what should I do next regarding sexual harassment?

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Latest post 11-29-2012 11:22 PM by Cica. 39 replies.
  • 11-24-2012 3:44 PM

    what should I do next regarding sexual harassment?

    Please don't laugh at me.  I don't know if I am right or wrong but what I am about to describe is stressful for me, and I want to do the right thing.  The situation:

    There is a person at my office with the title of manager although no one reports to him.  He frequently makes inappropriate comments that people just shrug off (derogatory remarks about women - although these remarks have not been sexual in nature - just things about how women can't do this and women can't do that).  Sometimes in his attempts to be cute or funny, he will make a comment that borders on sexual, and he brings up for conversation in an open cube area things that make headlines in the news (like the Elmo guy who resigned his job due to sexual misconduct allegations).

    A couple of weeks ago, he crossed the line.  He openly discussed in cubeland that he had an "infection in a sensitive area" and was going to the doctor.  I quipped: "<Name>, this is too much information for me."  When he got back from the doctor, he started talking about the doctor visit in rather graphic detail.  Over the next day and a half, he talked about it more - again out in cubeland where many could hear, including me.

    I did not go to my boss, because he and my boss are buddies.  Furthermore, my boss makes jokes that are borderline inappropriate and also openly admits he has a double standard when it comes to male verus female employees.

    I did not go to HR because our HR department has a history of incompetence with several settled lawsuits and several open lawsuits, and the company has gone through three HR directors in two years.  Two weeks ago, I called the outsourced ethics line to make a report.  They gave me a report key and passcode.

    The person I complained about has acted agrily towards me for the last week.  The other day he came to my desk to start chatting about things happening in the company.  Then he said, "I am so ***angry. I got hauled into HR.  Someone called the ethics line about me talking about my infection."  I just played dumb.  He then said that "if it was you, talk to me first next time."  I didn't say anything about that comment.  I feel it was inappropriate to go fishing trying to find out who reported it.  The way he also has treated me rudely the last week and a half feels like retaliation.

    Today I logged into the line's website.  The report back from the company (posted Monday before this person verbally attacked me) was that the investigation was completed and appropriate action was taken but that the action could not be disclosed to confidentiality.  I don't feel the company took care of it or this person would not have done what he did.  As he continued to make inappropriate comments (trying to be funny), he would make comments like disclaimers about not wanting to get in trouble.

    What do I do now?  This isn't right.  I fear his boss (my boss) may have figured out who reported it and will treat me even more unfairly.

  • 11-24-2012 4:06 PM In reply to

    • cbg
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    Re: what should I do next regarding sexual harassment?

    First of all, the company has no legal obligation to, and should not, make public what action was taken.

    If you won't talk to your boss, and you won't talk to HR, what is it you want us to tell you to do?

  • 11-24-2012 4:10 PM In reply to

    Re: what should I do next regarding sexual harassment?

    I did not say the company has any obligation to make public what action has been taken.  My issue is that the behavior has continued and he has retaliated against me by acting with anger and also fishing asking if I reported him.

    So I am supposed to let this continue?  The company regularly tells people to go to the ethics line if they can't go to management.  I went to the ethics line, made a report, and am now facing retaliation. 

  • 11-24-2012 4:12 PM In reply to

    • cbg
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    Re: what should I do next regarding sexual harassment?

    I didn't say you are supposed to let it continue. But you've already declared your unwillingness to take the appropriate steps - i.e. talk to HR.

  • 11-24-2012 4:18 PM In reply to

    Re: what should I do next regarding sexual harassment?

    How is going to HR a more proper "step" than reporting it to the ethics line who reports it to HR?  Shouldn't he have been told to not talk about the investigation?  Shouldn't he have been told to not retaliate?

  • 11-24-2012 4:55 PM In reply to

    • cbg
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    Re: what should I do next regarding sexual harassment?

    Of course he should have been told not to talk about the investigation, and of course he should have been told not to retaliate. Who says he wasn't? The fact that he is talking about it and may be retaliating does not mean that he was not told not to - it only means that he's doing so despite being told otherwise.

    How is HR supposed to know that he's still doing this if you refuse to talk to anyone but the ethics line? If you eventually file a complaint to an outside agency and they ask you what steps you took to resolve it internally, are you going to feel that reporting it to the ethics line was sufficient? If they ask why you didn't contact HR, do you think they will be satisfied with, "Well, I told the ethics line - it's their job to tell HR, not mine?" If you were the outside agency, would you be satisfied with that response?

  • 11-24-2012 5:14 PM In reply to

    Re: what should I do next regarding sexual harassment?

    Well, I certainly do appreciate your input as an attorney however, what I don't understand is that the ethics line does forward all reports to the company (at least management claims they do).  In effect, I am reporting it internally as a result.  Reporting through the ethics line is the only way I can maintain being anonymous.

  • 11-24-2012 5:56 PM In reply to

    • DPH
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    Re: what should I do next regarding sexual harassment?

    Kate4justice:
    Reporting through the ethics line is the only way I can maintain being anonymous.

    Then report his current activities and see what happens.  If he gets his panties in a bunch again, you can bet that he has been contacted regarding his most recent actions.  You are wise to play dumb, but if his actions escalate, make an appointment with HR and get it out once and for all.  My personal belief is that by calling the ethics line you are only protecting your identify from the "manager". 

     

    "Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience."  -  Mark Twain

     

  • 11-24-2012 6:10 PM In reply to

    Re: what should I do next regarding sexual harassment?

    DPH:
    My personal belief is that by calling the ethics line you are only protecting your identify from the "manager". 

    Thanks for your input.  Just because I'm naive, why do you think my identity is only protected from the manager?  I called in from home and when I logged in to read the follow up I used my personal computer. They (the hotline) says they don't trace calls or record IP adreses.  If they say that is it illegal if they do?

    We work in a very open cubacle area.  His desk is a row of back-to-back cubicles, and others in the next rows over can hear everything he says (including all the time he spends on personal calls and talking down to business contacts).

    I am not out to get this guy but it makes me very uncomfortable.  I think he's just an arrogant idiot.  He is so arrogant that maybe he doesn't see that discussing his private parts in the workplace is wrong.  Does sexual harrassment require the harrasser have bad intent? I don't understand.  We even had senstivity training recently and everything.

  • 11-24-2012 6:26 PM In reply to

    • Drew
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    Re: what should I do next regarding sexual harassment?

    At some point if you expect to take legal action against the firm you are going to need a solid paper trail that you specifically reported the action and you specifically were the target of retialation so by trying to remain "unknown" you may be hurting your odds of prevailing??



  • 11-24-2012 7:05 PM In reply to

    Re: what should I do next regarding sexual harassment?

    Thx Mr Drew.  I don't have interest in taking legal action right now but I feel I will have to if the retaliation ends up my firing.  I did record the dates of the comments the dates of my report and follow-up and the dates of the angry behavior and inquisition as well as what was said.  If I end up having to take legal action is that enough?  I saved the report key and password given to me by the ethics line too.

  • 11-24-2012 7:07 PM In reply to

    Re: what should I do next regarding sexual harassment?

    I don't know if its relevent but my company is owned by a foren company.  The parent companys country is one that I believe there are no laws against sexual harrassment or discrimination - it is a corupt country.  Does that matter?  I thought it doesn't matter because I thought my company needs to abide by US law in the US, but is this okay since the business is owned in another country?

  • 11-24-2012 7:20 PM In reply to

    • Drew
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    Re: what should I do next regarding sexual harassment?

    If they smell you are a troubler maker and get rid of you for some oddball reason or no reason at all then w/o a paper trail of specific compaints they may be able to duck and say we didn't know it was you --you were let go for not wearing green socks ....firms may be wise to get rid of troublemakers?

    I'm out of date as to detailed steps but you better be more proactive to protect your skin/options and get some up to date advice from a pro if not a labor lawyer.



  • 11-24-2012 7:37 PM In reply to

    • cbg
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    Re: what should I do next regarding sexual harassment?

    No, it is not okay just because of foreign ownership. Their US locations are required to follow US law. But you can seriously hurt any future case by not taking action internally. Practically the first thing you will be asked is what you did to try to resolve it internally. IMO, it's questionable whether "I called the ethics line" will be seen as exhausting all resources.

     If you ARE fired, you can take legal action.

  • 11-24-2012 8:05 PM In reply to

    • DPH
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    Re: what should I do next regarding sexual harassment?

     

    Kate4justice:
    Just because I'm naive, why do you think my identity is only protected from the manager? 

    What I was trying to get across is that HR may know your identity through the ethics line, but I really have no way of knowing as I have never heard of that type of program being used for sexual harrassment. 

     

    Visit these websites and read up on sexual harrassment, actions to be taken, cases, etc:

    http://www.equalrights.org/publications/kyr/shwork.asp

    http://smallbusiness.foxbusiness.com/biz-on-main/2011/03/04/handle-sexual-harassment-workplace/

    http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2011/11/11/how-to-recognize-sexual-harassment-in-the-workplace

     

     

    "Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience."  -  Mark Twain

     

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