THE LEGAL CORNER BY BRENDA D. PRYOR, ESQ.

By Brenda D. Pryor, Esq.

By Brenda D. Pryor, Esq.

“When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong” – Communications in the Modern Workplace

Dear Union Sisters & Brothers,

I am writing to you today regarding an issue that seems to be happening more and more frequently – people being disciplined and even terminated for comments they thought were acceptable for the workplace.  While I will acknowledge that it seems like times have changed due to the advent of social media and other technologies that lend themselves to informality, this is not always the case in the workplace.  Please take note of the following:

 

  • Respect your supervisor/employer – it’s not unreasonable to want to gripe about your boss and your job; it’s human nature. However, you must do this on your own time, and preferably with people who do not work at your College.  The problem is when remarks you make that are meant to simply vent your feelings are misinterpreted as actual insubordination, issuing a threat, calling for an illegal job action, or time theft due to sharing personal feelings while you’re supposed to be working.
  •  Jokes aren’t funny – there are hundreds of stand-up comedians for a reason: people have differing ideas of what is funny. In that vein, you must adopt the idea of what’s funny to you may not be funny to someone else and could upset the hearer of the joke. It also seems to be a trend that people try to get away with actual insults by adding “ha ha” or “jk” to said insult. Rarely is anyone fooled by this, so stop with the “jokes,” please.
  • Offensive & Profane – this should go without saying, but you should refrain entirely from making any statement that implicates a race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. in a negative way. Administrations are concerned about liability from the recipient of said comment – they can be sued if it seems like they endorse offensive views – so they can/will/must deal harshly with offenders to protect their own bottom line.  The same can be said about statements (verbally of written) that include profanity, as many epithets are words that also indicate animus towards certain types of people, sexual acts, or bodily functions; references to which have no place at work.
  • I cannot believe you wrote that down – all of the above advice is even truer if written. Sending unpleasant, non-work related communications via electronic or mobile devices can be considered an additional offense, on top of what was communicated.  This can and will be used against you in a hearing and defending you becomes more difficult, if not impossible, if there is undeniable proof of a lack of verbal decorum

Discipline for infractions in this realm can be harsh, i.e. “up to and including termination.”  This has happened and will continue to happen if you don’t heed this advice.