A male employee whispering a joke to another male employee

The Difference Between Joking Versus Harassment in the Workplace

Do you know what job I could see myself doing? Being a mirror inspector!

A joke like the one above may get a few chuckles or even some eye rolls but will most likely not offend anyone. While many employees enjoy comradery like making jokes at work, sometimes jokes can go too far and make others feel uncomfortable or even disturbed. That’s why workers need to know the difference between a harmless joke and what could be considered harassment.

Defining Workplace Harassment

Harassment in the workplace is defined as any unwelcome or offensive behavior that creates a hostile work environment. This can include things like making demeaning comments, sexual advances, or even physical contact. Therefore, a joke referencing a protected characteristic could be considered harassment in the workplace.

Some examples of a joke’s context that could cross the line into harassment territory include:

  • Sexually explicit;
  • Threats or derogatory remarks about someone’s race, religion, or other protected characteristic; or,
  • Comments about someone’s appearance.

Additionally, even if the joke was told between two individuals, but another worker heard the joke and was offended, then the joke could also be considered harassment.

What to Do if You Are Being Harassed at Work

Employees who feel like they are being harassed should consider taking multiple actions including:

  • Safely, but discreetly, documenting the behavior;
  • Addressing the offenders (this should not be done in private but rather in a public work setting so the accused can not try to twist the accuser’s words around);
  • Talking to their supervisor; and,
  • Filing a complaint with human resources.

No one deserves to be harassed at work. That’s why the dedicated attorneys at Kennard Law, P.C. strive to give those discriminated against the best possible representation. See what our team can do for your situation by reaching out online or by phone. (855) 499-4514

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