How Far is Too Far When it Comes to Making Jokes in the Office?

A rabbi, a priest and a kangaroo walk into a bar…

Nothing brightens up a slow day at the office than a little banter between co-workers. Whether it’s in the lunchroom, bathroom or across the room cubicle to cubicle, jokes – even off-color jokes – have become commonplace in the workplace. However, even when you are J/K (just kidding), you can get in serious trouble for making any comments that can be interpreted by co-workers as defamatory or discriminatory.

Most people know that employment discrimination laws prohibit the boss from hiring, firing or promoting someone because of the color of their skin, religion, gender or sexual orientation. However, it’s less understood that employees who are subjected to comments, jokes workplace bullying and criticisms, whether aimed at them or another person, have recourse in the workplace. In other words, if someone you work with, a co-worker, supervisor, even an outside courier or consultant, makes a comment or gesture that you find offensive, you may be able to file a discrimination claim against them for workplace bullying.

Off color jokes are funny to many because people realize they are usually made in jest. However, the concept of “derogatory language” refers to anything that may demean someone or make them feel that their value has been lessened by the comment.
Be careful! Even when you think someone is laughing with you, they may be simply covering up their disdain for the conversation.

The nuance to remember is this: even if you overhear comments you find distasteful, you don’t have to be subjected to it. It doesn’t have to be about you. Take care to treat others as you want to be treated in the workplace. When you think about it, a joke may be funny but when it hits too close to home, it doesn’t feel great.

If you feel you have been discriminated against or are tired of defamatory comments by your boss or someone else in the workplace, you don’t have to stand for it! Contact the employment discrimination lawyers at Garland & Mason, L.L.C. by calling (732) 358-2028. We know that jokes in poor taste are no laughing matter.



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