A Provocative Eminem Song Is At The Center Of A Workplace Sex Discrimination Lawsuit

Since the beginning of his storied career, Eminem has been known for his often explicit and/or controversial lyrics. Now, one of his most beloved tunes is at the center of a workplace sex discrimination lawsuit.

As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, eight former employees of S&S Activewear, seven of whom are women, have filed a lawsuit against the company. The suit says the company allowed employees to set up and use speakers in the warehouse. Among the songs played on those speakers, and cited in the lawsuit, are Eminem’s “Stan” and Too Short’s “Blowjob Betty.”

Part of “Stan” tells the story of a man who put a woman in the trunk of his car, with Eminem rapping, “See, Slim — shut up, b*tch! I’m tryin’ to talk / Hey, Slim, that’s my girlfriend screamin’ in the trunk / But I didn’t slit her throat, I just tied her up — see? I ain’t like you / ‘Cause if she suffocates, she’ll suffer more, and then she’ll die, too.”

The suit claims S&S received complaints “almost daily” for nearly two years, but management defended the music, calling it “motivational.”

The lawsuit was previously dismissed by Chief US District Judge Miranda Du, “who said actions offensive to both sexes cannot be considered sex discrimination.” However, the suit was reinstated by the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

In a 3-0 ruling, Judge M. Margaret McKeown said, “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. 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.”

McKeown also wrote, “An employer’s status as a purported ‘equal opportunity harasser’ provides no escape hatch for liability.” McKeown also noted harassment “need not be directly targeted at a particular plaintiff in order to pollute a workplace” and continued, “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” for women and men.