I thought I'd share with everyone Mark Toth's (from the Manpower Employment Blawg) excellent thoughts on how not to get sued on April Fools' Day:
Done right, workplace humor can be a great thing for employee morale. Done wrong, it can be a disaster.
The idea is not to prohibit all workplace fun, jokes and pranks but rather to (1) help employees know where the line is and (2) take appropriate action if the line is crossed.
Here's a simple solution: consider adopting a policy prohibiting "potentially unwelcome, offensive or harmful workplace jokes or pranks." Enforcing such a policy should be fairly straightforward. Pranks that involve any of the following should never be allowed:
- race, gender or other protected or physical characteristic
- physical contact, including ingestion of unwelcome odors or substances
- weapons (even toy ones) or other potentially dangerous objects/substances
- damage to property or a person's reputation
- interference with a person's ability to do his/her job
If a joke/prank crosses the line, strongly consider taking disciplinary action.
Consider this -- what about a prank that involves putting a co-worker's stapler in jello?