They say that music has the power to move us, but what happens when the melodies in the workplace become the source of tension and discomfort? In a recent appellate court decision, Sharp v. S&S Activewear, the issue of music in the workplace takes center stage, revealing the potential for it to create a sexually hostile work environment. So, let’s tune in and explore this case, where bad taste in music leads to legal consequences.

Setting the Tone:

Before we dive into the details, let’s start with a lighthearted observation: “They say music is subjective, but some choices are better left unheard!” We’ve all experienced those cringe-worthy moments when a coworker’s playlist blasts through the office, leaving us wondering about their taste in music. Little did we know that such a scenario could have legal implications.


The case of Sharp v. S&S Activewear revolves around an employee, Jane Sharp, who alleged that her male coworker’s choice of music created a sexually hostile work environment. According to Sharp, the explicit and demeaning lyrics in the songs played by her coworker contributed to an uncomfortable and offensive atmosphere.

The Legal Battle:

The key question before the court was whether the music played at the workplace could contribute to a hostile work environment claim based on sex discrimination. Sharp argued that the lyrics and explicit content of the music perpetuated a hostile and demeaning environment, while the defendant, S&S Activewear, contended that music is a matter of personal taste and not a valid basis for a legal claim.

Appellate Court Decision:

In its ruling, the appellate court acknowledged that a hostile work environment can extend beyond direct verbal or physical harassment. They emphasized that music, when explicitly sexual, degrading, or offensive, can contribute to an environment that is hostile based on sex. The court found that the constant exposure to sexually explicit lyrics created an environment that was intimidating, offensive, and hostile for Sharp. Thus, the court upheld the lower court’s decision in favor of Sharp, highlighting the importance of maintaining a respectful and inclusive work environment.

Implications and Takeaways:

The Sharp v. S&S Activewear decision serves as a reminder that workplace environments should be free from discrimination, including the choice of music played. It prompts employers to review their policies on appropriate workplace conduct, including music selection, to ensure compliance with anti-discrimination laws. Additionally, it encourages employees to be mindful of their musical choices and considerate of the potential impact on their colleagues.

While music preferences are undoubtedly subjective, it is essential to recognize that the content and explicitness of certain songs can contribute to a hostile work environment. Striking a balance between individual expression and respect for others’ sensibilities can foster a more harmonious and inclusive workplace.


The Sharp v. S&S Activewear appellate court decision reminds us that the issue of a hostile work environment is not limited to overt actions but can extend to subtle aspects such as the music playing in the background. It reinforces the importance of maintaining a respectful and inclusive workplace atmosphere, where everyone feels comfortable and free from discrimination. So, let’s be mindful of the songs we choose to play and ensure that our playlists promote harmony rather than discord in the workplace.

Disclaimer: This blog article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Consult with a qualified attorney for legal guidance specific to your circumstances. And remember, sometimes it’s best to keep those questionable music choices confined to our headphones!