Q. A more senior employee was recently passed over for a promotion because a newer employee is clearly more qualified. Now that this person is the boss, the more senior employee has filed several petty complaints against her. Although we are aware that these complaints are completely invalid, as the HR department we have to take them seriously. But it is a shame for the new supervisor to have the complaints piling up in her file. Is this considered harassment?
A. Harassment, in the legal sense, means harassed because of some protected characteristic, like gender or race. It doesn’t sound like that is what's going on here; it seems like the more senior employee has “sour grapes” and is just trying to make life tough for the new supervisor.
That type of harassment is usually not illegal (although it could be viewed as “intentional infliction of emotional distress”), but if the complaints seem to be made in bad faith, you could discipline the more senior employee for making them. Also, if you find the complaints to be unfounded, that fact should be noted in both employees’ files.
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