Some comments that are made in the workplace are clearly discriminatory. If a supervisor says that you have to take on a task that no one else wants because that’s what people of your race are supposed to do, that’s not only highly offensive, but it’s also clearly racial discrimination.
In many situations, though, the person making the offensive comment will claim that whatever they said was “just a joke.” They’ll say that you’re taking their comments too seriously or that you just didn’t get the joke. They may even say that your poor sense of humor is really the problem. Are these alleged jokes still evidence of discrimination?
An off-color joke at work can absolutely cross the line
It is certainly true that off-color jokes could count as harassment. When you’re the butt of a “joke” based on something like your race, gender, religion or age, that’s definitely discrimination. Claiming you didn’t get the joke or just have no sense of humor is gaslighting, a method of making the victim of harassment think they can’t trust their own perceptions.
If you miss out on a promotion as a female worker, for instance, and then someone says something like, “We only promote men around here,” they may say it with a wink and claim they were “just kidding,” but their words may accurately portray exactly the reason you didn’t get the promotion.
What are your options if you have experienced workplace discrimination?
Workplace harassment and discrimination are never okay, whether the words you are hearing are said with a wink and a smile or a sneer.
It’s unfair to face these challenges in the workplace, but these situations do still happen. If it happens to you, you need to know about all of the legal options you have to address the situation. An attorney can help you understand more.