Can you believe “Emojis” are now entering the harassment and discrimination workplace litigation lawsuit arena! Logically, emojis are a form of communication, and work is all about communication. Which would suggest that we would start seeing them in harassment and discrimination cases. And now we have in federal discrimination cases.
While harassment cases dominate these filings, it’s not just employees who are using 🍆 to establish a hostile work environment. Employers are using employees’ use of emojis to respond to alleged acts of harassment (such as 😄, or 😉, or 😉) to help establish that the alleged hostile work environment was either welcomed or subjectively not offensive.
For example, in one case the court held that the plaintiff’s use of a smiley face emoji in a text message to her accused harasser helped establish an absence of a hostile work environment. In other case these emojis were at issue: 😉 😘 and 😉; and (😊).
Honestly, there is another side of the coin. You might have heard when celebrity Chef Michael Isabella was sued for sexual harassment. In his case he referred to an attractive female customer as “corn” afterwards’ one of his chef’s commented that one woman was “so hot, he’d eat the corn out of her s—.” The lawsuit alleged further acts of harassment via text messages with corn emojis 🌽. This was obviously way out of line.
The question that arises is whether or not employers now need a policy against the use of emojis in the workplace in any form of communication. Emails, text messages or any other form would be the concern. My opinion, at this time, is “not really.” My reasoning is simple because most employers already have such a policy under their “harassment” policy. You do not need a separate policy to forbid your employees from using what is becoming an acceptable form of communication.…
We can still have a healthy debate over the professionalism of emoji use in business communications but a common sense attitude should be all that it takes. There are surveys out there that have stated nearly half (41%) of workers use emojis in professional communications. And among the senior managers polled, 61% said its fine, at least in some situations. My sense is that your view of this issue will depend on a combination of your age, and your comfort level with technology.
As for me, I use emoji all the time, even at work. Email is notoriously tone deaf. It’s easier for me to drop a 😊 into an email or text message to convey an easy response. Especially when I am driving! Just kidding! In other words, 😁. Emojis are 👌, and it’s perfectly fine to ❤ them at work 👍.