Emojis can be evidence in workplace discrimination complaints

A great number of Wisconsin employers engage in electronic communication with their employees. Emails and text messages are convenient and can provide documentation of past communications if it needed in the future. Oftentimes, people use emojis in their digital messages to save time, get laughs or communicate their thoughts more accurately. Although these tiny pictures are fun to use, they can cause big legal problems if an employee files a complaint.

The meaning behind certain emojis can sometimes reveal how seriously a supervisor is taking a complaint and what they plan to do about it. For example, one popular emoji features a picture of nails being painted. The emoji is often used to mean that a person ‘can’t be bothered” with a particular issue and painting their nails is more important. When the ‘nail painting” emoji accompanies the phrase ‘I’ll look into it,” the effect is sarcasm.

Another popular emoji that could cause problems for employers is the combination of a video game controller and a red circle with a cross through it. In ’emoji speak” this image combination implies the phrase ‘game over.” If a supervisor were to use these emojis in communications about terminating an employee for taking an extended maternity or paternity leave, the communication could be used as evidence in a discrimination lawsuit.

The Family and Medical Leave Act was created to ensure that parents can take some time off from work after having a baby. Employers are not allowed to discriminate against employees who assert their FMLA rights. A lawyer may be able to help an employee who was replaced while taking family leave to pursue compensation from their employer.


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