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Male colleagues whispering gossip about their new female colleague.

Let’s face it, work can be boring at times. Sometimes a funny joke or story from a co-worker can brighten your day. Unfortunately, however, some people take things a little too far and end up offending others.

Nobody wants to work in a hostile work environment. However, identifying the types of jokes and comments that are inappropriate for work can be challenging. Some people are more easily offended than others, and it’s easy for something meant only as a joke to be taken the wrong way.

Read on to find out what types of jokes to avoid at work and how management can step in and help.

What Types of Jokes are Unacceptable?

Inappropriate jokes and sexual comments in the workplace are types of harassment. This type of conduct shows hostility towards a person’s gender, race, skin color, age, religion or disability. It also causes an offensive work environment and interferes with the person’s ability to focus on work.

The jokes and comments do not necessarily have to be verbal in nature. Emails, posters, flyers and other types of written content can also be construed as offensive and inappropriate.

Examples of inappropriate jokes include the following:

  • Negative stereotyping
  • Ethnic or racial slurs
  • Racial epithets
  • Sexually explicit jokes or comments
  • Jokes that exhibit hatred toward homosexual or transgendered people
  • Jokes mocking a person’s disability
  • Comments about one’s age

The laws are not cut and dry, though. It can sometimes be hard to really know if something is truly offensive or if a person is being overly sensitive. However, if an employee is truly upset by a certain joke or comment, then it should not be discussed in the office again.

What Management Can Do

Managers have a responsibility to provide an appropriate work environment. They should take the appropriate steps to protect harassed employees, not retaliate against them. They should establish procedures in case such a situation takes place. It is also important to create a welcoming environment that makes employers comfortable about discussing issues.

Managers should have procedures in place to determine whether or not a comment should be deemed inappropriate. It is recommended that they use the “reasonable person” standard. This involves looking at the situation from the perspective of a similar person (in terms of race, gender, disability, etc.). If the joke seems inappropriate, it probably is.

A hostile work environment can lead to depression, anxiety, and lower self-esteem. This affects productivity, which is why employers should help harassed employees. Otherwise, the employers can be sued and face penalties for allowing a hostile work environment to exist.

Work with an Experienced Employment Law Attorney

You should feel safe and productive at work. If inappropriate sexual comments and jokes are causing you to feel uncomfortable, it’s time to speak up. Let your employer know how you feel. If nothing changes or if you begin to face retaliation, it’s time to seek legal help.

Don’t continue to put up with the harassment. Discuss your case with one of the experienced New York City employment law attorneys at Ricotta & Marks, P.C. To schedule a consultation, contact our firm today at (347)-464-8694.


Ricotta Marks

Ricotta & Marks, P.C.

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