee’s either even though high profile individuals such as Gordon Ramsay may be giving a contrasting impression. There are two rather high profile cases in which employee’s have won considerable amounts (£1m [3] and £800,000[4]) in which being sworn at by their employer or by other employee’s has had a considerable impact on the case and was seen to be a form of bullying and harassment which of course no employee should have to face. Obviously these employee’s were in high paying jobs but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that they suffered from swearing within the workplace and because of it they were successful at court

When all is said and done swearing within the workplace is still frowned upon for the most part. It doesn’t matter if you’re an employee or an employer, if you swear at someone you could find yourself in hot water.