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When Office Jokes Cross the Line

On Behalf of | Mar 25, 2015 | Firm News

Office workplaces bring individuals together, forming friendships and bonds that often last for years. However, having the ability to distinguish between friendly and casual office conversation and jokes that are crossing the line is important to understand office etiquette at all times regardless of your position. Having a clear understanding of how to properly communicate in your office workplace is a way to avoid potential issues and conflicts with any colleagues you are working with in your building.

Racial Jokes and Comments

Overhearing racial jokes and comments is one form of harassment that should not be tolerated within the workplace. Whether the individual telling the joke is of the minority they are referring to it is likely they are offending another. Keeping racial jokes and comments to yourself is imperative when you are working together with others regardless of how much of a sense of humor those in your work group have with one another.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment occurs in many offices around the world for both men and women. When jokes begin crossing the line they often include sexual innuendos or even inappropriate touching. Sexual jokes and harassment are not permitted in professional workplaces and should be reported immediately to higher-ups and individuals who are working in human resources. Be sure to document times and dates of any harassment you have dealt with along with details of the assault. If you know someone in the workplace who is being sexually harassed it is essential to inform them of their rights while taking a stand with them. Ridding sexual harassment in the workplace is not always simple, especially when it is a boss or individual in charge committing the acts, which is why it is important to consider legal counsel.

Personal and Degrading Humor

Singling out an individual in the workplace to embarrass or harass them is never acceptable in an office workplace. When an individual is being singled out and harassed in front of others it is a clear violation of ethics in the workplace and is also known as bullying.

The more you know about inappropriate office jokes or commentary the easier it is to determine the right steps to take in order to keep your position without drawing too much attention to yourself professionally. Whether you have been harassed or if you witness harassment on the job it is important to know how you are protected and when to seek legal counsel if an issue arises.

Have you or a loved one been a victim of harassment? Call 312-332-6733 or contact us online today to speak with one of our dedicated attorneys.

My company does not have a rule about inter-office dating, but I was fired for dating a co-worker (he wasn’t fired)

To avoid sexual harassment issues and misunderstandings among employees, more companies are developing policies for interoffice dating. A well-written statement helps to clarify boundaries and expectations on what is considered to be acceptable behavior between colleagues within the same organization.

What if my company has no policy?

In the absence of this type of policy, or if it has not been widely distributed or explained, employees are likely to be uncertain about whether they are allowed to date coworkers. In such situations, it is usually a good idea to check with a supervisor or the personnel department. If employees assume that a relationship is acceptable and do not inquire about its appropriateness, they may end up breaching de facto protocol even if no written policy exists.

However, this does not mean that any rules have been broken, especially if pertinent rules do not exist or are not generally understood by all employees. If an employee knew that dating was unacceptable but continued to see a coworker anyway, that might constitute a breach of verbal policy. Typically, an employee’s unacceptable conduct should be discussed with a supervisor to clarify the problem. If the employee subsequently and knowingly continues to violate company standards or policies, disciplinary action may follow.

In the situation cited here, an employee explains that the office has no rule against interoffice dating. Therefore, when it was discovered that two coworkers were indeed in a social or dating relationship, one was fired, while the other was not. Without further details to explain why one person was let go and the other retained, it appears that discrimination or imbalanced discipline may have occurred. If both employees are in a dating relationship that the company frowns on, why was only employee terminated?

Getting all the details

Is there more to the story? For example, did the fired employee date several coworkers and receive a verbal warning without a written policy in place? If so, maybe that is the basis for termination. If not, the matter needs to be further explored to determine if discrimination occurred, and if so, why? If it turns out the fired employee was unjustly terminated, there may be recourse for being rehired or some type of compensation, based on the circumstances.

Contact one of our dedicated attorneys at Goldman & Ehrlich by phone 312-332-6733 or online today.

My boss fired me for not giving him a massage

When you are in the employ of another person, there are rules that keep that person from taking advantage of you in unscrupulous ways. Under no circumstances should you allow yourself to be demeaned in order to keep a job. If the above situation or anything like it applies to you, then you owe it to yourself to seek the right legal assistance immediately.

Your Financial Situation

Times are hard. If your boss is trying to use the leverage of rising costs of living and personal emergencies to your disadvantage, then you need to act. If your boss fires you because you have too much dignity to conform to unsettling demands, then your income will take an immediate hit. However, you should not be put out just because someone else is trying to use you! Understanding how the law protects you against this kind of dehumanization is the first step to protecting yourself from it.

You do not have to go broke just because you did not want to give your boss a sexual favor or any undue attention. As a matter of fact, you may be entitled to many damages beyond your salary or wage if the court finds your boss to be in violation of certain statutes. You will never know unless you know the law, and you have people who can argue the law convincingly on your side in the courtroom.

Your Personal Well-Being

There is a great deal of social stress that goes along with the evil behavior of a superior. You may be scared to tell anyone about the situation for fear of more social ramifications. You must first realize that someone else’s extreme behavior is hardly your fault. You did not bring this on yourself, no matter how your boss may try to spin the encounter.

The law can also help to provide for your personal well-being. Under the appropriate circumstances, you can receive compensation for the social embarrassment that you potentially face because of the loss of employment as well as the sexual misconduct of a former colleague. Do not hesitate. Get the legal help that you need today.