While some social media jokes or memes that go “viral” may be harmless fun, others have the potential to perpetuate racism, sexism, ageism or other forms of discrimination. When employers allow that sort of harmful activity to occur in their workplaces, they are potentially allowing for the creation or exacerbation of a hostile work environment. If you’ve been forced to endure a stream of jokes, insults and other comments due to your age, race, sex, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or military status, then you may have been the victim of illegal discrimination and may be entitled to a significant sum in compensation. Contact an experienced New Jersey age discrimination lawyer to find out more.
The latest potentially problematic viral phrase to emerge into popularity is “OK Boomer.” The phrase, which is a reference to people of the “Baby Boom” generation, is intended to poke fun at anyone saying something that is considered outdated or out-of-touch, and has received coverage from sources including the New York Times. It has even reached into the Star Wars universe, with one popular online picture showing Baby Yoda using “OK Boomer” as a snarky comeback to Yoda.
What may be funny when it involves Yoda catching flak from Baby Yoda may be less so when it involves you doing your job. An “OK Boomer“ jab at work potentially indicates that the speaker is saying you are less skillful and less competent at your job simply due to your age. Federal law protects workers who are age 40 or older from age discrimination, meaning that a hostile work environment that includes “OK Boomer” jokes/comments could lead to a potentially successful federal case.
Workers (and employers) in New Jersey should be careful to note that the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination protects both old and young workers from age discrimination. So, for younger Millennial and Generation Z workers who find themselves on the receiving end of a string of “Snowflake” jeers and jokes, be aware that state age discrimination law possibly can give you an avenue for seeking relief, too.
So, what does a hostile work environment based on age look like?
First, it is useful to know what it doesn’t look like. It probably does not involve just one isolated joke or comment. Just a single “OK Boomer” or “Snowflake” meme picture in your email potentially isn’t enough to establish that your work environment met the discrimination law’s standard for “hostile.”
On the flip side, a single incident can be adequate proof of a hostile work environment if it was truly outrageous. This can come up in any type of discrimination case, but has recently been discussed by the courts in race discrimination cases. (For example, in a race discrimination case, just a single use of a noose or utterance of the “N-word” at work may be sufficient to establish a hostile work environment and a winning case.)
Often, though, these kinds of bias-revealing jokes or comments do not happen in isolation. If there was one “OK Boomer” joke, there was probably also a number of “gramps” and/or “old fart” comments and “older than dirt” or gravestone jokes. If these jokes and comments happened with frequency, especially if they continued after you took steps designed to make them stop, then they might potentially be enough to amount collectively to a hostile work environment.
If you have been the target of inappropriate comments or jokes at your job based on your age, race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or some other protected characteristic, then you may be entitled to recover significant compensation. Reach out to the knowledgeable New Jersey age discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates for the representation you need. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation and to find out how our experienced attorneys can help you.