Everyday rudeness and backbiting doesn’t necessarily mean hostile work environment

When people are thrown to­­gether in the workplace, per­­s­­onality conflicts are almost inevitable. No matter how much you would like an ideal environment in which everyone respects one another and no one speaks poorly of others, that’s just not likely.

But unless there’s seriously abusive behavior or particularly offensive language, an occasionally rude workplace won’t be labeled hostile by a court.

Recent case: Amey, who is black, worked as a nurse at a large hospital. She complained several times that her supervisor was rude and treated her poorly. For example, her boss missed a performance review, which delayed a potential pay raise. The supervisor also shrugged off a comment someone wrote on the bulletin board calling Amey a “fake bitch.”

After Amey was fired for poor performance, she sued, alleging she had worked in a hostile environment.

The court disagreed. It pointed out that no comment was overtly racially offensive or openly hostile based on a protected characteristic. Plus, the missed review would at

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the very most simply have delayed a pay increase that would have been made up retroactively. In short, Amey was merely complaining about having to work in a rude environment under a supervisor who treated her poorly. The court said that wasn’t enough to create a hostile work environment. (Goins v. Bridgeport Hospital, et al., No. 13-1465, 2nd Cir., 2014)

Final note: Don’t lose sleep over everyday personality conflicts. Instead, encourage workers to improve their communication skills.