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By Jody Valley
Trapped in the office
Q: My problem is kind of hard to explain but I will try to sum everything up as quickly as possible. First of all, I am a young gay woman, 23 years old. I am nice looking, have a good education, and a good job. I currently work as a financial advisor. I love my work, but my work is also my problem. I have worked in this office since I graduated four years ago. I’ve always admired my boss, “Joe,” and have seen him as a good friend. He has known from day one that I am gay, and we have even talked about who I am dating and how serious I am. I often invite him to parties at my house where lot of my friends gather and my partners and I have been invited to functions he is hosting. He has always been open and accepting of who I am.
The last month or so I started noticing a difference in his behavior. Joe started making little joking comments about how sexy I look and/or what I am wearing. The other day we were out to lunch, he saw a woman in a disgustingly revealing outfit, and he said he thought I would look really good in something like that, and that I should dress to show off “my goods.” I just laughed when he has said these things because I thought he was just joking with me.
Well, a week ago he caught me after work and came into my office and shut the door. He came over, sat on the edge of my desk right next to where I was sitting, grabbed my hand and started rubbing my leg with his leg. He then started telling me how he can’t get me out of his mind, and he has wanted to screw me ever since I walked in the door the first day. When I said I was gay, his reply was “you won’t be after you experience what I have to offer”.
I quickly got up saying I was late meeting a friend for dinner and pretty much ran out the door of my office. Now whenever he finds me alone, he tells me what he wants to do with me, and how much I would love it. When I am not alone with him, he looks at me like I am a piece of meat, sneering and licking his lips. I really don’t know why all of this started, the only thing I can think of is a few days before all this started, he broke up with his girlfriend. I was at a bar with him, along with some of our colleagues this one night. We both got pretty drunk and he spilled his guts to me about her and how he was feeling. Nothing happened; we just talked far into the night. I don’t know if he got the wrong idea or what.
I can’t go to his boss, because I am afraid he will fire me. Joe makes a lot more money for the company than I do, so I know if they wouldn’t do anything to Joe even if I told them. Besides they might not believe me. I’ve never known Joe to be like this with anyone. What do you think I should do?
Not Fresh Meat
A: From what you have told me, you haven’t told Joe to stop his behavior. By not directly saying anything, he might be interpreting that you are interested or that you think his behavior is okay. You need to let him know – in no uncertain terms – that you expect him to stop this behavior and to treat you respectfully. Be clear to him that you are finding his behavior to be sexual harassment. Let him know that if his behavior doesn’t stop, you will take action against him. Then, do it, if necessary! However, if he doesn’t, you can go to the HR department and let them know what has been happening. The HR department should have an investigation conducted; they are supposed to do it as confidentially as possible. Make sure you keep good notes as to what has been going on, and when and where. Hopefully and probably, this will stop his behavior and you won’t have to go the legal route. Your only other alternatives are to continue to be sexually harassed, or to quit.