Ask HR: Workplace conflict – Is it harassment?

Dear HR:

I have two employees that just can’t seem to get along. They are always complaining about each other. Other employees have mentioned that both of them are difficult to work with due to this issue and that they are constantly complaining about each other to co-workers. Is this harassment?


HR Answer:

It does not appear these statements and behaviors meet the legal definition of ‘harassment.’ Harassment is behavior directed to another because of a ‘protected class’. This seems to be more of a conflict of personalities and/or rudeness. Even though it probably doesn’t fall under the harassment category, it should still be addressed as soon as possible.

It’s a best practice for employers to have a code of conduct or workplace conduct policy in their handbook. These policies generally prohibit disrespectful conduct such as rudeness and indifference and require all staff to treat each other with dignity and respect. Even though this may not legally be harassment, it should not be ignored as there can be other legal liability issues such as workers’ compensation claims or tort claims due to stressful environments. Having a workplace where employees conduct themselves courteously is good for morale and employee retention. Please contact Cardinal for assistance establishing your workplace conduct policy or updating your employee handbook today.