Eminem’s music has sparked a sex discrimination lawsuit after his music was played loudly in a warehouse during work hours in Reno, California.
Per the San Francisco Chronicle, eight former employees of S&S Activewear — seven of which are women — filed suit against the company after co-workers blasted loud rap music that repeatedly referred to women as “bitches,” “hoes” and other slurs.
The case had previously been dismissed by Chief U.S. District Judge Miranda Du, who said actions offensive to both sexes cannot be considered sex discrimination. However, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco overturned that decision this week and reinstated the suit.
“An employer’s status as a purported ‘equal opportunity harasser’ provides no escape hatch for liability,” Judge M. Margaret McKeown noted in the 3-0 ruling, quoting a previous decision from a 2001 case.
The music was reportedly played loudly inside a 700,000-square-foot warehouse filled with hundreds of employees, half of which were women. The suit claimed that S&S would allow commercial-grade speakers to be set up at five of the company’s locations so that the music would be able to drown out the background noise of the factories.
However, those in charge of the music would repeatedly play rap music, with the suit noting the song “Blowjob Betty” by Too $hort and “Stan” by Eminem, the latter which describes a pregnant woman drowning while trapped inside the trunk of a car.
“Sometimes employees placed the speakers on forklifts and drove around the warehouse, making it more difficult to predict — let alone evade — the music’s reach,” McKeown wrote. “In turn, the music allegedly served as a catalyst for abusive conduct by male employees, who frequently pantomimed sexually graphic gestures, yelled obscenities, made sexually explicit remarks, and openly shared pornographic videos.”
The suit had previously been dismissed by a federal judge in 2021, who noted that the aforementioned employees acknowledged the company’s conduct “was not directed at employees of either sex” but at everyone equally. S&S management also chimed in following multiple complaints in 2020, claiming the music was “motivational” to the workforce.
McKeown noted that harassment does not need to be targeted in order for it to be problematic at a workplace.
“Whether sung, shouted, or whispered, blasted over speakers or relayed face-to-face, sexist epithets can offend and may transform a workplace into a hostile environment,” she wrote. “Exposing employees to misogynistic and sexually graphic music can be discrimination because of sex, even where the employer exposes both women and men to the material and even though both women and men find the material offensive.”
Despite its graphic content, “Stan” — which appeared on his diamond-selling 2000 album The Marshall Mathers LP and sampled Dido’s “Thank You” — was one of Eminem’s biggest and earliest hits.
The song was nominated in multiple categories at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards, including Video of the Year, Best Male Video and Best Rap Video.
The title — which many fans thought to be a combination of “stalker” and “fan” given the track’s subject matter — gave rise to its own slang term that has since been added to the Oxford English Dictionary.