Is this sexual harassment?

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Mar 11, 2011 6:01 AM GMT
    This happened at work tonight. It involves a young, brand new nurse and an old seasoned tech.

    The nurse was on her knees on the floor getting something out of a cabinet. The tech was standing there looks at her with a smile and tells her "While you're on your knees, how about you help me out here?" The nurse gets up and walks away with her back to me.

    Could I be construing this to be the wrong thing? I don't want to speak to the nurse-she will be mortified. I don't want to speak to the tech, he calls every female "honey" ,"sweetheart", "pumpkin", etc. He calls me "sonny boy." He is also very well liked by management.

    This behavior should not be continued. The nurse is young and new and is a hard worker. She will lose her confidence and professionalism. And what if the tech decides to act stronger?

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    Mar 11, 2011 6:23 AM GMT
    In order for something to be sexual harrassment, it has to be persistent and unwelcomed (thanks business school!). So maybe if it keeps happening then you should step in. He could have just had word vomit that one time and thought "shit, did I really just say that?" But if it happens more, you should probably talk to someone, whether it is the girl, the tech, or management.
  • Webster666

    Posts: 9217

    Mar 11, 2011 6:32 AM GMT
    Sexual harassment is a very tricky subject.

    Only the person who is on the receiving end of what happened can say whether or not it was sexual harassment.

    One person could legitimately feel that the coworker was causing a hostile work environment, while another person (in the exact same situation) could just laugh it off.

    That's why, in most work places, anything that could be considered sexual harassment by anybody, is forbidden.

    Straight men, especially, have a hard time understanding what constitutes sexual harassment.

    At one time, I was a union shop steward. A female coworker came to me in tears because of the comments that one of our coworkers had said to her. The thing was, he was a flirt. He even flirted with me. I wasn't offended. I just laughed it off when he would say things to me. He was really a nice guy. But, he didn't understand what sexual harassment was.

    But, the important thing was that the female coworker was devastated by his comments. And, of course, she had the right to go to work and not be subjected to unwelcome comments.

    I told management what was happening, and I asked them if I could have a meeting with the guy. After I explained to him that, even though he meant no harm, it didn't matter, because the important thing was that the female coworker felt harmed by his comments. If management had handled it, they would have automatically suspended him.

  • Webster666

    Posts: 9217

    Mar 11, 2011 6:35 AM GMT
    Many (if not most) work places have ZERO tolerance for anything that could be construed as sexual harassment. So, at many work places, it doesn't have to be persistent to be considered sexual harassment.
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    Mar 11, 2011 7:23 AM GMT
    What was the tech doing when he said "While you're on your knees, how about you help me out here?" In other words, was he pointing somewhere or giving any hand cues? In the hospital environment the only person this nurse may confide in is a senior nurse that she's familiar with or the charge nurse on tonight. And this is only if she wants to discuss it, which she may not as you pointed out.

    I don't see the harm in approaching her for a one on one chat (out of sight of the tech and other folks in your unit) to see what, if anything, she thought about the incident. And likewise with the tech. Make sure that you come off as colleague to colleague and not physician to tech (that could sour your encounter off the bat). Maybe over lunch in the cafeteria or something.

    It sounds like this tech has staying power on his side and everyone else has just gotten used to his way of calling people those words. Unless you have more physicians, nurses, and other staff members who are as upset about his style as you are, it is unlikely that anything will be done because he has inroads with management. You are right to be concerned about escalation, and don't want to be guilt-ridden if you don't at least individually talk to each of them after this sad incident.
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    Mar 11, 2011 7:37 AM GMT
    Here's the deal. Perception is a son of a bitch and in cases of sexual harassment it doesn't have to be persistent. It can and usually is a one-time deal and if the person who it was dealt to perceives it as such then it has grounds to be a case. The majority of workplaces have a ZERO TOLERANCE policy. Whether the tech meant it as such doesn't even matter. How the nurse took it could make or break his case and given the situation I'd say things don't look too good for the tech guy especially since he's in the habit of referring to nurses as "honey, sweetheart," or "pumpkin". He needs to show a little more self-control when addressing people because you never know who is listening or how they might perceive things in a working environment and all it takes is one person to turn you in and it's game over.

    You said it yourself that she is new so the tech guy must know that meaning he can't be so jokingly with her as he is with the rest of the staff since he doesn't know her all that well. If she decides to turn him in for the remark she's well within her right to do so and HR will have a field day with it regardless of how well liked the person is or how long they have been committed to the company. I've seen guys with 20+ plus forced to "retire" because of sexual harassment.

    Again, all it takes is once to be a problem.
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    Mar 11, 2011 8:48 AM GMT
    Guy101 saidHere's the deal. Perception is a son of a bitch and in cases of sexual harassment it doesn't have to be persistent. It can and usually is a one-time deal and if the person who it was dealt to perceives it as such then it has grounds to be a case. The majority of workplaces have a ZERO TOLERANCE policy. Whether the tech meant it as such doesn't even matter. How the nurse took it could make or break his case and given the situation I'd say things don't look too good for the tech guy especially since he's in the habit of referring to nurses as "honey, sweetheart," or "pumpkin". He needs to show a little more self-control when addressing people because you never know who is listening or how they might perceive things in a working environment and all it takes is one person to turn you in and it's game over.

    You said it yourself that she is new so the tech guy must know that meaning he can't be so jokingly with her as he is with the rest of the staff since he doesn't know her all that well. If she decides to turn him in for the remark she's well within her right to do so and HR will have a field day with it regardless of how well liked the person is or how long they have been committed to the company. I've seen guys with 20+ plus forced to "retire" because of sexual harassment.

    Again, all it takes is once to be a problem.


    Without a warning? That seems excessively unfair.
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    Mar 11, 2011 8:57 AM GMT
    report it to the hospital board.
    wont matter how well he is liked if he has a chance of making them look bad he'll be fired.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Mar 11, 2011 9:03 AM GMT
    Confronting him could lead to problems between the two of you, Or he might respect you for going straight to him.
    Or you could just beat his face and tell him to quite being a freakin punk.

    Your window for reacting to the situation has exspired!
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    Mar 11, 2011 9:18 AM GMT
    Actually, pre_mortem, you don't have to warn someone when you are turning them in for sexual harassment. Granted it does seem messed up and unfair but then again so is being sexually harassed to begin with.

    If you saw someone breaking into a house would you walk up to them and say "Hey stop that or I'm calling the cops" or would you just call the cops without their knowledge? It's the same thing. Just like calling the cops anonymously, you can turn someone in for sexual harassment anonymously and they will do an investigation.

    In regards to the sexual harassment, consider yourself lucky if you do get a warning from the individual before they take it higher. That's a bonus and they are giving you the chance to correct the situation. That's extremely nice of the harassed. Given the fact that most workplaces have a ZERO TOLERANCE of the act you already know that it's not tolerated so being turned in for it without any hint of a warning is perfectly legit. Why you ask? Because you know the workplace has a ZERO TOLERANCE of it and you were warned of it when you got hired and probably signed a contract and had a sexual harassment class (every job I've had made them mandatory and yearly) stating that you are fully aware of the consequences should you do it. That was your warning from day one of employment and they keep it on record/file and the day you fuck up is the day they pull it out saying that you knew better so a warning (again) really isn't necessary. It's up to the individual in question of giving you a warning if they want but they don't have to and it' really not unfair if they turn you in.
  • TrentGrad

    Posts: 1541

    Mar 11, 2011 9:27 AM GMT
    carminea saidThis happened at work tonight. It involves a young, brand new nurse and an old seasoned tech.

    The nurse was on her knees on the floor getting something out of a cabinet. The tech was standing there looks at her with a smile and tells her "While you're on your knees, how about you help me out here?" The nurse gets up and walks away with her back to me.

    Could I be construing this to be the wrong thing? I don't want to speak to the nurse-she will be mortified. I don't want to speak to the tech, he calls every female "honey" ,"sweetheart", "pumpkin", etc. He calls me "sonny boy." He is also very well liked by management.

    This behavior should not be continued. The nurse is young and new and is a hard worker. She will lose her confidence and professionalism. And what if the tech decides to act stronger?



    Well going to HR is something I'd advise against, first and foremost because it's not really your place...it's hers!

    You could approach her and just ask her if she finds he makes some off kilter comments that make her feel uncomfortable. You may find out that she does...or you may find out that she gets that he's from a different generation, and for that reason, she's willing to overlook it.

    If you find out she is uncomfortable, and she needs some verification about what he's doing, you'd be in a position to provide it...but at this point, if she's not willing to raise the issue, I think you should avoid kicking a hornet's nest on this one!
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Mar 11, 2011 9:32 AM GMT
    Actually, he can go to HR for the simple fact that the act disturbs him and he did see it happen. Even if he didn't see it merely hearing about is a good enough reason to turn the tech guy. Again perception is a son of a bitch. If what he saw or heard something that was directed to a fellow co-worker made him feel uncomfortable (even though it didn't happen to him) then as an employee he has every right to turn the tech guy in. It's like seeing a crime and not turning the criminal in. In some states you get charged for that.

    I would suggest you guys go through your workplace policies and guidelines because there are some pretty interesting things you can and can't do.
  • TrentGrad

    Posts: 1541

    Mar 11, 2011 9:40 AM GMT
    mnboy saidreport it to the hospital board.
    wont matter how well he is liked if he has a chance of making them look bad he'll be fired.


    Wow...if only things were as open and shut as this in reality! I suspect that for this, if they found that he had done something wrong, they would probably address it through sensitivity training, perhaps a verbal or written warning...and yes, it would increase the tension in the office. Usually in a first complaint process, termination is not the first remedy, though there's a good chance he would be removed from working in the area around her.

    And I agree with some of the other posters: this could be someones Father or Grandfather...and it could be that they just haven't kept up with how things are different now.

    Understand that it was most likely not his intent to make her feel uncomfortable...he was trying to make a joke in the heat of the moment. Indeed IF she feels bad about it, he may well be mortified because that wasn't his intent...and if he's well liked in his workplace, it could mean that his sense of humour was reinforced by those around him.

    What I've noticed with people is that they are far more forgiving of these transgressions if the person who is making them are either someone they find attractive, or someone who reminds them of a friend or a family member.

    Being supportive of this nurse doesn't mean you should instigate an investigation that could well make her feel uncomfortable, result in him being disciplined, potentially over something that you read far too much into.
  • TrentGrad

    Posts: 1541

    Mar 11, 2011 9:47 AM GMT
    Guy101 saidActually, he can go to HR for the simple fact that the act disturbs him and he did see it happen. Even if he didn't see it merely hearing about is a good enough reason to turn the tech guy. Again perception is a son of a bitch. If what he saw made him feel uncomfortable (even though it didn't happen to him) then as an employee he has every right to turn the tech guy in. It's like seeing a crime and not turning the criminal in. In some states you get charged for that.

    I would suggest you guys go through your workplace policies and guidelines because there are some pretty interesting things you can and can't do.


    Well, either way, I think just turning in the tech guy is the wrong way to go...especially if it turns out that she wasn't even bothered by this.

    I'd never use a joke like that, but if you're going to be hypersensitive about what people say, it's best to find a job where you're not working alongside anyone!!!

    Office gossip seems to be far more destructive!!!
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    Mar 11, 2011 9:54 AM GMT
    LOL. The dude made a joke that went horribly wrong , was in poor taste and in reality was not very professional so should he be disciplined on the act he has no one to blame but himself. That would be his bad for not keeping up with the times, which is a poor excuse to begin with. I happen to deal with HR quite a bit and let me tell that they are not forgiving when it comes to sexual harassment no matter what. What part of ZERO TOLERANCE is being missed here.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Mar 11, 2011 10:03 AM GMT
    TrentGrad said
    Guy101 saidActually, he can go to HR for the simple fact that the act disturbs him and he did see it happen. Even if he didn't see it merely hearing about is a good enough reason to turn the tech guy. Again perception is a son of a bitch. If what he saw made him feel uncomfortable (even though it didn't happen to him) then as an employee he has every right to turn the tech guy in. It's like seeing a crime and not turning the criminal in. In some states you get charged for that.

    I would suggest you guys go through your workplace policies and guidelines because there are some pretty interesting things you can and can't do.


    Well, either way, I think just turning in the tech guy is the wrong way to go...especially if it turns out that she wasn't even bothered by this.

    I'd never use a joke like that, but if you're going to be hypersensitive about what people say, it's best to find a job where you're not working alongside anyone!!!

    Office gossip seems to be far more destructive!!!


    It's not about being hypersensitive. It's about being respectful and mindful of coworkers so if the person in question of causing sexual harassment isn't capable of doing that then it is them who needs to find another job. If she isn't bothered by the act then kudos to her but the tech guy still has another problem to deal with because someone else saw/heard it and didn't take too kindly to it and legally can turn him in for it. Again, perception is a son of a bitch.

    As far as office gossip goes...from my experience gossip is often born from truth and is just given a makeover and grossly exaggerated but a truth nonetheless does exist and is rooted in there somewhere. Once you shift through the BS it comes out clean and simple.

    Two reasons why the ZERO TOLERANCE act is in place.

    #1 is to protect the workplace employees because they are valued.

    #2 is to protect the workplace. Can we say lawsuit.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Mar 11, 2011 12:00 PM GMT
    Let me say this as a guy who has practiced law now for about 20 years. ....

    The advice and the comments on this thread are absolutely amazing to me. They are thoughtful, helpful, proactive, pragmatic and insightful. I would bet on any other forum anywhere else there would be a bunch of retard fratboy wannabes giving horrible advice. When you disagree, you are disagreeing with mutual respect AND with the goal of finding the best solution to the problem that was posed in the first place.

    This entire thread reminded me again of why it's great to be gay... gay men are awesome and have great insight.

    Sorry, just wanted to drop this in the discussion.... continue.... dont mind me...

    A.M.
  • rebelbeard

    Posts: 558

    Mar 11, 2011 12:40 PM GMT
    Webster666 saidSexual harassment is a very tricky subject.

    Only the person who is on the receiving end of what happened can say whether or not it was sexual harassment.

    One person could legitimately feel that the coworker was causing a hostile work environment, while another person (in the exact same situation) could just laugh it off.

    That's why, in most work places, anything that could be considered sexual harassment by anybody, is forbidden.

    Straight men, especially, have a hard time understanding what constitutes sexual harassment.

    At one time, I was a union shop steward. A female coworker came to me in tears because of the comments that one of our coworkers had said to her. The thing was, he was a flirt. He even flirted with me. I wasn't offended. I just laughed it off when he would say things to me. He was really a nice guy. But, he didn't understand what sexual harassment was.

    But, the important thing was that the female coworker was devastated by his comments. And, of course, she had the right to go to work and not be subjected to unwelcome comments.

    I told management what was happening, and I asked them if I could have a meeting with the guy. After I explained to him that, even though he meant no harm, it didn't matter, because the important thing was that the female coworker felt harmed by his comments. If management had handled it, they would have automatically suspended him



    Sexual harassment isnt limited to the two parties. If a 3rd or 4th party overheard or eyewitnesses the situation then it is sexual harassment. The tech made a lewd sexual comment so in this case it is sexual harassment. He should be addresses asap because if it happens again he will get in trouble.
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    Mar 11, 2011 12:43 PM GMT
    TheUnhingedOne said

    Sexual harassment isnt limited to the two parties. If a 3rd or 4th party overheard or eyewitnesses the situation then it is sexual harassment. The tech made a lewd sexual comment so in this case it is sexual harassment. He should be addresses asap because if it happens again he will get in trouble.



    This.
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    Mar 11, 2011 1:07 PM GMT
    I don't know what the law is where you work and it is fair to say it is different in every jurisdiction but it is true to say that it is a grey area...

    in NSW in Australia, sexual harassment involves more than just the two parties and excludes the intentions of the perpetrator... if it involves sexual connotations and you feel that it is inappropriate then you have a case...

    it would seem that it is persistent given your comments, however, unless you feel aggrieved, then you wouldn't have a case...

    it's important to point out that what some may see as sexual harrasment may be a consentual exchange between two others, that they are comfortable with... in essence people are complex beings... what you may view as inappropriate, the two involved may not...

    it's also complicated by the power relationship...

    i'm not saying this is the case here... but think about how well you know both people... do you know their background? do you know that they don't have a significant relationship more than work?

    all that said, it sounds like sexual harrassment to me....
  • HndsmKansan

    Posts: 16311

    Mar 11, 2011 1:09 PM GMT
    Sounds like an unprofessional prick, but may not qualify as others have said above as the definition of "sexual harassment", albeit he is a bully and a prick. I'd keep an eye on him and see if he does much else to anybody.
    If so, you just have someone who needs to be disciplined or terminated.
    Keep records on whats happened, including dates and times.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Mar 11, 2011 2:06 PM GMT
    Ask once and it's an invitation.
    Ask twice and it's sexual harassment.

    In other words, you better have a damn good pickup line. icon_twisted.gif
  • owen19832006

    Posts: 1035

    Mar 11, 2011 2:30 PM GMT
    thats a bit OTT!! calling someone sweetie, honey, darling is much better than not acknowledging them at all!!
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Mar 11, 2011 3:01 PM GMT
    At my employer it doesn't matter if the two parties are joking together and good with it. If a 3rd employee such as yourself see's or overhears anything like that they can report it as sexual harrassment or discrimination talk and both the "jokers" could be disciplined up to the point of firing. There is zero tolerance and they mean it. It even extends to off property but during the business day, say at lunch in a restaurant down the street from the office. If a group of office girls say are sitting at a table with one of the office guys and he makes a sexist joke for example and the girls all laugh and titter and they are overheard by another co worker sitting at a table closeby who is offended, then they all can be called in. Everyone signs a code of busines conduct when they are first employed and re-sign it yearly. They're stringent about enforcing it.
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    Mar 11, 2011 3:49 PM GMT
    Thank you everyone who commented after me. I was beginning to think I hit a brick wall on this. I'm glad others noticed the 3rd party perception in this incident.

    Sorry, Owen19832006, but calling and referring to someone as "sweetie, honey or darling" can get you in all kinds of trouble and often times does. As endearing as they sound you'd be surprised at how many people don't like being addressed that way. I saw a woman of mid forties turn in a young twenty-something because he addressed her as "sug". Sounds a bit over the top but it happens. In cases like this you would be better off not acknowledging them and when addressing people the simple "sir" or "ma'am" works just fine unless you happen to know their name which is even better when addressing them so long as you don't do it in a lewd way.

    Yes, you can be sexually harassed even by the tone of a voice and by body language. Here's an example.

    Regular approach.
    "Hey there, Jane/Tim. How are you doing?

    vs

    "Joey from friends" approach.
    "Hey there, Jaaaaaane/Timmmmm. How you doin'?"