I will own my HR “party pooper” hat today. To keep it thematic, the color of this hat is an appropriate shade of green.
Today, I heard someone say they did not want to be pinched for not wearing green. This was followed by someone sharing they are wearing a “kiss me, I’m Irish” shirt to work. I don’t know what it says about me, but my mind immediately went to “Oh no! I hope we don’t have harassment claims today!”
As an HR practitioner, it’s not that I want to stop all the fun; it’s that innocuous things are funny until they are not. That is one of the many reasons I have job security. These presumably inoffensive traditions could escalate to claims of harassment or even assault. I mean, if someone literally pinched me at work because I am not wearing green today (I am not; I forgot), there is no telling how I might respond! I can only imagine how my day would go of an employee came to me with that sort of complaint.
I wondered if these things actually happen. I’ve never experienced this (but the day is young!) Without the help of ChatGPT, I asked some peers and searched the web. I am happy to report most of my HR peers have not experienced these types of claims either. However, there were some interesting coins at the end of the search rainbow.
This meme says “It’s not Sexual Harassment if I pinch you on St. Patrick’s Day”. My unsolicited advice is to NOT use this as a defense.
Mike Russell had the same question as me in his article Pinching on St. Patrick’s Day is a tradition best left on the playground. He wonders: “…how much trouble someone at work could get into for handing down this punishment at the office.”
He spoke with a legal analyst and one of the responses is it could lead to a charge of assault since “Assault is defined legally as ‘knowingly touching another person with the intent to injure, insult or provoke such person.’”
The article goes on to say that it could bring harassment claims as well.
My favorite line from the article is:
The bottom line is that it is best to just keep your hands to yourself at the office.
This is life advice.
For my sake, and the sake of all HR practitioners out there, please follow it. All I want to do is leave timely for lunch and pick up an artificially green milkshake to get the weekend started.
Have you seen these issues in your workplace?