Karen Jokes May be Evidence of a Hostile Work Environment
Another law firm has posted a warning for employers about “Karen jokes,” and thus provided information that may be helpful in persuading an employer to ban Karen-shaming jokes from the workplace. McKenna Storer advises that under Illinois law, “Karen jokes” could be construed as evidence of a hostile work environment—and not only for women named Karen. The use of “Karen jokes” could be construed as racist, sexist and ageist. “Allegations of the spreading of Karen memes or use of the phrase ‘OK, Karen’ may help establish employer liability under the Illinois Human Rights Act or even provide evidence to establish a hostile work environment under Title VII. ... As an employer, you should consider the types of humorous social media you post, repost, and distribute, as well as others you receive. You should also make clear to your employees that respect for each other is always expected and Karen jokes may be as offensive as jokes about African Americans, indigenous people, people of different abilities, etc.”
They comment, “Moreover, the memes may be construed to have an element of bullying. A common element of a Karen meme shows a woman who is in an emotional state. The viewer has no idea what actually precipitated the emotional outburst, but the subject is deemed a “Karen” on social media to be forever judged and repeated as a Karen joke. ... Anything that suggests an employer tolerates bullying or humor at another person’s distress is potentially damning evidence in a hearing.”
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