Dirty Jokes and Sexual Harassment

According to federal regulations and NJ Employment Attorneys, an employer cannot discriminate in the workplace on the ground of religion, race, national origin, and/or sex. With this in mind, it’s important to understand some of the responsibilities of an employer when it comes to sexual harassment and dirty jokes or vulgar language.

Does a dirty joke fit the bill for a sexual harassment charge?

In general, sexual harassment in the workplace has to be enough to create a hostile work environment due to the individual’s conduct (i.e. dirty joke). It has to be directed towards the claimant for it to have any validity in the court of law. Of course, there’s a lot more to the equation based on the underlying civility code, where not all sexual and/or profane language can be used to claim harassment.

Recent Cases

The best way to determine what’s allowed and what’s not is to look at recent cases on similar issues.

A case in Alabama look at vulgar language and whether it could be seen as sexual harassment. In this case, the claimant stated she was one of two women working in the shipping facility at the time and some of her male co-workers were creating a hostile work environment with their vulgar language. She stated this was an ongoing issue and was something she had complained about to her manager. In her eyes, most of the language was generalized vulgarity but there were moments where it had been gender-specific. However, at no stage was it directed towards her.

It’s important to look at the last point as it was one of the main reasons for it not being deemed as sexual harassment. The court stated if the harassment claim was legitimate, it would have been directed towards her. Since it was not, the vulgar language was more generalized and not used to harass.

Key Factors

It’s best to look into some of the key factors that pertain to any case of this nature especially with dirty jokes.

The court is going to take a look at a few things such as:

* Types of Profanity (i.e. Dirty Jokes)
* The Level of Hostility in the Workplace
* Intent to Discriminate Against Plaintiff(s)

Even in cases where all three boxes are ticked, it can still lead to inefficient results where the claimant doesn’t win.

Additional factors have also come into action in previous cases when it comes to vulgar language or dirty jokes.

These include:

* Use of Gender-Specific Jokes/Language
* Context of Vulgar Conduct
* Employer’s Response to Vulgar Conduct

All of these variables have a role to play in the grand scheme of things before the employer/employee can be convicted.

As in most situations when it pertains to the law, it is always going to come down to the case’s merits and how valid the claims are. It’s best to avoid dirty jokes in such settings for the betterment of all parties.

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