A coworker of mine has recently made a series of jokes in poor taste regarding rape - an excerpt, verbatim: "It's always the right time for a rape joke" all outside of the office/work hours. He's smart enough to know that there are certain lines he can't cross when he's at work, so he usually doesn't make inappropriate comments during work hours, but that doesn't seem to mean that he actually understands why he shouldn't make those comments.

I've called him out a little over a year ago for posting a comic that inferred rape on a company-wide slack channel, and at that time, I didn't bring it up to the level of HR mediation. His response was that I didn't know how to take a joke, and it's only when another male coworker confirmed that it was inappropriate that he took it down (I'm female). Since then, he hasn't made rape-related jokes during work hours, or at the office.

He was more in check when he initially started at our company, but as he's approaching his second anniversary, he's showing more of his colors.

Typically, his conduct comes off as passive-aggressively sexist (frequently dismissing opinions from female coworkers whereas he doesn't with male coworkers, even if their opinion turns out to be wrong), and I'm wondering if all of this is stemming from the fact that he lacks respect for women.

As these are more or less private comments he made outside of work hours, reporting it feels like I'm infringing on his privacy, but privacy isn't a clause that exonerates people from criminal activity or hate speech. He knowingly made rape jokes outside of work hours understanding the boundaries so I could take solace in knowing he won't say it at work, but I don't want to work with someone who thinks violence of any nature is comical.

Should I raise this as a flag with HR?

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    Why do you spend time with someone clearly unpleasant outside office hours? Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 7:51
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    rape jokes aside. frequently dismissing opinions from female coworkers whereas he doesn't with male coworkers, even if their opinion turns out to be wrong - This is the real issue you should consider raising with HR Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 8:43
  • but privacy isn't a clause that exonerates people from criminal activity or hate speech Are you implying that his behavior falls under the category of criminal activity or hate speech? I'm not writing this comment to argue whether you're right or wrong, simply to validate something you seem to be implying, or instead possibly misphrased.
    – Flater
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 10:23
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    Is this behaviour presenting itself in a 'works outing' setting, or is it a few colleagues who are friends meeting up for drinks, and you just happen to be there?
    – Smock
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 11:22
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    Related, possibly duplicate: Offensive language/behavior from co-worker in online game
    – rath
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 11:34

5 Answers 5


Should I raise this as a flag with HR?

That would be highly inappropriate.

Provided of course he was in a private setting, away from his work and not in any professional capacity related to his employer.

If you saw him "steal candy from a baby" would you alert HR or the police and the parents, maybe even interfere personally ?

What people do as private citizens is unrelated to their employment and the employer has no control over them or responsibilities regarding their individual actions.

If you find his private behavior or opinions distasteful you're free not to socialise with him.

If he breaks the law you should / must report it to authorities.

  • Comparing making rape joke to "stealing a candy from a baby" is like comparing oranges to apples, but this at least makes more sense to me. Thanks. Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 5:20
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    @Notsurewhattodo huh? I wasn't comparing them. What makes this your first reaction to everything I wrote btw.?! If anything, it was a hyperbole to compare his "activity" to a "crime" (theft) and what you would do! A tongue in cheek, dare I say humerous example none the less, using the proverbial "stealing candy from a baby". If it is a crime to tell the jokes he did in your country, report it to authorities, if not, deal with him your way but don't involve the company was all I said. You're welcome, I'm glad if I could offer help. Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 5:29
  • I appreciate your "hyperbole", and it is kind of a funny example. It's not a crime in Canada to make rape jokes, and I'm not sure if it counts as a part of hate speech either. That's precisely why this is a troublesome issue. The company I work for is still pretty small, and we have a great culture. As we grow, it's harder to get to know everyone, and when someone starts exuding toxic behaviour like joking about rape, it's difficult to know where to draw the line. The company is the only party that will be concerned, and as solarflare and I've agreed, I'll only do so if there are others. Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 5:38
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    @Notsurewhattodo I have similar issues like you determining if rape jokes are acceptable.We need to keep in mind that humour is also a coping mechanism and often,the more heinous the crime the more some use jokes as an escape to lessen the impact and circumstances while actually not undermining the severity of the actual event or action.I agree,I don't think it's hate speech,that is something very different.Just an observation but I try to keep away from getting sucked into todays political correctness craze and the accompanying lingo,instead ask for ethics.I wouldn't characterize it as toxic. Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 6:10
  • Since we're entering the realm of hyperbole; I wonder if you can make your point across by other means. Perhaps every time he comes up with a rape joke, you could come up with a joke that makes him equally uncomfortable? Maybe a male-rape joke, or a castration joke? Make him feel what it's like to be on the receiving end. All outside of office hours, of course.
    – Yury
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 8:55

If this person offends you feel free to not hang out with them. Other than that everything else you said is highly subjective and can not be proven. It seems you are just looking for reasons to complain against this person so everything they do/say offends you. If you take this to HR the only flag raised will be against your name as a trouble maker. If this guy is doing his job and behaving himself at work there is not much more you can do.

Unless of course he's making these rape jokes in a way that can bring the company disrepute, then that is a different matter.

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    I said bring disrepute to the company. Is he making the jokes wearing the company uniform or just as a private citizen. Just because he's being a lousy human being in his private life doesn't mean he is bringing the company into disrepute.
    – solarflare
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 4:39
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    You missed my point. A company sweater or name tag or whatever can all mean he is representing the company. Same if you're on facebook. It is enough for people to know where you work that you could be seen as representing the company views. Uniform was just figure of speech. Also everyone knew where Weinstein worked and he did those things to business associates so yeah its a different scenario. You already have your mind made up so arguing here over semantics is pointless. Go to HR, make demands, nothing will happen and you'll probably be labelled the trouble maker.
    – solarflare
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 4:59
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    Thanks for the advice. I have been actively not spending personal time around him, but when we go out as a group, it's inevitable. I'll ask the others who were there that night if they felt uncomfortable that day, and if they all agree, I'll raise it. Otherwise, I'll keep this to myself. Sorry it got heated there for a second, but glad that we could see eye-to-eye. Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 5:25
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    @Notsurewhattodo To accuse Solarflare of jumping to conclusions is a bit rich - perhaps you need to re-read the comments and your responses...
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 6:56
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    @Notsurewhattodo: In response to the Weinstein likening: Weinstein committed a crime, and used the platform of his job (being able to professionally benefit/damage his victim) to do so. Your colleague made a joke in bad taste, which is not a crime, nor is he doing so because he is your coworker. You are trying to pass judgment on and punish someone for their character and actions outside of company hours (and location), and your sole justification for being able to do so it that at other times of day, he is your coworker. This is nothing like the Weinstein case.
    – Flater
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 10:30

As these are more or less private comments he made outside of work hours, reporting it feels like I'm infringing on his privacy,

It depends a lot on what "more or less" means.

  • if you went on a dinner with him alone and it was clear that this was a more private event between you and him, fine, just don't go out with him again.

  • If this was a dinner after a company event (e.g. after a day at a conference) when there were other employees or customers present (but not necessarily listening and not necessarily on your paid time), it is a clear-cut case for HR/Your manager/team lead. I (as a team lead) personally apologized for much smaller transgressions of colleagues towards female colleagues on behalf of the company after discussing it with my manager.

  • if it is a social night of your team without any official event before, then it is a little tricky. However, it it is a regular team thing with many team members regularly present, probably also a case for Manager/HR

For me the rationale behind this is: in the moment when the female employee has the choice between tolerating an unacceptable joke or doing her/his job worse or socialize less with the team in events where a significant part of the team is present as a part of the team, it becomes an issue for the company. Abusing team events, even if informal ones, to pull the dick verbally out of the pants is not acceptable. Especially if it includes joking about rape, which may actually intimidate female co-workers (independent if they were victims or not) when working with the person in question beyond that event. Even if this is just a joke, I would not want that any woman in my team has to wonder if it is safe to travel home or work late alone with the person in question, since this lack of feeling safe may create cost, obstacles in organizing and doing the work. So if a person, by violating social norms inside the team, creates obstacles to getting work done he/she works against the interests of the employer.

That is an issue for HR, especially if it is an repeated offender.


I would like to make a distinction here between "outside work hours" and "outside work". You don't explicitly say when he behaves the way he does, although some answers assume that this is during socializing.

Essentially, a person is "at work" whenever they are acting in their capacity as an employee of said company. For example, this may include, while working early/late voluntarily, while they are travelling for business, while making a business transaction, while on a business lunch etc.

If he says something sexist or makes rape jokes while he is "at work", it is absolutely the domain of company HR. If he does it, however, when you are explicitly socializing (i.e. Not interacting as employees), that is beyond HR's domain.

You do mention, however, that he is generally sexist in his behavior, even while at work. This is the domain of HR, but is difficult to prove. If you want to really pursue this, I suggest that you keep a record of all such instances, along with any objective proof and potential witnesses. Once you have enough, you may choose to either confront him or approach HR as necessary.


Absolutely complain to HR. That person is your co-worker 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can’t separate social interactions between work time and outside work time.

And it seems the kind of “jokes” he makes (which are not jokes, only bullies pretend they are) give you the right to do anything you can to stop him. Including going to HR.

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    Given this day and age it took me a couple of reads to be confident that you were being sarcastic.
    – Jim Clay
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 18:52
  • @Jim Seriously? If this is meant sarcastically, it is not funny. Some of the comments and answers in this thread are a new low for the workplace. I really liked reading here so far, but this: no. (apart from that, I do not agree "anything" should be done. This is not a good answer in any case.)
    – kedavle
    Commented Aug 12, 2022 at 5:41

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