Labor Law: Never act foolishly at work, even on April 1. 2023

This year, April 1, April Fools’ Day, occurs on a Saturday, but that doesn’t mean that many employees won’t have the opportunity to do something silly at work that may get them fired or jailed.

According to Merriam-Webster, April Fools’ Day is “often characterized by the playing of practical pranks.”

The definition of a practical joke is “a prank designed to fool, humiliate, or cause bodily discomfort.”

The workplace is not the place to engage in behavior meant to fool, humiliate, or cause bodily discomfort to another person, yet too many individuals feel emboldened to pull pranks on their coworkers.

On April 1, 2014, Angela Timmons, while working at a college in Spartanburg, South Carolina, pranked her daughter by texting her and claiming to have heard gunshots on campus and that she was hiding. Her out-of-town daughter was unable to reach her mother and thus phoned the police. More than a dozen cops arrived to the scene, but no active shooter was discovered.

Timmons informed officers, according to the police report, that “she sent the SMS as an April Fools’ prank and that she has done similar jokes on April 1st in the past.”

Timmons was arrested and accused with many charges, including disturbance of the peace.

Even outside of April 1, staff frequently indulge in pranks and horseplay.

In 2004, Tennie Pierce was a Los Angeles fireman with 17 years of service and a strong sense of loyalty to the department. Los Angeles Times said that Pierce’s friends “added dog chow into his pasta in an attempt to ‘humiliate’ him” after Pierce called himself “Big Dog” during a volleyball match. According to the Los Angeles Times, Pierce said that this happened to him because he was black, despite the fact that Pierce himself was suspected of participating in “hazing” practices.

Pierce was compensated $1,500,000 to resolve a dispute.

Tiger Woods had to issue an apology in February after his prank with Justin Thomas went viral. As a joke over Thomas’ performance on the ninth hole of a tournament, he offered Thomas a tampon to signify that Thomas was playing like a female.

When asked about it after video went viral, Woods stated that it was “intended to be, you know, all fun and games, but clearly it hasn’t turned out that way.” He added it was simply “friends having fun” and apologized if anyone was upset. He said, “We frequently pull pranks on one another, but it didn’t come across that way online.”

On April 1 or any other day, coworkers should not engage in behavior intended to humiliate or disgrace one another in the workplace. While everyone is laughing, the situation may appear to be agreeable, yet it only takes one person to cross the boundary to generate significant issues.

And I assure you, you have no idea where that line is.

The greatest recommendation is to strictly forbid any behavior that demoralizes, humiliates, or embarrasses an employee. Any physical contact should also be prohibited. For instance, someone placed a “kick me” sign on the back of an employee, who was then kicked.

Companies should enforce a courteous and civil workplace 365 days a year. Hoaxes and pranks are antithetical to politeness.

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