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prolesunited Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 01:43 PM
Original message
What defines sexual harassment in the workplace?
Edited on Tue Dec-16-03 01:53 PM by prolesunited
I'm a little confused today about something that happened, so I thought I would throw it out here for comments. (Hopefully, I won't regret it.)

There's some instances of sexual harassment that are quite clear: say if a boss says a promotion is dependent on certain "favors" or if a co-worker gropes you. However, where is the line, especially when it comes to compliments or suggestive banter?

The computer tech where I work, a contractor not an employee, and I have a friendly relationship. His comment to me today was: "You look so good today. Can I take you home with me?'"

Was it inappropriate for him to say that?

And is it wrong to admit a certain part of me liked it?

Like I said. I'm confused. Should I be offended or flattered? Would be interesting to get both male and female perspectives here.
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KensPen Donating Member (676 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 01:46 PM
Response to Original message
1. I basically let the women set the tempo......
I have a female co woker who shows me her thong every day....

on a rare occassion I will hit her with a "what do you have on today" question....

some are a little more conservative,

but basically I let the women set the tone,
and go no further with humor etc. than the established boundaries.
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BlueEyedSon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 01:48 PM
Response to Reply #1
6. I bet you could sue her for that!
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prolesunited Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 01:50 PM
Response to Reply #1
8. Let's be real clear here
I was NOT showing him my thong. There's a board meeting today and I'm up for a promotion so I have on business suit with a skirt and heels.

But, hey, it sounds like you're havin' some fun where you work. ;-)
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SlavesandBulldozers Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 01:46 PM
Response to Original message
2. it was sexual harassment
generally, they say, sexual harassment hinges on diffences of power, so i dont know if an outside contractor counts. Technically though i would have to say it is because he should keep his trap shut. That being said, if you liked it - then its not sexual harassment - because it was not undesired.
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htuttle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 01:47 PM
Response to Original message
3. According to the EEOC video we all were shown at work...
Edited on Tue Dec-16-03 01:48 PM by htuttle
...if you were offended, it could be considered harassment.

Harassment is really in the eye of the 'harassee'.

As we were told, if you have to ask yourself the question, you probably shouldn't say it (or they shouldn't have said it).

(edit: speling...I keep thinking there's two 'R's in that word...)
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prolesunited Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 01:52 PM
Response to Reply #3
9. Me, too
I think I'll go edit my post. :P
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everythingsxen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 01:47 PM
Response to Original message
4. Well...
honestly.

He's a contractor?

So he and you have no real direct business relationship?

If you reject him he can't have you fired or anything right?

The line, IMO, is a thin gray one, that is not easy to see.

If you are uncomfortable with it, tell him, if he continues, go to your superiors.

If you liked it and you like him, then why not go out?

People spend so much time at work, it can be tough to meet people in a non-work environ.

Then again, perhaps he was just being a flirt.

My 2 cents on the matter.. best of luck however it goes.
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Robb Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 01:48 PM
Response to Original message
5. Good rule of thumb:
If you felt uncomfortable, it's harrassment.

Similarly, if anyone else around felt uncomfortable at hearing the comment, it's harrassment.

If not, you're just having fun in the workplace. :)
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KensPen Donating Member (676 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 01:48 PM
Response to Original message
7. and remember harrass
is two words...

(a much funnier line when spoken not written)
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pippin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 01:56 PM
Response to Original message
10. here's a primer
http://www.library.unt.edu/ericscs/vl/harass/digests/se...

incidentally, companies are liable when non-regular workers or contractors harass
a worker. Sexual harassment is also not something only male workers do to female workers: there have been cases of same sex harassment as well as harassment of male workers by their female colleagues. sexual harassment also includes the creation of an abusive or negative work environment such as jokes, pictures hung on office walls, or pranks. Sexual harassment should also be distinghuished from "gender" harassment--the latter includes job discrimination on the basis of sex--and may not be sexual in nature.
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stopthegop Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 02:00 PM
Response to Original message
11. it's become an almost meaningless term..
as others said above, it depends on how you took it...and repetition can enter into it I believe
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prolesunited Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 02:05 PM
Response to Reply #11
13. Well, as a woman
I have mixed feelings about it.

By allowing that, do I diminish effectiveness and authority in the workplace? Does a compliment mean he has reduced me to a sexual object in his mind? Can a man in the workplace take you seriously and respect you and be physically attracted to you at the same time?
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TXlib Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 02:01 PM
Response to Original message
12. My $0.02
It was definitely daring of him to say it. He may have read you well enough to suspect it would not be unwelcome, but it was still daring.

It's perfectly OK if you liked it. Ask him on a date, assuming you're both available.
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cally Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 02:06 PM
Response to Original message
14. In my company
Edited on Tue Dec-16-03 02:17 PM by cally
we have clear guidelines that say that type of comment should occur outside the workplace. We had legal advice before we created the policy (I co-own a small business). If I had heard something like that in my business, I would have immediately called the contractor aside and asked him not to make such comments in the workplace.

edit: added the not. I really should re-read my posts better before posting.
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prolesunited Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 02:11 PM
Response to Reply #14
18. I think you're missing
a "not" in there at the end. That is unless you want him to make more. ;-)

I think it's good to have such a clear-cut guidelines. It certainly eliminates the ambiguity of such situations. Have you had to deal with any violations of your policy yet?
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cally Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 02:18 PM
Response to Reply #18
20. I edited it..thanks
No, we haven't had any problems. We took time to go over the policies with everyone and any new employees. I've seen problems at other workplaces, though.
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bif Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 02:07 PM
Response to Original message
15. This woman here keeps putting her hand down my pants..
Is that harassment? (I'm joking.) I've never been sexually harassed except in my dreams.
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pmbryant Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 02:09 PM
Response to Original message
16. My first impression
My first thought is to say that such a comment is completely and totally inappropriate in a workplace. And whether you liked or disliked what was said is irrelevant, in my mind, to whether it was appropriate or not. So it's certainly not wrong to admit that part of you liked it.

If you have a good relationship with the fellow, I'd definitely be flattered. But I'd also question his judgement (on his ability to discern appropriate professional behavior, not on how you look ;-) ).

--Peter
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Red State Rebel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 02:11 PM
Response to Original message
17. I work with my husband, can I sue myself for harrassment??
I'm the president of the company and he works for me....hmmmm
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slackmaster Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 02:17 PM
Response to Original message
19. You have every right to take offense at that remark IMO
It seems like it was unwanted (correct?) and of a sexually suggestive nature.
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MissMillie Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 02:23 PM
Response to Original message
21. "unwanted" or "unwelcome"
are the key words. If someone says, "you look so good today. Can I take you home w/ me?" it is up to you to say "I would prefer if you did not make such suggestive comments here in the office."

If the person persists, and creates a "hostile work environment" then that person is guilty of harassment.

Given that this is the first time he's ever done this to you, it can't be construed as "sexual harassment" in legal terms.

I think there's nothing wrong w/ cute little quips like that, as long as everyone involved knows that it's all in jest. If someone starts to take things seriously, then trouble will ensue.
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prolesunited Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 02:26 PM
Response to Reply #21
22. It was the first time
Edited on Tue Dec-16-03 02:27 PM by prolesunited
The best I could come up with was a look of disbelief and "Excuse me?!?" but then I smiled, so I clearly sent a mixed message. Like I said, I'm confused, and I really did mean it (the being confused part.)
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scottcsmith Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 02:31 PM
Response to Original message
23. Very inappropriate
I'm not sure if it is sexual harassment or not. He shouldn't have made the comment; it was inappropriate.

Check your HR guidelines to be sure. If you work for a big enough company, they probably are posted on the company intranet.

Since the person is a contractor, I suspect any disciplinary action would be handled by the contractor's agency, and not your employer.

If it made you uncomfortable, I'd tell your manager. The manager would then get in touch with the contract agency, and they probably will have a chat with the fellow on appropriate conduct in the workplace.






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ohiosmith Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 02:31 PM
Response to Original message
24. In short, any type of sexually suggestive behavior is inappropriate in the
workplace. What may seem harmless or consensual takes on a whole other meaning when and employee becomes disgruntled or is looking for something to use against a coworker or the employer.

In the example given, although the Tech is a contractor he is an agent of the employer and as such subject to reasonable control. Reasonable control includes ensuring that the Tech does not say or do anything that may be perceived as being objectionable or harassing. As a result, the employer could be held responsible for the actions of the Tech. Ignorance is not a defense.

The safest approach is to not do anything that could potentially be used against you, and report any conduct that violates your organization's harassment policies.
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forgethell Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 02:40 PM
Response to Original message
25. Anything the woman
says it is. the evil corporate giants got no guts, and no conscience. We all know this, so are we surprised when, if a complaint is made, the answer is to get rid of the person the complaint is made about. I saw it happen several times at one place of emplyment.
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prolesunited Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 04:18 PM
Response to Reply #25
30. Would you care to elaborate on this
and what specifically happened in your workplace?

Did the business have policies in place? Were people fired after the first time the issue was raised?

I'm a little unclear about the "no guts and no conscience" comments. What did you mean by that?
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forgethell Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-17-03 01:06 PM
Response to Reply #30
37. a friend of mine was discharged
on a charge of sexual harassment. They never adequately investigated the situation. For instance, he Icould have testified for him in a certain situation. I was never contacted. The woman also tried the same thing about a year later. this time though, she hadn't adequately prepared. They caught her and she quit. I don't know all the details of either, not being involved. But I did know which person was a liar, and which one wasn't from personal experience with both.

Does that answer your question?
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DuctapeFatwa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 02:46 PM
Response to Original message
26. No, it was not sexual harrassment

you have a friendly relationship with him, which indicates that he is neither boorish nor lewd, otherwise, it is doubtful that you would have a friendly relationship.

It is never inappropriate to tell anyone, male or female, that they look good, regardless of your gender or sexual preference.

The take you home remark could just be a figure of speech, or it could be an indication that he would like the relationship to be other than a friendly work one.

If neither of you have committments that would create an ethical conflict with that, there is no problem with him floating the idea.

If there would be an ethical conflict, then just a lighthearted reminder that you have a committment would be sufficient, and least said, soonest mended.

If it was just a figure of speech, the correct response is "thank you, and a big smile."
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ProfessorGAC Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 02:59 PM
Response to Original message
27. Actually, According To This Law Book. . .
. . .(Business Law by Mann & Roberts), harassment requires an unwanted element, as well as a persistence element.

The obvious one, (your example) is quid pro quo. The others are considered hostile environment situations.

One time is not harassment, and a second time is, if the harrassed party either says to the harrassing party, or reports to superiors, that it shouldn't happen again.

With or without complaint, a recurring pattern can develop which can be considered harassment as well.

The general rule of thumb is that if someone thinks they're being harassed, then they are. Any behaviors that are creating the offending condition need to be corrected.

If the recipient of a compliment does not consider it hostile, then it's not harassment. The law does NOT prevent office romance. It might put a chill on it, since folks do have to walk on some eggshells, but it's not a prohibition against finding romantic futures in the workplace.

So, in this case, the answer is no, since you didn't take offense and it's not a recurring theme that makes you uncomfortable.

The Mann Roberts book is published by West Publishing and is available in almost any university library.
The Professor
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amazona Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 03:06 PM
Response to Original message
28. not quite harassment but...
As a woman I don't like those comments, and a pattern of comments such that you dread going into the workplace is harassment. But probably deniable harassment.

I would neither be flattered or offended. Men who make these comments make them to lots of women, not just the beauties, but any woman they think might be susceptible. This is why I find the remarks disrespectful. The man in question thinks he can turn my head with a few words.

This isn't something you would litigate over -- more something you would pretend not to have heard.

My two cents. I was a victim of violent harassment so I may be more sensitive than others.
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Booberdawg Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 03:21 PM
Response to Original message
29. I wouldn't have been offended by that
Edited on Tue Dec-16-03 03:22 PM by Booberdawg
It sounds like harmless flirting to me. But maybe I'm out of the loop here because I see a lot of responses here that are quite taken aback here that frankly surprise me. I didn't get the impression he was leering or doing wolf whistles when he said this. It came across to me as just giving you a compliment.

I consider harassment something more decisive, like a few instances I can think of when some pig talks to my breasts instead of looking me in the eye. THAT makes me uncomfortable and I just want to belt him.

I was laid off as a programmer in January and was one of only 5 women in the IT department where I worked with several dozen other hard working, fun loving men, most of whom I adored, and miss terribly to this day. They really were gentlemen around the women, but men always think and joke about sex. I was right in there with the best of them giving it back. There were also comments and innuendo's back and forth, nothing bawdy or graphic, just in fun, and nobody ever took it seriously and no harm was ever done or intended.

Gawd I miss my old buddies. *sniff* :(
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pmbryant Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 04:29 PM
Response to Reply #29
31. No harm?
Edited on Tue Dec-16-03 04:42 PM by pmbryant
Sorry to hear about the layoff. I hope you get a chance to work with your friends again. :-(

I understand that you were perfectly comfortable in the workplace environment you describe, but do you really know that no harm was ever done to anyone else? That environment does not sound like one I would be comfortable working in, personally. And I suspect it may have been intimidating to many women as well, given the fact that they were grossly outnumbered by the men. Perhaps it scared some women off (or a few men, even) from working there.

What if there had been women who did not want to take part in this sexual banter as you did? How would they have been treated?

--Peter

EDIT: Added 'workplace' in front of 'environment'.
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cally Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 05:00 PM
Response to Reply #31
32. I agree Peter
That kind of sexual banter has no place in the workplace. Depending on degree, that firm could get sued for not stopping this. I agree that some of those women may have been intimidated. What we were told, is we have a legal responsibility to ensure all our employees are provided a professional, non-threatening work place. Interestingly, this could apply to delivery folks who come to our office also.
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Booberdawg Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 05:23 PM
Response to Reply #31
33. This was the team I worked with and had a good rapport with
Edited on Tue Dec-16-03 05:25 PM by Booberdawg
and this did not go on with other women in the department. Like I said, these guys were gentlemen and we only horsed around in our own work area. By department I mean 50 people that covered different aspects of IT over a large area of one floor. It's not as if other women in other aspects of IT could even hear what was going on when we "played" or horsed around. We were in our own little programming niche.

As I said before I was surprised at the responses here and I seem to be in the minority. I really was not offended and none of these guys ever did or said anything to me that I felt was out of line or that condescended to me as a female in any way. It was all flirty type stuff, not derogatory or put down in nature. They were all married come to think of it.

We were close. We also discussed serious things. They came to me to brag about their new babies, stuff like that. I felt respected professionally as well. We were a team and worked well together. When there was work on the table or it was crunch time, we dug in our heels and busted our butts. They were like brothers to me.
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Robb Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 05:35 PM
Response to Reply #33
34. I've worked under those conditions
...and it's both rare, and very cool. What you're describing is a team that knows one another very well. This practically precludes any possibility of anyone getting into uncomfortable territory, since the team knows and respects one another. This is also much more fun to work with, IMO. More productive as a result. Better decisions. I could go on and on.

I'd be interested if there were a direct link between turnover rates and sexual harrassment incidents. :shrug:
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geniph Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 07:59 PM
Response to Original message
35. It is the creation of a hostile environment that defines it
If you feel in some way threatened, then it's harassment. However, in most cases, it is the obligation of the person who was the recipient of the unwelcome comments to make it clear that they are unwelcome.
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TrogL Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-16-03 08:05 PM
Response to Original message
36. Any sexual reference whatsoever
is over the line.

In my workplace we do not tolerate any sexual stuff at all.

I turned a co-worker in for repeated emails containing sex jokes.
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NashVegas Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-17-03 01:20 PM
Response to Original message
38. Boundaries, Boundaries, Boundaries
Edited on Wed Dec-17-03 01:27 PM by Crisco
In my job, very professional people are constantly testing each others' boundaries when it comes to sex-talk. It's a matter of, 'how far can this go before one of us loses it and cracks up?' Very much a game. The times when I was harrassed were when the person on the other end wasn't playing with my boundaries, but ignoring them completely.

If someone here said "You look so good today. Can I take you home with me?'" to me and was even remotely serious, coming out of the blue (having never had that type of conversation w/him), that's what I'd call one hell of a leap over the bounds.

I'd bust his balls and ask, with a very straight face, "why?"

I mean, this guy works with you, why would he seriously use bad pick-up lines you'd get in a meat-market?
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TrogL Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-17-03 01:35 PM
Response to Original message
39. Why do people insist upon telling dirty jokes in mixed company?
I was at a choir performance last night and somebody felt the need to close the proceedings with a joke.

Two female cats were on a street corner talking.

Cat 1: What do you want for Christmas?
Cat 2: Three kittens would be nice.
Cat 1: OH, I want three kittens too.

A tomcat comes around the corner whistling Here comes Santa Claus.

Several people, including me, looked uncomfortable.
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NashVegas Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-17-03 01:36 PM
Response to Reply #39
40. I'd Be Uncomfortable, Too
Edited on Wed Dec-17-03 01:37 PM by Crisco
That's just not funny, way too obvious.
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Renew Deal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-17-03 01:46 PM
Response to Original message
41. That is technically sexual harassment.
How you feel is up to you. Do you like him? Are you single? Does he know that you are married. That makes it worse. 27/m
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Nikia Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-17-03 05:46 PM
Response to Original message
42. That is mild compared to what I put up with at work
Personally, I would not consider that harassment since you have a friendly relationship with him. He misinterpreted your boundaries and you should set him straight if that sort of comment makes you uncomfortable.
I have had about half of the male, non supervisory staff make comments to me at this level or worse. Unfortunately, this sort of thing is so common at our workplace that I haven't said anything. Another woman already is being made fun of for not being able to take a joke for reporting two of her coworkers. One man, who was fired for something unrelated, told me that I should draw naked pictures of myself on the reports that I shared with him and asked if I thought that I looked as good as the swim suit models from his calendar in his office.
I know that perhaps I should put an anonymous comment in the suggestion box about having some kind of program on sexual harassment or something.
I am trying to get another job for this and other reasons though.
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PVnRT Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-17-03 05:58 PM
Response to Original message
43. Any unwelcome advance that creates a hostile work environment
I would say, in your case, it isn't, unless you're really uncomfortable around that guy now and can't do your job effectively because of it.
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