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When does a joke at work go too far?

On Behalf of | May 23, 2019 | Hostile Work Environment

female worker upset at coworkers laughing

Everyone loves a good joke. However, the joke occasionally goes too far. It is vital for everyone in a workplace to understand when a joke is more than just silly and borders on harassment.

Harassment is not always obvious. Reader’s Digest went over various subtle signs of workplace harassment, and one of them was lewd jokes. Some people may think they are just being silly when they make a comment that is derogatory toward someone’s gender, race or sexual orientation. All employees should know that they do not have to put up with some jokes, especially if they become more degrading as time goes on.

Joke topics that are never appropriate

It does not matter how “cool” everyone is in the office. There are some subjects everyone should steer clear of when it comes to making jokes. This includes the following:

  • Weight-related matters
  • Physical attributes and appearance
  • Age-related, gender or social status stereotypes
  • Ethnicity or race
  • Political practices or religious beliefs
  • Jokes related to sexual acts or orientations
  • Topics about disabled persons

Ultimately, no one should ever make light of any topic that directly targets a group or individual as being inferior. People’s bodies and minds are susceptible to any kind of rude comment that makes them feel lesser. When humor does come into the workplace, it should be positive as to not create a hostile work environment.

Other items that are cause for concern

Occasionally, humor enters the workplace that does not necessarily target someone but still comes across as hostile. For example, an employee may tack a raunchy comic strip into his or her cubicle. The cartoon does not directly target another individual in the office, but someone could feel uncomfortable any time they see it. This is also true for dark humor that comes across in emails or texts. Everyone should feel welcome at work, and when it comes to these additional materials, it is better for employers to play it safe than sorry.