It is simple, sexual jokes do not belong in the workplace! They are not only “inappropriate,” they are sexual harassment. As soon as funny comments cross the line, it can begin to create a hostile and intimidating work environment. As a New York City employee, you have a right not to be exposed to any form of sexual teasing, lewd jokes or inappropriate comments; in fact, it’s illegal under the state and federal laws. Sexual jokes could become an easy pass to sexual harassment and unwanted sexual advances; therefore, your employer should neither condone nor encourage sexual jokes in the workplace. Unwelcome sexual jokes are plainly sexual harassment if they occur with such frequency or severity as to interrupt the victim’s ability to function properly in the workplace. The victim often feels pressured to “tag along” or “tolerate” or even participate in such behavior so as not to feel like he or she lacks a sense of humor or is incapable of taking “jokes”. Factually, these behaviors could be an attack on the employee’s gender identity or sexual orientation or even a hostile criticism of his or her sexual preference.
Examples Of Sexual Jokes That May Equate To Sexual Harassment Include:
- Turning work discussions to sexual topics;
- Graphic descriptions of sex acts;
- Giving personal details about sexual fantasies, preference, or history;
- Spreading rumors about a person’s sex life;
- Jokes containing sexual language and profanity;
- Sexual jokes or cartoons emailed to your work computer;
- Sexual innuendo or stories aimed at you;
- Sexual comments about a person’s body, clothing, or looks;
- “Gag” gifts such as sex toys and merchandise;
- Sex jokes told loudly for all to hear;
- Whistling or using cat calls, kissing or smacking sounds to get someone’s attention.
A single incident of sexual jokes or comments may not be actionable, but a pattern of incidents of harassing conducts in a workplace is certainly actionable. A situation that may likely pose a challenge in these cases is one where the victim at some point (maybe out of pressure) has forwarded like jokes that were sent to him or her or engaged in a chitchat that involved sexual or inappropriate jokes in the workplace in an effort to “belong”. The defense may likely also argue that other co-workers were not offended by the same jokes. Therefore, it is important to stare clear of participating in the said banter in the work place and also to document all incidents of what you perceived to be inappropriate sexual and harassing conduct.
You don’t need to laugh along just to belong, call our attorneys at DeToffol & Gittleman for your free and confidential consultation, contact us today at (212) 962-2220.