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To have made a complaint to HR?

(118 Posts)
soupforbrains Thu 26-Oct-17 10:56:00

I don’t want to drip feed so this might be a bit long sorry!

A little background for starters. I work for a large Italian company in the U.K. in a male dominated industry. The company has a number of ‘sub-companies’ which operate separately on different activities but which are often closely linked.

The company I work for owns our office building and one other of the Group companies ‘rents’ some floors in the building.

On Tuesday I was carrying out a task which involved checking the fire extinguisher types and locations throughout the whole building. All areas of all floors are accessed using key-cards and only people from the relevant company/project have access to each area.

One of our security guards, Bob, came with me to walk through the whole building top to bottom te ensure I could access all areas.

As I entered one of the areas used by the other company I paused to check my plans just outside the office of Mario whom I know, Mario gives me a cheery hello and I then continued to look at the plans to work out where to check.

Another employee let’s call him Luigi, walked past, and, nodding his head at me said to Mario “bordello”. Mario looks up from his work and says “eh?”. Luigi again nods at me and says again “bordello” before walking off.

I don’t speak much Italian, and in the moment wasn’t sure I had understood so quickly checked what I needed to and left the room. At which point Bob says to me with an eyebrows raised face “even I know what that word means”.

I felt a bit uncomfortable but still wasn’t sure what it meant so sort of brushed it off.

Yesterday I found it was still bothering me, so I looked it up, and bordello means brothel or whorehouse. Obviously this is very insulting/offensive.

In the male dominated environment I work in sometimes the ‘locker room” environment means people overstep lines, plus there is sometimes a linguistic/cultural difference and I have never before made a complaint. This is because A) all things a bit hmm that have been said before I know were intended complimentarily/playfully and were just one party going a bit far or wording things in a way that comes across wrongly.
And B) anything which may have previously happened has happened with someone with whom I have a good working relationship and with whom I have no problem simply saying “no, that’s a bit far” or “you can’t say that” etc. No-one has ever ‘repeat offended’.

However I have lodged a formal complaint about this because I have never even spoken to Luigi AND there is no way at all that what he said could have been anything other than an offensive insult.

I mentioned this to a colleague who then asked what happened and their response was “it’s just a word”.

So, was I being unreasonable to have made a complaint?

*names have been changed throughout grin

Travis1 Thu 26-Oct-17 10:58:44

Luigi is an arsehole and you are not wrong to have complained.

user1497357411 Thu 26-Oct-17 11:19:30

YANBU. Luigi is a twat and needs to be told by HR in no uncertain terms where to stuff if.

Madbum Thu 26-Oct-17 11:26:40

Luigi called you a whore in Italian? YANBU Mario is a bit of a prick as is Bob for not objecting to it. Hopefully HR will come down on him like Bowser.

BellaHadidHere Thu 26-Oct-17 11:27:09

Well done, OP


I used to work in an office with four men who would sometimes start speaking Urdu in order to comment between them on the women's appearances. I'm white British but, unbeknownst to my colleagues, I lived for a while abroad, am pretty fluent in Urdu and at the time had a Middle Eastern partner with whom I spoke Urdu at home.

I let it go on for about a month, during which time I was noting down in a document every time it happened and what was said. After a month, I put it into HR as a formal complaint of sexism and racial discrimination. These men didn't know what had hit them. It was brilliant to watch them be completely confused as to who the actual hell knew what was going on and who lodged the complaint grin.

You did the right thing, OP.

Criceta Thu 26-Oct-17 11:28:35

YANBU. I used to work for an Italian company too, and, although most male colleagues were perfectly OK, the odd sexist dinosaur was tolerated more than they would be in a UK company. Nothing will change unless you report it, so well done for doing just that.

FenceSitter01 Thu 26-Oct-17 11:29:07

Will Mario witness what Luigi said - you have a language barrier - you havent grasped the whole sentance, just one word. This could easily be twisted.

"Corporate Bordello" is actually a political phrase.

KimmySchmidt1 Thu 26-Oct-17 11:29:16

you totally did the right thing. it sounds like luigi is the outlier even by the reactions of the other two men.

Luigi can always fvck off back to Italy if the right to hurl offensive gender slurs when he should be getting on with his job is that high on his list of priorities.

FenceSitter01 Thu 26-Oct-17 11:32:05

"Puttana" is whore

steff13 Thu 26-Oct-17 11:33:08

Luigi called you a whore in Italian?

No, bordello is Italian for brothel, not prostitute (or whore). It doesn't make a lot of sense, actually.

Madbum Thu 26-Oct-17 11:35:49

steff13 thanks for the clarification.
I wonder what he meant by it then? It doesn’t make sense to call a person a brothel confused

steff13 Thu 26-Oct-17 11:38:27

It doesn't. It's like implying someone is a doctor by calling them a hospital. Weird.

leavemealone2017 Thu 26-Oct-17 11:39:22

Well they called your a brothel not a whore, so either they're shit at Italian or you've misunderstood the situation

Acopyofacopy Thu 26-Oct-17 11:39:45

They said brothel, not whore.
It can also mean mess or chaos, it’s the same in French.

VladmirsPoutine Thu 26-Oct-17 11:39:58

BellaHadidHere I just want to pause to give you a round of applause! wine
I would have loved to watch that go down! And what makes it even better is that you sat on it, kept composure whilst logging everything.
You're my hero! grin

OP, you did the right thing!

MrsHathaway Thu 26-Oct-17 11:40:04

Bordello means brothel in English - it's a loan from Italian but we know it.

I think it was pretty rude of Luigi to address Mario in a language they have in common but can assume you don't speak. To do so to make reference to sex is completely inappropriate.

I do think it's a bit odd phrasing, mind you, as though it's a jokey code word. I worked somewhere where some staff were notorious for shagging in a particular store room, and that room then got a silly reputation and nickname as a result. Someone spotting a nice-looking stranger with a colleague might have said "Going up to the fifth floor?" which would have sounded innocuous but meant "hur hur shag her". Might have. But wouldn't. Because professional adults!

whitershadeofpale Thu 26-Oct-17 11:41:39

I don't speak Italian but Corporate Bordello makes more sense in the context of what you were doing- kind of like saying 'health and safety gone mad' or something.

BarbarianMum Thu 26-Oct-17 11:44:00

I think you were right to complain. If it is a misunderstanding they can explain.

BellaHadidHere Thu 26-Oct-17 11:45:24

Thanks Vladimir

It was deeply satisfying though at times I had to try and scribble down vague phonics to relay to my then DP to clarify what it meant. Half the time I'd managed to scribble down "Susan's wall lawnmower fluff paper" so I had to chalk that up to [inaudible] in my notes grin

FenceSitter01 Thu 26-Oct-17 11:48:03

I think you were right to complain. If it is a misunderstanding they can explain.

Because complaining about thing we dont understand is such good works practice and will create a cohesive work force. hmm

HR are probably pissing them selves at the Inglese

BootHill Thu 26-Oct-17 11:48:49

Bordello meaning brothel makes no sense. If Luigi speaks English, I would have approached him and asked what he meant by it.

BellaHadidHere Thu 26-Oct-17 11:49:17

Regardless of whether or not the OP has misunderstood the wording, it's rude and unprofessional to speak in a different language to another person at work. It deliberately excludes the person who doesn't speak the language and creates an uncomfortable work environment.

If she's misunderstood then they can explain this but they should get a dressing down for deliberately excluding OP from their conversation

BellaHadidHere Thu 26-Oct-17 11:51:26


Because complaining about thing we dont understand is such good works practice and will create a cohesive work force

But the fact OP didn't/doesn't understand is a key problem here. Work colleagues shouldn't be talking in a way which deliberately excludes someone to the point they don't understand what's being said (which might or might not be about them).

Speaking in another language to deliberately exclude others absolutely doesn't create a cohesive workforce. The OP isn't the one souring workplace cohesion.

BananasAreGood Thu 26-Oct-17 11:55:20

It's far more likely the OP misheard or misunderstood, as she doesn't speak Italian and presumably the word went by extremely quickly.

Even if he did say that word, it doesn't mean whore at all, it has perfectly innocuous meanings. But it's also likely it was a different word and the OP latched on to a word she knew that sounded similar to what he said.

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Thu 26-Oct-17 11:56:35

I can't understand people delightedly scribbling things down to go and report to HR (like you're about 6yo and they're your mum) rather than actually just saying something at the time! I've spoken to line managers in the past if it's not appropriate to speak to the person but always immediately or after having slept on it.

That's not the same as feeling unable to say something or being intimidated into silence at all (which often happens when the culture is rotten or what is happening is truly awful). That's taking a gleeful delight in getting people into trouble.

If we all took responsibility for our work place and spoke up at the time (like adults) a lot of behaviour that should not be tolerated will find it much harder to get a foothold.

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