When is Joking at Work a Problem?
Shareholder Casey Erick recently delivered a webinar for the American Staffing Association, entitiled: Harassment, Discrimination, and Wrongful Termination. A follow-up question from an attendee related to making jokes in the workplace and what is or is not acceptible. Here is Casey's response:
Joking at work is fine. While one joke alone may not be harassment, it could be part of a hostile work environment. In that kind of situation, you need to remember that the question is not whether you or the employee who heard the joke was offended, but whether a "reasonable person" would find it offensive.
Avoiding all contact with co-workers is not practical if your job requires you to engage with them, which most jobs do. Whether or not a co-worker is in a bad mood or may lie about being harassed does not mean they can prove sexual harassment. A claimant must still meet all the elements and, even then, their subjective opinion does not replace the “reasonable person” standard.
Casey Erick represents clients in both litigation and transactional matters that span across commercial law, labor and employment, real estate, consumer protection, and general litigation including breach of contract, corporate trade secret theft, tortious interference, defamation, personal injury, fraud, and various other kinds of civil litigation.