As I’ve done for other holidays (see prior posts here and here) , I was fully prepared today to warn of the dangers for employers of April Fools Day. Google, for example, has an announcement on a new way to communicate today.
But alas, in all of Westlaw, I could only find two cases in which employers found themselves in a little hot water as a result of an April Fools Day prank. Even then, the court dismissed both claims.
Back in 2006, in Monson v. N. Habilitative Services, Inc., A05-1102, 2006 WL 771919 (Minn. Ct. App. Mar. 28, 2006), an employee failed to prove her harassment case. Part of her evidence was a so-called " April Fools’ Day spoof", but the employee responded that the joke was "great".
And what was the "great" joke? The employee found a piece of wood instead of candy inside a candy bar wrapper that the alleged harasser left for her.
I guess you had to be there for that one.
Back in 1985, a racial harassment case (McKee v. SCM Corp., B-79-162, 1985 WL 325 (D. Md. Oct. 10, 1985)) also tried to bring April Fools Day into the mix. According to the court:
Another incident involved a so-called April Fools letter relating to an airblasters project. [The employee] wrote an in-house letter requesting information from Mr. Ron Cobb. Plaintiff dated the letter April 12, and asked that certain detailed technical information be supplied at the latest by April 13, the next day. The request was unreasonable, and Mr. Cobb was annoyed, sending back a sarcastic letter which bore the date April 1. [Another manager] later told [the employee] that his request for information on such short notice was inappropriate and that it merely alienated Mr. Cobb. Plaintiff took this criticism as once again being based on his race.
Needless to say, the Court was not impressed with this evidence and granted summary judgment to the employers.
So, it seems from the lack of caselaw that most people can take a joke today. And yet, I still keep hearing the words often said on Hill Street Blues: Let’s Be Careful Out There.