It seems everybody’s a comedian at the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), where off-color e-mails have been flying. Unfortunately for ODOT, not everyone in the audience is laughing.
One incident involved an equal employment opportunity officer in the department’s Lima office, who sent an e-mail to a number of ODOT employees featuring a picture of a woman with large breasts and a caption suggesting hiring an applicant if her breasts “touch the wall and her nose doesn’t.”
The officer said he thought others would find it funny.
A second employee in labor relations e-mailed ODOT co-workers 13 pages of cartoons—some depicting female nudity—making fun of Hispanics, overweight people and women.
Both employees were investigated because of complaints from co-workers who didn’t find them funny, and both received written reprimands.
Final note: While you can’t always control what employees do with their time, the courts will hold you entirely responsible for how you react after someone complains. A swift, decisive response can make or break a hostile environment claim. Update your e-mail and communications policy to clarify—no jokes, no matter how funny they may seem to the sender.