HR's hottest must-have: universal workplace emoji!

An article in Monday's New York Post discussed misunderstandings that can arise in the workplace based on use of "chat" apps and their associated emoji. A woman interviewed forEmoji.flickrCC.WickerParadise the article said that she had messaged her co-workers that she would be late for a meeting, and her boss replied with emoji of a "poop" (am I allowed to use that word on this blog?) and a clock.

She was like, what?

She then messaged her co-worker to find out whether the boss was mad at her, and the co-worker replied, "Don't worry," followed by three banana emoji.

More confused than ever, the employee had to finally talk (the horror!) to the people involved to find out what the heck they meant. The boss's text was meant to demonstrate "bad timing." (I suspect his first choice of emoji was intended to represent a more colorful adjective than "bad.") The three bananas meant that everyone at the office at that moment was "going bananas."

If workplace communication through emoji is the next big thing, then employment lawyers on both sides are in for a bonanza. Using this particular woman as our example, she could claim that her boss's use of the "poop" emoji was bullying and created a hostile work environment, and who's to say it wasn't because of her membership in a legally protected group? Or that his sending her a picture of excrement was not extreme and outrageous, intended to cause and in fact causing, severe emotional distress? The co-worker's three bananas could also have been interpreted in an obscene manner, which -- coupled with the boss's emoji -- might satisfy the "pervasive" element of a hostile work environment claim.

Remember. You read it here first.

All of which got me to thinking . . . we really need some "universal" workplace emoji to prevent misunderstandings and litigation. Sort of like we do with the universal symbols for "bathroom," "no smoking," and my personal favorite, "bar."

Bar symbol
After all, it IS Friday . . .

Here are some ideas to get us started, using my plain old iMessaging emoji.

For performance reviews:

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 4.23.45 PM
Exceeds expectations

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 4.24.42 PM
Fully meets expectations

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 4.25.46 PM
Needs Improvement

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 4.29.45 PM
You're fired

For sexual harassment complaints:

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 4.32.15 PM
Harassment that involves touching

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 4.32.55 PM
Harassment that does not involve touching

For substance abuse:

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 4.36.15 PM
Drinking on the job

Falsification of company records:

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 4.37.58 PM

Request for FMLA leave:

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 5.16.12 PM

Seventy-seven cents on the dollar:

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 4.44.00 PM
Glass is half full. (Sorry - it was the best I could do.)

Off-clock work:

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 4.49.16 PM
(Clock is stopped while employee keeps on working.)

"You'll be hearing from my lawyer!":

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 4.51.47 PM
See you in court!

This could be my greatest business idea since HR Horribles (collect 'em all!)!

Now you know why I had to go to law school.

Image Credits: Emoji pillows from flickr, Creative Commons license, by Wicker Paradise. Universal symbol for "bar" from AIGA, the professional association for design. The rest were screen shots by me.

Robin Shea has 30 years' experience in employment litigation, including Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (including the Amendments Act). 
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