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Can you be fired for telling a joke?

Before you give a speech, odds are someone is going to tell you to open with a joke. This is one of the most common ways to start a speech because it helps to engage the audience and it helps you relax.

If you're doing this at work, be very careful. You definitely could be fired for telling an off-color joke that is deemed to be inappropriate. This is especially true if the joke targets a specific person in the workplace, but it also happen if the joke can be viewed in a negative light by a specific group—if the joke is deemed to have racist undertones, for example.

The problem is that this can be looked at as a way to create a poor work environment. It could alienate people of a specific race, gender or age.

Typically speaking, experts advise you to err on the side of caution. Even if you don't think the joke is offensive, assume that someone else may be offended by it. Try to choose a joke with no risk at all, even if it's not as funny.

Another tactic that can be used is to choose self-depreciating jokes. In other words, pick a joke that makes fun of you and you alone. People will often still think these are very funny, and, as long as they're only being told at your own expense, no one is going to be offended and your job is not at risk.

If you are being fired for telling a joke and you think it's unfair, make sure you know what legal rights you have in Michigan.

Source: Quick and Dirty Tips, "Jokes Can Get You Fired - No Kidding!," Lisa B. Marshall, accessed May 05, 2016

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