Feministe Feedback: Recourse for sexual harassment and assault at work

A Feministe reader writes in with a question:

I work for a reputable medical school in central Texas, in the IT department. My department has expanded beyond the space we have in our office, so they moved three of us to a satellite office, for space reasons. I (the sole female techie) and two men were the ones moved. I didn’t see a problem with this, as they had to move someone and they stated the technicians they were moving were the ones they could trust to work in a more unsupervised setting.

It was working out fine until August 4, 2010. One of the coworkers in my tiny office, a married man in his late 40’s/early 50’s and I were talking about current events. Religion, Miranda Rights, the then-pending Prop 8 decision, etc. He noted that I was very “passionate” about the Prop 8 decision and seemed to have a personal interest in it,and wondered why. I replied that human rights are something that everyone should care about, not just those that are effected. And then I shrugged and said “besides, I’m bisexual. I do kind of take the human rights movement personally.”

A few minutes later, he got up from his desk, walked over to me, put his hands on my shoulders, and kissed me on the cheek. I was so startled, I froze. Then he tried to kiss me on the lips. I shoved my hand in between our faces and prevented him from doing so. He then tried to kiss me on the neck. I shoved him away. My only exit from the room was to run past him. He easily outweighs me by about 80 lbs. I was scared shitless of what would happen if I fled. I sat at my desk and shook, while he told me repeatedly that I “made” him do it. I “made” him kiss me. It nauseated me. He then told me that we’d keep it between ourselves, and said that the “other guys” won’t take kindly to me being bisexual and that he “has your back, sweetie”. That it would be “our little secret”.

Work ended (this all happened less than an hour before the end of the workday) and I ran over to my husband’s office (he works in the same building, on the same floor, as I did). I told him what happened and we went home. I emailed my supervisor that I needed to talk to her ASAP the next day. I reported it to my manager and supervisor the next morning. They arranged me to meet with HR the next day (Friday). I explained everything in great detail to the HR rep. He asked me, point blank, that if my assailant stayed an employee, if I would leave. I said yes, that I did not feel safe. That I was assaulted. That I felt like he was trying to blame me and blackmail me. That I have a right to work in a safe, harassment free environment and if I have to work with my assailant, those rights are not being met.

They told me they would have their investigation completed on Monday. Monday came, Monday went. On Tuesday, I called the HR rep about ten times, leaving voicemails. He finally told me that they’re still looking into it. Wednesday- same thing. Yesterday, Thursday, they called to ask me the time and date of the assault again. Finally, today, I called and asked what the hell was going on. He said that they have “substantiated your report”. When I asked what was going to be done, they said that he will remain an employee (zero tolerance policy MY ASS) in my department, but that I will have zero contact with my assailant and any “contact would be accidental”.

I feel totally violated now by HR. The purported zero tolerance policy on any type of assault/harassment seems to be just a bunch of hot air and I do not feel safe knowing he’s on campus.

What are my options, besides finding a new job and quitting? Do I have any legal ground to stand on?

Any advice?

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50 comments for “Feministe Feedback: Recourse for sexual harassment and assault at work

  1. FashionablyEvil
    August 13, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    I am so very sorry that this happened do you and that HR didn’t back you up.

    Some questions that might help you figure out what your options are:
    Have you found out from HR what “I will have zero contact with my assailant and any ‘contact would be accidental,'” actually means? I’m having a hard time seeing how that’s workable with three of you in a satellite office?
    Also (assuming you decide to stay), what is HR’s plan in the event that the “no contact” warning doesn’t work?
    Is there someone in the HR office or higher up in the university that you could escalate this matter to?
    Do you have the support of your supervisor and manager? Do they have additional avenues that they could pursue on your behalf?

    I’m sure others can weigh on regarding your legal options for pressing assault charges.

  2. Bitter Scribe
    August 13, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    I’ve seen this a lot. “Zero tolerance” usually means “zero tolerance unless we really like the guy and/or he’s very good at his job.”

    Disgusting. I have no advice other than a good kick in the nuts, which isn’t very helpful, sorry.

  3. Emily
    August 13, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Is the “zero tolerance” a written policy? If so, can you take that back to HR and say that you want them to address what exactly that policy means if it doesn’t mean that your assailant should be fired?

    Also, if you can, get documentation of this. I am not sure if it’s possible at this point, but you might write up a little “At our first meeting, you said this and I said that” and send it to HR and keep your copy of the sent email.

  4. August 13, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    I feel like, even though I hate that people use this tactic so often, you could sue and win.

    Or let the HR guy know that you plan to sue if the creep is still employed there, since there’s supposed to be a no-tolerance policy.

  5. August 13, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Reading this, it strikes me that this might be assault. Not harassment.

  6. August 13, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    I would consult with a lawyer ASAP, honestly.

  7. August 13, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Press charges.

  8. August 13, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    And yeah, what thiswoman said. That’s not sexual harrassment, that’s assault.

  9. Sheelzebub
    August 13, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    This sounds like assault (technically, battery, but you know what I mean). And it does sound actionable–I’d call a lawyer. And maybe see if there were other women this douche canoe assaulted.

  10. MamaCarrie
    August 13, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    I would bet if you let HR know that you plan to contact a lawyer to help you sort all this out, they will change their tune.
    I second Emily, document, document, document. That way if you do move forward with a lawsuit you won’t have to rely on your memory.
    Also consider if you want to involve the cops. I don’t know the definition of assault, but if your exit from the situation was blocked that sounds like another offense on top of harassment/assault.
    Good luck to you, it sucks that he did that to you.

  11. Charley
    August 13, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Call the police. Even at work, no one has the right to touch you. File a police report and explain you tried to go through private corporate channels but since that is not working you want to file a report. Whether this goes to court on not, having that filed report will be really important — either to spurn your company into action or to ensure you win a court case.

    File a police report TODAY.

  12. 'stina
    August 13, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Get in touch with an attorney about the assault charge and consider suing the guy personally. You can also call the police and file charges with them; note it’s likely going to be the campus police that does the investigation instead of the local cops. You can also file an EEOC complaint against the institution if you feel like you’re still working in a hostile work environment.

    As for the sexual harrassment investigation that has already been done, you’re going to have to pull the policy and see exactly what it says. I would never write “zero tolerance” in a policy because there’s too much left for interpretation, like in your case. That’s a term that’s more likely going to be used in some sort of training material or brochure. I’d be more likely to write something like “Individuals who engage in conduct that violates this policy are subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination.”

    Quite frankly, I would not be too upset about the time it took to get a resolution. My institution’s policy puts in five day period just to determine whether or not they’re going to investigate. A week between complaint and resolution is rather swift in my workings with HR and legal at a very similar institution. Make sure that you understand all of the steps of the formal grievance process. There may be more than one process if your institution divides academics from general administration from research or if faculty are treated differently from employees and students. At my institution there are at least five different classifications of people who work here. Read the policies pretty carefully to see if all of the steps have been taken and/or if there’s an appeals process. Document all contact with HR and all information that you’ve given them. When you protest, protest in writing, and make sure to get a return receipt on e-mail or from the mail. If you feel unsafe in your current location request to move to a more populated location where you’re not likely to be left alone with an unsupervised co-worker.

    Take a look at the anti-retailaition policy; most institutions have one that says that the institution can’t retaliate against you for making a complaint. YOU shouldn’t have to be the one who suffers from this. So if it feels like they’re shoving you out of the way to ensure you have no contact, make sure to point out it has to be the other way around. He’s the one that can’t go to staff meetings, retreats, conferences, etc.

    (none of this is legal advice, contact a lawyer, etc. etc., but I work in the legal department of a similar institution in Texas.)

  13. g_whiz
    August 13, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Oh wow. This is a pretty extreme senario and I’m very sorry you had to experience it. Without a doubt HR is circling their wagons, and they ought to be ashamed. As much as its frustrating to take it to the litigious stages…it looks like its the way to go. This story has lawsuit written all over it.

  14. August 13, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Yes, I echo what others have said. You should not ever have to be in the same work environment with this creep ever again. There is absolutely no reason that he should still be employed at the company. If you can’t escalate this up higher, get a lawyer.

  15. R.H.
    August 13, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    Thanks to everyone who responded.

    I’ve gotten clarification of what “no contact” means, and it makes matters even worse. My assailant has been told to not talk to me or look at me. I’ve been told the same. However, we will BOTH still be at the weekly departmental meetings, BOTH still working on the departmental projects, and if we happen to have to interact on one of these projects, we are to “stay professional, and remember that we are all adults”.

    And yes, that last part is a direct quote.

    I’ll be taking your advice and pressing charges and seeking legal assistance, I think.

    Thank all of you. So much.

  16. August 13, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    HR’s handling of this is disappointing in a lot of ways, but the worst thing about it is the assumption that he’s basically an okay guy, but that you two are having some kind of issue, so just separating the two of you will make it okay.

    That doesn’t make it okay, especially if he “accidentally” works with any other female (or even male?) and harasses or assaults her (or him).

    People who take such “liberties” with other people’s personal space are not likely to do so only in one isolated incident.

    This is akin to the courts not putting a murderer in prison but just promising to make sure the family of the murder victim will never see the murderer again.

  17. PrettyAmiable
    August 13, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    I would be careful about asking around before you speak with a lawyer about this, but there are lawyers who visit here frequently who can verify whether my concern is legitimate.

  18. karak
    August 13, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    If you wish to pursue this, my recommendation is to contact the police and the Better Business Bureau, just like those above me.

    And I wish you great strength in the battle to come. I sense this is going to be massively MORE unpleasant for you. Your assailant was wrong, and your company is wrong, and they should both be punished.

    If you still can’t get any satisfaction out of the company, police, or BBB, I suggest litigation and contacting the local paper.

    I also want to say that these kind of battles can be really miserable and stressful, and if you run out of emotional energy to pursue this at some point, that’s ok. You don’t lose feminist cred.

    I had a similar incident happen to me in school, and I just didn’t have the strength to continue demanding that he be expelled, that charges be pressed, etc, etc, so I had to drop the whole thing before I gave myself a heart attack or an ulcer.

  19. August 13, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    If zero tolerance is a written policy, you need to take your notes of what happened and the conversations you’ve had with HR over the past week, with a copy of the policy, to whichever manager is senior to you and him both, and ask what “zero tolerance” means if an employee who commits an assault on another employee is allowed to go back to work in the same department as the employee he assaulted.

    The thing is, though, my guess is you’re going to lose your job if you push it. Once HR’s decided to favor one employee over another, the ordinary employee is screwed.

    Hiring a lawyer sounds good. But it could be that the best you’re going to achieve is the best possible settlement on departure.

  20. dk
    August 13, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    Document everything, as descriptive as you can get, and then seek counsel. The whole “remember we’re adults” comment is total bullshit. They need to make sure that you’re in a safe environment, although they aren’t required to actually fire him – relocating him is probably okay. But it sounds like they’re not even doing that.

    I don’t think a lawsuit would be successful in terms of getting you $$$ and him fired, but having legal counsel assist you in negotiating with these dickheads would help you be taken seriously and would help ensure that you get the safe working environment you deserve. Get everything you can down on paper, all your interactions, their responses, timelines, etc, then go see an attorney and see what they suggest.

    I worked at 2 different employment law clinics during law school and we often helped with situations like this. That would be an inexpensive way to flesh out your case and see what your options are. Check with any local law schools and see if they run clinics that allow drop-ins, and if you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area I can give you some suggestions.

    I’m really sorry that the assault happened in the first place, and that it was compounded by everything that followed.

  21. Jadey
    August 13, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Thank you for going ahead with all of this. That assault was horrifying to read about, so I can guess that experiencing it must have been 100x worse, and I’m sure things aren’t going to be any easier or more comfortable going ahead. So thank you for fighting this, for the sake of other people who are put in positions like this, as well as for yourself.

  22. August 13, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    At least the university didn’t take the tack that a lot of companies do — fire both the assaulted and the assaulter.

    Not that that is much comfort.

    You “made” him assault you?

    I guess that, even through you are married, and didn’t invite him into your bed, the admission that you are bi just means that you have the hots for him.

  23. August 13, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    Here’s a copy of the Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division intake questionaire. Under “employment harms or actions” I’d make sure you marked “other” in addition to sexual harassment, with the “other” being sexual assault and fear for your physical safety.

    Here is the site for the Dallas Field Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You’re going to need to file a formal complaint first before you can sue anyway, so you might as well do as much DIY as you can before racking up attorney fees. The EEOC could solve the problem for you without you even needing to hire an attorney.

    Sit down, NOW, and get as calm as you can. Write down as many details about the incident as possible. Take a break, then go back and re-read what you wrote down. Fill in the blanks if there’s anything you left out. Get full names, titles, days and time of day you spoke to individuals, etc. There is no such thing as too much detail. Write it down, and put today’s date on top of it.

    Also, start keeping a job diary. A detailed job diary. If your employer retaliates against you for bringing this assault to their attention, this diary is going to be your backup. Keep it with you, on your person, at all times. Don’t leave it at your desk when you go to the bathroom. A nice journal that fits in a purse or backpack is ideal. Be sure and make note of any time you are left alone with this creep. Write down direct quotes. Everything—write it down. You may not need it….but if you do, it’s there.

    I’m not an attorney—I’m a union steward. My mother was a union steward. My grandmother was a union steward. This is good old-school labor advice. A job diary is a worker’s best friend. Make sure you write the date down, every day! You don’t have to write “dear diary”, but make sure you have “August 13, 2010”, etc. on each entry.

    Best wishes, and best of luck. Consider keeping a roll of quarters handy. And elbows are the great equalizer—you can break your hand on someone’s head, but you’re not going to do that to your elbow. Use it like a hook punch—twist those hips, put your whole body into it. Whack!

  24. Kristen J.
    August 13, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    To begin with, I hope you are well and you know you aren’t alone.

    Since you’ve decided to contact a lawyer, I would suggest contact women’s advocacy groups in your area (in addition to law schools as dk mentioned). It may be difficult to find an attorney willing to take your case unless you have the resources to pay their fees upfront or unless you are looking for a large cash settlement. Even if these groups are not be able to help you directly they may be willing to refer you to attorneys that take these cases on pro bono.

    My preference would be to contact an attorney before going to the police, but that is based on my experience with the police in my area and your mileage may vary. Your attorney can go with you an ensure at the very least that you are treated with some respect.

    Things to think about:

    (1) Other than going back in time and making him a different person, what would you see as the best possible outcome for you? Do you want him to lose his job? Do you want HR to enforce their policy? Do you want the vindication of a jury verdict? Do you want to punish either him or the organization for how they’ve acted? Or all of the above? Attorneys sometimes have their own idea of the “right outcome” (I always want to inflict maximum pain on the evildoers), but your needs and desire are most important and you will need to communicate them to your attorney.

    2) There may be consequences. This is not at all to dissuade you from taking action. Not at all. But IME some attorneys gloss over the very real consequences of speaking out and when/if the shit hits the fan, their client loses hope and resolve because they weren’t prepared for the push back. I don’t know what the push back will be like for you. I’m not familiar with your area or the treatment of these claims in your field. My only point is to give it some thought and make an informed decision.

    Knowing your limits is critical. You may be willing to go to private binding arbitration but want to settle before filing a lawsuit or providing a deposition. You may want to go to verdict but need to ask for larger damages to cover the harm to your career. There are lots of ways to go forward, so knowing what you want and what you are willing to risk will help you and your attorney craft the solution and the strategy that works for both of you.

    Best of luck!

  25. August 14, 2010 at 1:38 am

    RH: I’ve gotten clarification of what “no contact” means, and it makes matters even worse. My assailant has been told to not talk to me or look at me. I’ve been told the same. However, we will BOTH still be at the weekly departmental meetings, BOTH still working on the departmental projects, and if we happen to have to interact on one of these projects, we are to “stay professional, and remember that we are all adults”.

    First of all, keep remembering: this is not YOUR fault, this is his and THEIRS. It looks like they’re planning to try and equate your behaviour in complaining with his behaviour in assaulting you, and it may be worth re-stating, as often as you can: He assaulted you. He threatened you to make you keep quiet about the assault. You rightly took this to your manager.

    That your workplace has messed up in failing to relocate or fire your assault is not your fault.

    I posted last night half-asleep: reading this thread this morning I especially agree with La Lubu and Kristen.

    If it comes to a tribunal – formal or informal – it is definitely worth having a friend with you, someone who can take notes and who can keep reminding you: you’re in the right. He assaulted you and threatened you. Those are the facts. It’s not just a question of his paying a penalty for it – though it’s worth getting across that a letter about this needs to be placed in his permanent file, so that next time he assaults a fellow employee and threatens her to make her keep quiet, it’s on record that this is repeated behaviour (I doubt you are the first time he’s done something like this, either) – but also of your employers fulfiling their duty of care to keep you safe.

    But it helps to have someone at your side who’s on your side. And having an attorney there, while mega-helpful, would be expensive.

  26. Shaun
    August 14, 2010 at 5:11 am

    La Lubu:Consider keeping a roll of quarters handy. And elbows are the great equalizer—you can break your hand on someone’s head, but you’re not going to do that to your elbow. Use it like a hook punch—twist those hips, put your whole body into it. Whack!  

    You know, I don’t want to discourage anybody from defending herself if she feels physically threatened, but you can absolutely break your elbow hitting somebody the wrong way. Ever hit your funny bone? Really hard? Now imagine that right after you’ve just struck somebody in a situation like that.

    A roll of quarters can be handy because it increases the weight of your fist (although what you’re doing with your hips and feet is more important), but if it’s not handy than it’s not useful to you. You’d be better off striking vulnerable areas like the throat, knee, nose, or eyes, which the average person (of either sex) can do significant damage to–but if you don’t have great hand-eye coordination they’re not so easy to hit, especially while you’re reacting emotionally.

    And speaking as someone who HAS had some physical training, the one time I was assaulted, I absolutely did not use any of this training because I was terrified what the guy (stronger than me) would do if I tried to resist.

    I’m not advocating non-resistance, just use your head. If you want to go pick up some martial arts or boxing training (you absolutely should not feel obligated to, you do not work inside a post-apocalyptic Hong Kong action flick), go for it, but all it will do is add skills and weapons to your repertoire. You still have to decide what weapons to use and sheathe in any given situation.

    I don’t have any real advice to offer you on legal actions–I don’t know anything about how those claims work in Texas (though as you know they love to laud about being an “at-will” state)… and I don’t know your economic situation. But I would say if you don’t feel safe around him to go with your gut instinct and get out–if you’re in Austin, which it sounds like you might be, the economy there is better than in most of the rest of the country. Mostly I commented because while the action hero routine is justified to physically defend yourself, it’s not always the safest route for someone to take.

  27. Sheelzebub
    August 14, 2010 at 6:08 am

    They told you to remember that we’re all adults? Oh very concern trollish of them. Crap like that makes people want to sue the snot out of organizations, even if they don’t get a dime. FFS.

    ITA with the people who advised you to file a police report and a complaint with the EEOC. And I hope your lawyer points out to them that with these things on record, the organization will be vulnerable to liability if another woman comes forward saying this man assaulted her or harassed her (or for that matter, in any case of assault/harassment).

  28. Lorraine
    August 14, 2010 at 9:17 am

    First off, let me add my condolences to those above. I know what you’re going through. I had a similar thing happen once at a temp job, but I was able to quit and go somewhere else. I can imagine how awful it is to have to go there and see this schmuck.

    I agree with La Lubu and others. I have a few pointers. Filing at the EEOC is a must and if you do so, it must be within 180 days of the event. Even if you don’t end up going to court, the EEOC has a great mediation program that can get you resolution all around. In mediations, the employer agrees to a resolution that may include a change in policy, money damages, etc. Usually you waive your right to sue if you settle the case through mediation.

    If your employer retaliates against you in any way after your complaint, that is against the law and the employer can be held liable. Retaliation would have to involve some tangible, negative employment action such as demotion, move to a less desirable shift, firing, etc.
    Sad to say, if the employer takes appropriate action against the harasser, there is usually no ability to collect damages on the part of the attacked person. HOWEVER, I would seriously question what your employer has done to deal with this. “Acting like adults” does not address your very appropriate grievance. You shouldn’t have to work with this guy. Having to work with him could constitute a “hostile work environment” that could support an EEOC claim. Be aware that there’s a difference between sexual harassment – which is what you experienced – and gender discrimination. You could be experiencing both if they are not properly addressing your complaint because you’re female.
    And I agree – it wouldn’t hurt to visit your local police department, especially since your employer has already substantiated your story.
    And finally – good luck. Standing up for yourself and your civil rights is the right thing to do, but no one tells you how hard it can be. If you have a friend you can bring with you, good; if you can find someone who can be your advocate without obvious emotional entanglement, all the better (such as someone from an employee’s union, etc.)

  29. August 14, 2010 at 9:42 am

    OMG. Is there any way you can send an email to all women in that company with this blog post, and the guy’s name on it? He deserves to be OUTED. What happened to you was beyond unacceptable and he’s probably some kind of serial predator.

  30. lisa
    August 14, 2010 at 11:52 am

    GO guurl take down the whole company! Contact top women’s organizations.

    No one should be immune. This is OUR body and CEO’s or the president of the U.S. will know about it and learn the hard way.

  31. piny
    August 14, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    I hate to say it, but I really don’t think you should send any mass emails. HR would be very upset, and would probably fire you–and your unwillingness to go through one set of channels or another would probably make it more difficult to seek redress. He might even try to use the email to take some legal action against you–he wouldn’t have any actual right, but you don’t want to be involved in anything like that regardless.

  32. A. Fleming
    August 14, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    A military woman advised me the protocol is to demand they leave the premises or you’ll call the police and start a report for stalking behavior. It’s a power situation. Harassers/bullys thrive because of the freeze reaction but it’s the survival instinct. The employer is playing the big dog here but you can assert your power as other suggested. Sadly, the world functions on might makes right so it may be simplest to shun them and seek protection under the ADA because of the chronic anxiety if you stay. Employers actually expect women to just quit if they can’t take periodic harassment from men. Got to remember many folks are from abusive families so a little molestation seems trivial. I’ve only heard of one company that actually practiced zero tolerance and even the victim thought it was harsh (but she had a history of more severe abuse).

  33. Athenia
    August 14, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    I’m not sure if this is an option for you, but I would quit.

    Obviously, they don’t believe you and/or can’t fire the other employee based on the evidence. I would feel that this establishment is failing to protect you and you need to protect yourself. I think a message needs to be sent to HR that keeping this employee will cost them you and who knows who else.

  34. August 14, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Definitely don’t send any emails. Your behavior has to be impeccable, even if your co-worker’s isn’t. You will harm your case if you do any communicating with or about him (other than dealing with HR). It’s possible your employer is afraid of firing him; that’s no excuse for not transferring him back to the main office.

  35. R.H.
    August 14, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    La Lubu:

    I hadn’t even thought of the EEOC, or known about the workforce questionnaire.

    My laptop is about to die, so I can’t post more, but I again want to sincerely thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for responding. I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes, knowing that even though none of you know me personally, all of you took the time to respond. It means more to me than any of you can possibly know.

  36. prairielily
    August 15, 2010 at 12:46 am

    I can’t offer anything but support because I’m not American and this is not my field of expertise, but you absolutely have my support. :)

  37. Marksman2010
    August 15, 2010 at 2:57 am

    Bad time to be out of work, too. I wouldn’t quit my job.

  38. ginviren
    August 15, 2010 at 9:29 am

    I haven’t read through all the comments yet, but I did want to address a couple of things. Better Business Bureau (BBB) typically handles marketplace transactions in complaints (e.g. if you bought something that then broke, or a company did not honor their contract). They leave harassment and criminal allegations to the authorities as they are not a legal or government agency.

    I work in HR in Central Texas and have to deal with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) on a fairly regular basis. If the zero-tolerance policy is in writing and you can document that it was violated, you could quit your job and file for unemployment based on a hostile work environment situation. (Of course, I can’t advise you to quit your job – that has to be your decision).

    I’m really sorry this happened to you. :(

  39. arilikeairy
    August 15, 2010 at 10:08 am

    I recently left a job because my boss didn’t know how to respond to sexual harassment – making it out to be a personal issue that we could resolve ourselves rather than taking an organizational stance against it. It’s really great to see so much support here, but unfortunate that this happens so commonly. R.H.: best of luck, and remember that you are not alone. Fighting for this issue – however you continue to do it – will not just affect you, but will help prevent this from happening again.

  40. superlayne
    August 16, 2010 at 12:19 am

    Call the bastard’s wife. I’m sure he and her will love that. If you don’t care if people know you’re bisexual, then it doesn’t matter if he tries to spread it around.

  41. Geraldina
    August 16, 2010 at 10:25 am

    I don’t think there’s anything substantial I can add with my comment, but I just wanted to wish you all the best with whatever course of action you are going to take. This is inexcusable, and both he and the department shouldn’t try to brush it off. Hang in there!

  42. piny
    August 16, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Call the bastard’s wife. I’m sure he and her will love that. If you don’t care if people know you’re bisexual, then it doesn’t matter if he tries to spread it around. superlayne

    Hey, everybody? Please remember that this isn’t somebody’s livejournal. This woman depends on this job. This situation is dangerous; this man already assaulted and threatened her.

    These suggestions are irresponsible. They trade professionalal and legal standing for a few nasty jokes. If implemented, they can get her fired. She needs to stay formal and professional. Tact is her best hope.

  43. me and not you
    August 16, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    document everything. Try to get written statements from hr on their policies, the decision, etc

    Then lawyer up and warn HR that you’re taking legal action and going to the media. Negative media attention does wonders to change things. The threat on it’s own might be enough, and if you show that you know your laws, they may not try retribution later down the line.

    If they don’t change anything you may have to quit. It’s a terrible time I know, but there are some IT places that are hiring (in central Texas, I’m thinking Reynolds and Reynolds specifically, they’re in College Station, Houston and possibly in Dallas–can’t remember). Start looking for a new job now…

  44. Kristen J.
    August 16, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Re: Media

    Please be very careful about contacting the media. Its a strategy that can easily backfire if you are not het, cit, white, virginal, conventionally attractive, etc. (and since you’ve disclosed that you are bi…well, the media may not be the best option). Its horrible to say, but we support rape shield traditions for a reason. The media has a tendency to rip victims to shreds, question their motivations and every action. I do not think it advisable to speak to the media without the assistance of a very media savvy representative unless of course it is your very last option and your goal is publicity.

  45. Jennifer
    August 16, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    How horrible–the assault and the response. I agree with the police report and EEOC complaint recommendations.

    It seems to me that, in addition to being insulting, the conditions of the “no contact” rule are potentially impossible to meet. How are you supposed to interact as “adults” if you have to work together when you can have no contact.

    Does it seem weird to anyone else that they asked you if you were going to quit? I wonder if they are just taking for granted that you’ll leave and not putting energy into a real solution. That just seems a really odd and unethical question to ask. What he did was wrong regardless of whether you stay or leave, and they should be monitoring him closely for the sake of other employees.

    Ugh. Good luck!

  46. Amity
    August 17, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    I don’t have any legal advice to add, but I just wanted to share my support for you as well… Best wishes for a positive outcome for you.

  47. Grace
    August 18, 2010 at 12:12 am

    What state did this take place in? Look up sexual harassment attorneys. (There are also some very good ones on youtube.com that discuss sexual harassment.) I think that you have an assault case as well, perhaps even sexual battery. See an attorney immediately and have them advise you about going to the police. Start a log, keep it at home, and document everything. One good book that I can recommend is called A Victim’s Guide To Sexual Harassment (for California) by
    Tim Broderick. If you’re not in California, please get resources, and an attorney, in your state.

  48. Ismone
    August 19, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    1) Not giving legal advice, not located in Texas, etc., but I find it odd that the no contact instruction falls every bit as much on you as on him. That may be something to push on.
    2) I would look into temporary restraining orders (there may be some easy self-help websites and organizatins) and see if you qualify for one. In some states, TROs limit what the offender can do, but not what the victim can do. If you have a TRO, that might help you manage to keep him out of your physical space, and might prevent your outfit from being able to let him work with you. It might not work, though, because some TRO judges are pretty big on their being a kind of course of conduct.
    3) I am so, so sorry you’re going through this. Please do talk to as many community organizations as possible. If there is a legal clinic nearby, go. Sometimes different lawyers give different answers.
    4) I’m kind of surprised that people are encouraging you to quit your job. Of course, that is totally up to you, but if you like your job, why the hell should you? He’s the screwup. No, you may not be able to get justice, but I wouldn’t assume that, nor would I assume that quitting straight away would help your case.
    (((Innernet Hugs)))

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