I'm being sexually harassed!

What makes this situation a little bit different is that I am male and I am being harassed by a female at work. I am also her supervisor. Some people might think this is flattering but I do not. This woman is more than twice my age. I am in my early 20’s and she is in her mid 50’s and not particularly attractive. She is constantly rubbing my shoulders ( in which she usually comes up behind me and says you look stressed) and cracks sexually explicit jokes and comments to me when no one else is around. I have told her this behavior makes me extremely uncomfortable but so far she doesn’t seem to have listened.
I’m pretty pissed off because I have complained to my store manager (also a female) but she hasn’t done anything about this. What should I do? I’m afraid If I complain to someone else they’ll just laugh it off because this sort of thing doesn’t seem to be taken seriously. Should I bother complaining to a higher-up in the company? Or will it just be ignored like my other complaints (I’m not the only male that has complained by the way)? Doesn’t zero tolerance with sexual harassment apply to men and women? Or am I crazy?

You’re her supervisor, and you haven’t told her in plain terms to knock it off?

The first step in stopping sexual harassment is to SAY NO. Not “That makes me uncomfortable” but “Hey! Stop touching me and stop telling sexual jokes and making comments. That is completely inappropriate at work and if you don’t stop I will file a complaint.” Then follow through on your promise if she doesn’t stop.

Ditto what Scarlett says. You’re the boss. You could make a copy of the sexual harrassment policy and distribute it to all employees as a reminder. Add a note that says any further incidents will be reported.

I like Kalhoun’s idea.

Keep us posted how it goes.

You’re being harrassed
You asked your harrasser to stop
She persists
You’ve gone to your supervisor
She hasn’t done anything

File a complaint. Cite the attempts to file a complaint with your supervisor as well. You said you’ve already asked the woman to stop, so all parties have had fair warning.

I’d be leary about making threats like Scarlett67 & Kalhoun suggest. She could easily turn the tables on you, in which case you’d be screwed. Although you should keep in mind the likelyhood of your workplace becoming hostile if you do file (in which case you’d be screwed).

Have you considered moving on to another job?

Winston, until we get clarification from the OP, there’s no evidence that he has actually told her to stop.

The HR department (or whoever) is going to want a written record of dates, what was said, etc. Saying “If you don’t stop, I will file a complaint” is not a threat, it’s a fair warning and the proper procedure. The OP can protect himself by documenting every inceident as soon as it occurs.

So if she was a hottie you wouldn’t mind?
Seriously, this all depends on what your company’s policy is on unwanted sexual attention. If they don’t have one, you’re pretty much in the lurch, AFAIK. What she’s doing isn’t illegal, since you are the supervisor so there is no worry about job retention tied to her advances. Rather, what you’ve got is simply a situation where you’re being hit on despite expressing disinterest.
The shoulder-rubbing thing is a bit creepy and might classify as some kind of assult if you really want to stretch it; but if your supervisor won’t take action, and you can’t take action (either firing/disciplining her) because you either don’t have the power or the gonads to do so, then I suggest you learn to deal. It’s not like she’s demanding quickies in exchange for your paycheck, she’s just an obnoxious lady who obviously enjoys making you uncomfortable. Don’t let her.

And here we have another example of why people who have no idea what they are talking about should shut up.

Assuming that the OP resides in the United States, unwelcome sexual advances from anyone are illegal in the workplace, regardless of whether the harasser is in a supervisory role over the harassed. Under US law, there are two recognized forms of sexual harassment. The first is quid pro quo. Simply put, “have sex with me or a negative employment consequence will result.” The other is hostile work environment which is defined as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature [which] unreasonably interfere with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.”

Under the hostile work environment standard, the behaviour described by the OP constitutes illegal sexual harassment. I echo the advice given by others to report the incident to the company’s HR department, including the attempts to report it to his immediate supervisor. If no action is taken, he and the other victims should report it to the Equal Opportunities Employment Commision, the federal agency responsible for enforcing civil rights law.

I also echo other posters who find it a bit creepy that the relative attractiveness of the harasser plays some role in whether or not this is harassment.

As always IANAL, etc.

Huh? So harassment between co-workers at the same level is also not illegal, simply because one can’t fire the other? It’s still a hostile work environment.

Actually, that’s “Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,” or EEOC.

Is there any way you could secretly record the behavior, either by hiding a video camera, or an audio recording device?

Even just an audio tape of you saying to her, “Please stop. You’re making me uncomfortable,” would keep her from being able to turn the tables on you.

I stand corrected. I had forgotten about the hostile environment angle and was focused on the “sex or punishment” definition.

Best advice-

Document everything. Date, time, EXACT QUOTES.

Warn sub of her behavior

Complain to your manager once again

If it persists, go to the state EEOC and file a real complaint.

Be very careful. This situation may be turned around on you(or anyone, male or female, in this position). That’s why documentation, DOCUMENTATION, DOCUMENTATION is the most important aspect of this. Clear and concise notes may end up being your saviour.

Best of luck, please update us.


May I add that going to a Supervisor (instead of HR) may be futile? Its HR that handles these issues. Your manager may have other fires to put out and push this back on you to handle. HR will not. Please find out who handles HR in the office. Be discreet; ask who you could “refer a friend to for employment”. and schedule a closed door meeting. At the meeting, explain the situation with names, dates, and specific actions. Ask for a way to contact a specific HR person should it continue. Ex- “Bill/Beth, are you handling this personally? May I email you about future incidents directly if this continues?”

Document Everything, including responses to rebuffs. And good luck.

Hey Otto, for fucks sake, put the name of the person in the damn quote so I know who to call an idiot! :stuck_out_tongue:

The OP works for a large, national supply store. I’m not sure what his access to Human Resources would be, but it’s definitely not as easy as walking down the hall to talk to someone.

bottom line, you’ll need to be firm, repetitive and absolutely unapologetic when you deal both with the harrasser and your supervisor. Female-on-male harassment is STILL not seen as being as damaging/threatening as male-on-female, so that’s why you’re going to have to repeat yourself. Tell the woman harassing you that her comments and the touching are unacceptable and must not continue. Say the same to your supervisor. Daily, if need be, and as GaWd suggested, document everything.

You should be able to go over your supervisor’s head about this, if she’s unwilling to help. You might want to enlist the support of the other people who have complained, both when you talk to your supervisor and if you choose to talk to HER supervisor.

Or, you can try to force your supervisor into action by having her call a meeting of the three of you, where she would tell the harasser to stop.

Giving the OP the benefit of the doubt, I think he meant that he’s given her no cause to think he’s attracted to her or would appreciate her advances.

Not only should you go over your supervisor’s head if he/she refuses to take action, that in and of itself helps your claim. Ultimately, the company is responsible for the conduct of its employees in this arena (right?).

And there is - or at least there should not be - any reason why you cannot get ahold of an HR rep at some level, even if they don’t have an office in your location. If you are thwarted, that also lends credence to your claim.

But, I would also like to emphasize that your first step really needs to be stating (note, not asking) to this person that her behavior is inappropriate and unwanted and you expect it to be stopped immediately.

And, hopefully, this kind of “affection” isn’t taking place amongst others in your place of business and tolerated.

Documentation is critical, especially for a case of a woman harassing a man. Hey, the reality is that complaints from males are often taken less seriously.

I filed a grievance against a former bitch from hell who was harassing me and the investigation amounted to the investigator asking her if it was true. She said “no” and they closed the investigation without interviewing any of the people I listed as witnesses.

As her supervisor, aren’t you in a position to discipline her yourself for her behaviour? As long as you document everything and follow company discipline procedures, you should be in the clear.