Employees offer an array of creative excuses when trying
to defend their actions in what is known as a hostile work
environment harassment case.
Here is excuse #7 of the top 10 excuses:
“It’s Who We Are.”
This is a common defense from individuals of the same
gender, ethnic background, sexual orientation, age,
religion, peer group, etc.
The response goes something like this, “How can I harass
him about being Jewish when I’m Jewish myself?”
HR CONTRARIAN POINTER: As noted in Bogus Harassment Excuse
#1, the effect on another person of words, actions,
pictures, etc. can be the basis of a harassment claim.
The common identity of the parties is not a defense. As
such, whether I and the person that I’m “making fun of” or
“making a joke about” both identify with a particular
group or category is immaterial.
From an employer’s perspective, there is a variation of
this excuse in the form of “But I’m making fun of myself.”
This has to do with the person who tells jokes about
his/her ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc. It
sounds like “harmless fun” because the person him/herself
is the object of the humor. However, the effect of the
humor on other members of that group can create a lawsuit.
As employers, we need to have our antennae up at all times
to ensure that the work environment that we are legally
responsible for is as politically correct as possible.
Otherwise, get out your checkbook!