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Do jokes count as sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment in the workplace can take numerous forms. It can involve outright requests for sexual favors or the sending of unwanted, sexually explicit pictures. Many individuals try to write off certain advances as merely "joking," but as outlined by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, even jokes can count toward sexual harassment

Many people do not see the harm in telling an off-color joke at work. Plenty of work environments allow for employees to be a bit crude as long as it does not interfere with the company's revenue. However, all employees must be aware of when a joke crosses a line. 

Jokes put people in awkward predicaments

Sometimes, it is abundantly clear someone has made a joke. It may have been in poor taste, but no one in the office wants to be the party pooper. In many industries, people receive promotions based on how well they can "play ball." Someone who complains about a joke may develop a reputation for not being a "team player." 

This is why it is critical to speak directly to the person who made the joke. If it is a single occurrence, then it may have just been a lapse of poor judgment. The person may apologize, and that is the end of it. However, you still need to keep an eye on anyone who frequently tells off-color jokes or makes them more aggressive as time goes on. 

Jokes can accompany other forms of harassment

Many predators tell jokes as a way to mask the other ways in which they abuse others. These jokes may become worse as time goes on if no one reprimands the perpetrator. A stern discussion may stop it in its tracks, but if it gets out of hand, then do not be afraid to tell a supervisor. Many workplaces allow employees to file complaints anonymously, so you may not even have to worry about your reputation coming into play. 

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