Hypersensitive employee? What’s hostile depends on objective analysis

Some employees seem overly ­sen­sitive to criticism, slights or other normal workplace problems that crop up anytime you have a group of people working in the same place. Don’t worry too much if a sensitive soul finds the workplace unpleasant.

Absent tangible, objective evidence that an environment is truly hostile, her lawsuit won’t go far.

Recent case: Hannah worked in the mental health field, educating clients on managing their conditions and recovering from addictions and other related problems. She apparently suffered from anxiety ­herself and often took offense to comments co-workers and super­visors made.

For example, her supervisor once exclaimed that she felt like she was talking to a client sometimes when she spoke with Hannah. The supervisor also criticized Hannah’s work and suggested she attend AA meetings to help her understand her ­clients.

Hannah sued, alleging she worked in a hostile work environment.

The court rejected her claim, reasoning that the kinds of comments Hannah thought highly offensive weren’t objectively harsh or frequent enough to create any kind of hostile work environment. (Tuttle v. Anuvia Prevention and Recovery, et al., 3:13-CV-134, WD NC, 2013)

Final note: This was a classic case of a supervisor feeling momentary frustrated when dealing with a sensitive employee. Of course, it would be best if supervisors never made insensitive comments. But that’s just not realistic. Don’t sweat the occasional slip up as long as the workplace is generally a pleasant, harassment-free place.