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The fine line between humor and harassment in Passaic County

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in Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

How do you know where to draw the line between workplace humor and harassment? The answer: You don’t get to make that choice.

Harassment, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. And it begins when somebody decides they’ve had enough of the “jokes.”

The Passaic County Sheriff’s Department is wrestling with that issue right now as a former corrections officer alleges he endured more than a year of slurs and harassment. Fellow jail staff posted doctored photos of the employee’s face superimposed over a picture of Osama bin Laden. Another showed the officer’s head pasted onto the body of a camel, wearing a turban.

Sheriff’s spokesman Bill Maer said the officer was fired for poor performance. He also said the employee willingly participated in the photo-doctoring pranks. “He never complained before,” Maer said. “He was part of the joke, but this will not be tolerated from now on.”

The department issued two new policies following the complaints, banning employees from posting any materials or using department resources “for any other objective, even good-natured comic relief.”  

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