Sexual Harassement at MY work place, by ME?

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Nov 08, 2008 7:03 PM GMT
    I'm a determined overachiever who supports myself while in school full time and working more than full-time. I also manage my time to get my workouts in everyday (workouts, running, swimming, etc). At my dispatching job, there is this one straight kinda jock dude, who has never really met a normal gay guy. There are a few of us here who are gay or lesbian. We have been joking around with him, pulling his leg etc. He has been okay with it. In fact, more often than not, he is instigating the jokes and also playfully teasing us too about "being gay and it being a disease". I just laughed it off, why not they have been fun. This monring, I have been approached by my supervisor, who is also a close friend, and she mentioned that this individual is upset about our nature of our gay jokes. I was taken back and feeling completely blindsided. What? This individual is considering taking this complaint to the board. I feel extremely angry and PISSED off at this kinda of boneless silliness on his part. Why hasn't he approached me? Why didn't he just keep his mouth shut and not instigate some of the joking.

    After having just found out, I called him and left an apologetic voicemail message for him. I was direct and to the point on the message, ending on a positive note. Something like . . I don't want our workplace to be like the typical workplace. We can still joke around, however, we'll leave the gay jokes out. <> I was under the impression that it was just a joke. There was no harm ment for anyone.

    Any advise here? Should I hunt him down and straight bash him? I am just taken by surprise by this. Any words of comfort, advise or . . simialr stories?
    The worst part of this is that this guy wanted to take it to the Board? What? I am entering a health focused career and would like to use my dispatching company as a reference. I don't want to be asked at an interview that I was fired becasue of sexual orientation jokes, which someone took offense to. Errrrr

    Still frustrated and angry. . . . icon_evil.gif
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    Nov 08, 2008 8:12 PM GMT
    I think voice mail, text messaging and all that stuff is a very inpersonal way to apologize or clear the air with someone. I'd pull him aside, apologize, have a conversation with him. Let him know that you can understand where he's coming from. Being genuine while talking with him will help with the situation, and I think that it's important that if your co workers start up the bantar, you don't go along with it. He probably feels kind of ganged up on and singled out. If he accepts your apology, and takes back his complaint this time, be thankful and don't flirt with the possibility of a next time.

    If you come at him from anger, frustration, or for the purpose of protecting your own skin he's going to pick up on that whether it's conscious or unconscious. Make sure you're in the right frame of mind before you talk with him.
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    Feb 09, 2009 6:26 PM GMT
    Good for you for being in school and working and staying in shape. This is my personal take on the situation, having experienced this at work a few times. What you describe sounds like a personal boundary issue in addition to a legal situation at work. Personally, it would be good to figure out what your contribution to this situation has been, and address that.

    Maybe it is familiar (and comforting) for you to feel badly about who you are as a person in the eyes of others? That you have to cut yourself down in order to seem acceptable to straight people? Clowning is a bona-fide way of getting respect in many cultures, and on the surface, it seems easy and enjoyable. I bet many of us LGBT peeps have found ourselves in a situation similar to yours only to develop healthy boundaries and methods to defend ourselves politely. Good luck!
  • Timbales

    Posts: 13993

    Feb 09, 2009 6:35 PM GMT
    Quite honestly, I'd avoid any personal interchanges with him aside from the polite "Hello" and keep it 100% business from now on. I would never be alone with him. Anything else you do may be more fuel for the fire. I would sit down with my supervisor and explain your side of all this.
  • OptimusMatt

    Posts: 1124

    Feb 09, 2009 6:38 PM GMT
    Timberoo saidQuite honestly, I'd avoid any personal interchanges with him aside from the polite "Hello" and keep it 100% business from now on. I would never be alone with him. Anything else you do may be more fuel for the fire. I would sit down with my supervisor and explain your side of all this.


    Seconded. And please tell me you DON'T dispatch for a rogers contractor. icon_razz.gif
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    Feb 09, 2009 6:39 PM GMT


    This is of little help to you now, so I apologize, but it would have been great to cc your voicemail message to your supervisor/friend.
  • Sparkycat

    Posts: 1064

    Feb 09, 2009 6:44 PM GMT
    If you speak to him about this in person you should do it with your supervisor present as a witness.
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    Feb 09, 2009 6:52 PM GMT
    You've done what you needed to do - typically, it is the "complaintents" responsibilty to advise you that your "jokes/comments" are unwanted.
    It may be reasonable for your supervisor to moderate an exchange and "understanding" between you, your coworkers and this individual.

    Yeah, I agree with most here, you've done what you should do - now let it be and focus on work with this individual. Let your supervisor know that you left a voice mail and the context of it and then just maintain a work oriented interaction with this individual - no joking, teasing, taunting (if you will).
    Be friendly but you don't even have to "talk about your wkend" and I might not unless he asks and then still keep it general not too personal -- i.e. I went to a movie with a friend as opposed to I had a date with a great guy.

    The bottom line is, he has set a boundary and you should not "purposely" cross over it.
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    Feb 09, 2009 6:58 PM GMT
    The best advice a lawyer ever gave us regarding sexual harrassment in the workplace is "don't say or do anything at work that you wouldn't want quoted or written about on the front page of the New York Times". Sadly, that translates into things, I think, like not being pals with your coworkers. It's too easy to slip up with pals and often, one vindictive notion on the part of your pal could cause a world of hurt. It's bad enough for employees, it's far far worse for company owners and managers.

    Oh, and until the whole issue is over, don't make any contact with the person who complained. Nada, zip, zilch. Don't make eye contact, avoid looking in his direction.
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    Feb 09, 2009 6:59 PM GMT
    Keep it 100% business for now. Things will settle down in time and you will find where you professional boundaries are. Since he has complained, you need to keep it professional.
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    Feb 09, 2009 7:08 PM GMT
    and btw dave24rmt,
    you are a hottie! not that I mean that in any sexually harassing sorta way.
    well, maybe I do,
    so sue me icon_wink.gif
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    Feb 09, 2009 7:09 PM GMT
    I agree with everyone else here. Even if he trys to join in on the banter you excuse yourself. You are now on the radar.
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    Feb 09, 2009 7:38 PM GMT
    At my work you have to be very careful about what jokes you tell and to whom. What some people find funny, other people find offensive. What steps you have taken to alleviate the situation is appropriate as far as I am concerned.
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    Feb 09, 2009 7:41 PM GMT
    Offense is often feigned. Some people are just looking for a reason to make life miserable for someone else, for a variety of reasons.
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    Feb 09, 2009 7:44 PM GMT
    Well I can see where the guy is coming from. Maybe you shouldn't have taken the jokes so far. Just because he joined in on the fun doesn't mean it was ok. He probably tolerated it for so long because he didn't want to be one of those guys who couldn't handle a workplace joke. Maybe he just wanted to fit in and figured out ahead of time that the jokes of the atmosphere weren't for him. personally I feel he should've at least had the courtesy to inform that he wasn't comfortable with the jokes in but in all reality he doens't have to talk to you directly in the workplace about what bothers him. That's what HR is for and nothing says he can't go to them first. It happens. One minute people are cool with things and then the next they are filing a lawsuit against you.

    In a workplace it's all about approach and all about the perception. Orginally you meant no harm by the jokes (I'll assume) but through somone elses eyes it probably looked completely different. The age old question of is the glass half full or half empty? I think you did the right thing by apologizing but you might wanna consider being more convincing by actually approaching him physically and apologizing for the misunderstanding. I mean if you can joke so openly in front of him then logically speaking an apology should be easy in front of him. Best thing to do is to not let your emotions get the better of you in this situation.

    Off topic. Stuff like this is very common in the workplace and it's hard to tell what is an isn't appropriate. You can be help accountable for you actions even if youaren't talking to someone directly. If they are within earshot of a conversation and here something they find offensive you can be held liable for it. Practicing workplace ettique is something more people should be aware of.

    Best of luck to you, stud icon_biggrin.gif

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    Feb 09, 2009 7:48 PM GMT
    I didn't mean to imply that feigned offense isn't serious. Likely, it's even more serious as that person has an ulterior motive. Someone who's truly offended can probably be reasoned with and an apology (witnessed by HR) and an entry into your personnel file will suffice and the matter will be over. Someone who's faking it probably won't be satisfied until you're fired or until they get some money.
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    Feb 09, 2009 7:54 PM GMT
    For one thing, NEVER EVER leave a recorded message apologizing for anything. It can be interpreted as guilt and may be used against you if he decides to go to the board.

    Second of all, if there were other people involved, they can be brought in as witnesses that there was never any harm ment towards ' anyone '

    Always remember, while at work, ( any work place ) you should always maintain a level of professionalism and respect towards your employees and or co-workers. Even though everyone was simply trying to have fun,,,,,I think everyone was at fault, and therefore should be dealt with equally.

    Good Luck icon_neutral.gif
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    Feb 09, 2009 8:00 PM GMT
    I think there has been a lot of good advice above. I have had numerous sexual harassment situations occur in my places of work over the last 15 or so years.

    In an ideal world everyone should be able to talk openly like adults about this. The average workplace, however, is anything but ideal. From a legal perspective you need to have everything witnessed and documented.

    I hate to say it, but leaving a recorded message no matter how well intentioned is a HUGE mistake. I would also say that an unsupervised face-to-face could be equally damaging. I would not approach him on the subject without a supervisor or human resources representative present. This might seem overkill, but it's the best way to cover your ass and avoid possible "he said/he said" situations. Without the presence of a credible witness, the advantage almost always goes to the alleged victim.

    You should also consider requesting a supervisor sit-down with the alleged victim and the third party who informed you of the alleged complaint. I have seen a couple situations where it is actually the third party informer who has manufactured or exaggerated the situation to their own ends. Every workplace has a shit starter and yes, the person who you think is your buddy sitting right next to you could very well be one of those.

    p.s. you can harass me anytime.icon_razz.gif
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    Feb 09, 2009 11:40 PM GMT
    what a jerk. Why can´t people communicate properly?

    (I´ve had totally inadequate communication from people surrounding me in my work totally devastate the last year of my work life. Nothing to do with sex, just people who are so bad at relating to each other that they should be locked away in solitary confinement for ever)

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Feb 09, 2009 11:59 PM GMT
    just because he may want to take it to the board, does not mean it will end up at the board. But if you beat him up, it will end up in court. Don't worrie to much about it yet.
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    Feb 10, 2009 12:06 AM GMT
    Always make sure you have witnesses. Let me rephrase that. Always make sure you have reliable witnesses.

    I had an argument with a supervisor one day and she asked me if it's the supervisors fault if someone doesn't get trained properly. I said it was and she got offended. Later I found out she literally went crying to her boss about me. So of course since there were no witnesses I was at fault. icon_rolleyes.gif No telling what was said.
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    Feb 10, 2009 12:08 AM GMT
    I agree with the others..
    no messages, no conversation... nothing outside of business and polite hellos, goodbyes, and thank yous.

    Once the subject of sexual harassment has come into play your freedom of expression is limited (for your own protection).
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    Feb 10, 2009 1:01 AM GMT
    animanimus saiddo nothing. do not get this on a record. do not send him messages. just go about your job. that is all.


    Absolutely correct. Also McGay's advice is very good. I'd have absolutely no more chit chat, humour, casual talks, nothing - absolutely nothing with this guy. This is dead serious. He has made a formal complaint that could result in your dismissal if things go wrong for you. This guy is not a friend and deserves to be treated with professional courtesy and nothing more. This person is your enemy now. This shit is documented and might be in your file already. Let your manager know your side - as calmly and factually as possible - and then nothing but work chat with this guy or any of his friends. You are now the serious, hard working guy - doing a great job. Humour is over with. You are under the radar as was mentioned above. Good luck. Keep your nose absolutely clean and hopefully you'll be okay.
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    Feb 10, 2009 1:55 AM GMT
    Anima and Jockbod are making the right suggestions.

    I had a situation where someone stole a great deal of money from me. This guy's wife happened to be my insurance agent. She went and filed a police complaint saying that I had sexually harassed her. As incredulous as I was (having seen this woman maybe two or three times across a counter to sign documents) I ended up having to hire an extremely expensive attorney and defend myself against this claim.

    The attorney explained it to me this way. He said that a man and a woman (or a man and a man) step into an elevator. The doors open and one of the two complains of harassment. There is little to do.

    The whole thing cost me €16,000 to defend. Finally I won. However, it was miserable and demoralizing.

    Like others I recommend no messages, no contact, absolutely nothing but the strictly work related communication that is absolutely necessary. Basically keep as wide a berth as possible of this person. Furthermore, if you can be transferred to another role out of contact with this person mores the better.





    Jockbod48 said
    animanimus saiddo nothing. do not get this on a record. do not send him messages. just go about your job. that is all.


    Absolutely correct. Also McGay's advice is very good. I'd have absolutely no more chit chat, humour, casual talks, nothing - absolutely nothing with this guy. This is dead serious. He has made a formal complaint that could result in your dismissal if things go wrong for you. This guy is not a friend and deserves to be treated with professional courtesy and nothing more. This person is your enemy now. This shit is documented and might be in your file already. Let your manager know your side - as calmly and factually as possible - and then nothing but work chat with this guy or any of his friends. You are now the serious, hard working guy - doing a great job. Humour is over with. You are under the radar as was mentioned above. Good luck. Keep your nose absolutely clean and hopefully you'll be okay.
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    Feb 10, 2009 2:02 AM GMT
    Actually, your supervisor should have been present when you did the apology routine. Don't leave him messages, cut the jokes, and keep your distance unless the job requires you to interact. More often than not companies can anyone anywhere near a complaint action. At least that's what happens in all companies where I'm senior manager or director.