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Shawn Oller

Robert S. Reder

Christopher D. Soto

Susan Wissink



“Many a workplace joke began with some variation of the following set-up: A member of a particular religion, a member of a particular race, and a member of another religion or race walk into a bar …” says Christopher D. Soto, founder of Soto Law Firm. “The punchline to such a joke invariably insulted or played upon religious or racial stereotypes. While in isolation a joke of this type may not create employer liability, if this type of humor is prevalent, it can become a strong contributing factor in determining whether an employer has permitted a hostile workplace environment.”

“Practical jokes used to be prevalent in the workplace,” Johnson says. “Coworkers went to great lengths to top one another’s pranks. Whether it was putting lunch leftovers in a traveling colleague’s desk drawer, hiding office supplies, or temporarily altering office artwork, this type of conduct was far more common at work ten or twenty years ago than it is today. Millennials seem to be particularly prank-averse and unamused by such conduct. Not only can practical jokes be harmful to productivity and morale, but they can also create major headaches for employers when they rise to the level of bullying or harassment. One step too far over the line can be costly. Therefore, perhaps it is best to save the April Fool’s Day tricks for your family and friends.”


Here’s what employers should do to make sure their employees aren’t creating legal issues for the company: Lindsay Fiore, partner at Quarles & Brady: “Training, training, and more training. Have I mentioned training? Employers should have clear written policies that set appropriate expectations for the workplace, including antidiscrimination and anti-harassment policies and policies outlining employees’ options for reporting concerns. Going a step further and training staff on how those policies apply practically in the workplace is key. Effective training should explain the relevant policies, offer real-world examples of policy violations, discuss challenging situations and how to respond to those situations, and provide employees with an opportunity to ask questions.” Emily Johnson, associate at DLA Piper: “The key to staying out of legal hot water and ensuring that employees are not creating legal issues stems from company culture. In addition


AB | May - June 2019

to making certain that handbooks, policies, and training are legally compliant (and effective), employers should take a hard look at workplace culture. Are there proactive and deliberate attempts to make it inclusive? Employers should also recognize that implicit bias exists in everyone and should educate employees about this. Additionally, emphasize the importance of workplace empathy. Consider sensitivity training that can increase awareness of how words and actions can impact others.” Robert S. Reder, managing partner, Blythe Grace: “Employers should create codes of conduct that apply to everyone in the workplace. That code should be set forth in a formal policy contained in an employee handbook. Of course, every employer should consider purchasing EPLI insurance to insulate them against employee claims.”

Profile for AZ Big Media

AZBusiness May/June 2019  

In this issue, we spotlight the healthcare leaders and innovators of 2019 and profile the finalists for the Industry Leaders of Arizona Awar...

AZBusiness May/June 2019  

In this issue, we spotlight the healthcare leaders and innovators of 2019 and profile the finalists for the Industry Leaders of Arizona Awar...