Florida employees have the right to work in an environment without experiencing behavior that feels threatening or offensive. However, it is not always clear where the line is drawn between an outright hostile work environment and the occasional lapse in courtesy, which is basically just a petty slight. Some behavior, though rude and unwelcome, might not be considered a form of workplace harassment.
Slights can take many different forms as the Merriam-Webster dictionary demonstrates, but generally slights are actions of a neglectful nature. A person may intentionally or unintentionally omit courtesies to a fellow worker that people should ordinarily observe at work. Sometimes a worker is simply thoughtless. In other cases, a worker may consider another employee to be beneath them or harbor some resentment towards that employee, and will deliberately overlook common courtesies.
Slights may consist of, but are not limited to, any of these actions:
- interrupting another worker during conversation
- snide remarks
- making noises during a meeting
- not returning phone calls or emails
- general lack of politeness
However, even if an employee has been slighted by another worker, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) does not consider such an act as harassment in the workplace. For a worker to experience a hostile work environment, fellow workers and superiors would have to engage in outwardly hostile behavior towards the worker. These actions can include name calling, verbal insults, threatening the worker physically, or causing problems for the employee to perform to the best of his or her ability in the workplace.
Generally, what separates a petty slight from harassment is that a slight consists typically of a lack of manners without actively impugning a person’s gender, race or sexual orientation. However, workers who feel they have been the victims of a hostile workplace should still feel free to report it even if they are uncertain about their experiences.