With the end of the year, many people find themselves at holiday parties, in the middle of festive moods, or excited for potential year-end bonuses.  However, this is also the time when many workers find some downtime to play jokes or pranks on one another.  While the vast majority of these jokes are good-spirited fun, some cross the line into harassment.

When Jokes Go Horribly Wrong

Law books are filled with stupid pranks that went horribly wrong (see Kriby v Lousivill & Nat’l Railroad in which a compressed air hose was used to blast a fellow employee…it did not end well).  When in doubt, avoid physical jokes.  While they are intended to be fun, they are usually a poor idea because of the chance that they injure someone.

What Type Of Jokes To Avoid

Any jokes that go towards a persons race, gender, sexual orientation, handicap, or other protected or physical characteristic is a clear no-no.  Also, any joke that could be interpreted as a threat is better left outside the workplace.  Additionally, while physical contact can lead to hilarity, it can also lead to lawsuits for harassment, battery, or assault.

What To Do If You Are Injured Or Feel Harassed By A Joke

If you are physically injured by a joke that goes wrong, the first thing you should do is to seek medical attention.  Next, regardless if you are injured or feel harassed, you should speak with your Human Resources department.  Make sure to document your claim in order to receive disability payments if you are seriously injured.  Additionally, keep in mind the reason for the prank or joke, it was probably not meant to harm you, so you should keep this in mind.  Seeking revenge is rarely a good idea, and the law generally looks upon acts of revenge with great disfavor.