We Protect Workers

Can jokes be considered sexual harassment?

In the advent of the #MeToo movement, more industries than simply Hollywood have taken a good, hard look at how people treat female employees in the workplace. Many employers have invested in extra efforts to inform workers on what actions are considered sexual harassment.

There are still some gray areas, such as where jokes fall into all this. Many men do not see the harm in making an off-color joke at work. While some people may laugh it off, others may become uncomfortable. Ultimately, the workplace needs to be an area where everyone feels safe and supported. In many cases, the court will view a joke as sexual harassment.

Jokes put people in an awkward predicament

Women, especially in male-dominated industries, may laugh off a joke because they do not want to be perceived as difficult. The joke itself may not have been that bad, but the woman feels the need to compromise her morals to retain her position. She may worry the boss will not promote her because the employer wants someone who knows how to “play ball.” Women already have to navigate so much in the professional realm that a joke in poor taste simply becomes one more thing to deal with.

Sexual jokes often accompany other forms of harassment

Everyone at one point or another will make a joke that does not land. However, someone who aggressively makes sexual jokes in the office may also be guilty of committing other forms of harassment. The perpetrator may even feel emboldened to make more explicit jokes in the future because no one reprimanded him the first time. Any time obscene language enters the workplace, it is important to stop it immediately. A stern discussion is typically enough to show a person the error of his ways. Sexual jokes, cartoons and innuendo should never enter the workplace no matter how close everyone may be.