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Sexual harrassment at work making my skin crawl... Please give me some advice!

(22 Posts)
anonymoosenamechange Thu 24-Oct-13 21:15:02

Hello, I normally just reply to threads on here but I really need some advice on this regarding some sexual and well, general harassment at work which has really pushed me to the end of my tether...

About four months ago I started a new job as a sales associate in an optician, it went really quite well, my boss was happy with my performance and I actually achieved the highest figures of the team in my second month and when I went for my professional exam I got 98%. I am telling you this just to point out early that I'm not rubbish at what I do!

However, 2 months later my DP got his dream job (kinda) in another city, so we had to move. When I gave notice and apologised to my boss he was very understanding and suggested a transfer to that city within the company, I was pleasantly surprised and accepted it.

Unfortunately, I have now been at my new new job for another 2 months and I am in a total mess about it. A major problem for me is my supervisor. At first when I met him he seemed a bit strange because he would tell lots of wild stories about himself and his background that contradicted each other and he creeped me out a little, but after a while he started doing things like coming up to me while I was on the phone to a customer so I couldn't say anything to him and stroking me on the back and arm, and he does a weird thing of coming up behind me and scratching me on the shoulder or grabbing my hair. I always pull away so it is obvious it is unwanted contact, he knows I am in a relationship and he is married with a pregnant wife! More recently he has started coming up behind me and grabbing me in a 'hug' so that his arms press against my boobs.

He has also made some very inappropriate comments. If you believe it, when I was on the phone to a customer and he came over and whispered in my free ear (shudder) "you know, men like me get more ass than most" and then walked off! What?! I've still not gotten over how creepy that was. Another time, my company was doing a charity day and I was given the job of going out and handing out awareness information, collecting donations and giving out balloons to children, and he came poddling over with more balloons for me, and as he put them down he said to me "out here where no one's watching I could do whatever I like to you." Yuck! He has made similar comments when he has come into offices where I have been alone. But that just proves that he knows that the contact is inappropriate and unwanted that he waits until I am alone.

There is another young lady he behaves similarly to although I don't think it is as quite to the extreme as it is with me and other staff have made comments about his behaviour. I feel kind of weak and stupid because I don't think I stand up for myself enough but I am quite quiet in nature I suppose, and I think that's why he picks on me.

I cannot approach the manager with this information because they are mates, and to be honest, I am not happy with the behaviour I have seen from him either. There was another lady who started on the same day as me who left in tears (on the first day) because he shouted at her like a school child over something trivial. Despite my previous very good figures, I have not had a chance to get anywhere near that here because I feel like because I am the least experienced there, I get singled out for menial tasks. And I am not exaggerating, for the last three 8 hour shifts I was there I was made to sit in isolation in a darkened room shelling nearly out of date contact lenses, when my fingers were cut to bits at the end of the first day of this from the jagged foil! Maybe this sounds a bit trivial, but it's humiliating since I am well qualified (and contracted) to do the same work as everyone else! Many members of staff have complained about him and I have seen a few people in tears because of his nasty behaviour.

Anyway, yesterday the supervisor, after making more inappropriate sexual advances, personally insulted me and told me out of nowhere that he thought I was dim-witted. I went home pretty p'd off and when I told my partner this he said he thought I should just not go back and it had gone far enough. I called in sick for the first time today because I needed to think about things, but I still don't know what to do. To be honest, the thought of setting foot in the place again makes my skin crawl and I am scared that the sexual behaviour of the supervisor might get worse. I am thinking of calling the company's HR department tomorrow and asking for advice. I have really reached a point where I have had enough, and I have spent today applying for other jobs. I would love to take my DP's advice and just leave, but I don't know what the legal ramifications of this are and if they can withhold the wages I am owed. It may not be a good idea anyway in case I don't find anything for a long while.

Sorry for the long post! Does anyone have any advice? I don't know what to do.sad

MissMarplesBloomers Thu 24-Oct-13 21:20:37

Could you ring your old boss & ask for some advice?

You absolutely should NoT have to tolerate this. Who does he report to above him? or if that's his manager -friend above them?

anonymoosenamechange Thu 24-Oct-13 21:26:14

Well, I had considered my old boss, also HR who I was planning on giving a ring tomorrow (day off). I think I have gotten used to it a little, day after day, and then I just snapped the other night and now I am really quite angry on reflection on how I have been treated.

Littleredsquirrel Thu 24-Oct-13 21:30:15

Its sexual harassment. Call HR and put in a grievance. They will undertake an investigation.

You have the right not to suffer discrimination on the basis of sex (and all other protected characteristics) from day one of your employment. If you are then victimised for bringing the complaint then that gives you the right to bring a further complaint of victimisation under the Equality Act 2010.

PM me if you want to discuss off line. I'm an employment lawyer.

EBearhug Fri 25-Oct-13 01:43:56

What Littleredsquirrel says. And meanwhile, keep a log of all events - comments, touching, all the rest - note time, date, what was said/done.

I really don't understand how anyone in this day and age can think this is somehow they can behave anywhere, but particularly in the workplace. (I know they do, though.)

flowery Fri 25-Oct-13 10:39:16

"I really don't understand how anyone in this day and age can think this is somehow they can behave anywhere, but particularly in the workplace."

Beggars belief doesn't it? And yet they do. It's 2013 FGS!

OP I think you should raise a grievance. Frequently when this happens there are several women who have suffered the same thing and when one person raises a grievance they all speak out, having been afraid to before.

They can't withhold any pay from you, and you can continue to look for other jobs at the same time, and can leave mid-grievance if you want to, but the formal process will be in motion and hopefully this guy will be dealt with.

peggyundercrackers Fri 25-Oct-13 10:54:53

i would complain about it. i would also buy a secret recording device in the shape of a pen - you get them on ebay for a fiver and they work exceptionally well - once you have it stick it in your pocket while its switched on. i used to have one because i felt people at work were speaking behind my back so left it in my bag in the rest room - its amazing what other people say about you behind your back... their faces are a real picture when you tell them what you done too smile

hermioneweasley Fri 25-Oct-13 14:00:15

Flowery and littlered are spot on. Please start making notes of all incidents in as much detail as possible - time, date, how long the incident went on for, whether there were any witnesses who saw it or saw you upset afterwards. Please make notes of incidents that have happened so far as well.

It is appalling and you are well protected in law.

Good luck!

EBearhug Fri 25-Oct-13 14:21:49

Think twice about using secret recording devices. You shouldn't record people without their permission, and you wouldn't be able to use it as evidence. It could compromise your case if you did. From what you say, it doesn't sound like you're going to have to hunt far for evidence anyway, unfortunately.

Going back to "it's 2013", only this very morning, a colleague sent a link with "amusing" mock IT posters, as the colour is right for our company. I pointed out (on reply-all) they were just sexist, not funny, and if anyone needed a reminder of what counts as appropriate behaviour, here's a link to the relevant part of the code of conduct.

Littleredsquirrel Fri 25-Oct-13 14:50:39

EBearhug the employment tribunal would in all likelihood accept the recording (or an agreed transcript of the recording) as evidence and if the evidence was incriminating it also means the case probably wouldn't even get as far as a tribunal hearing. This wouldn't be a criminal court.

EBearhug Fri 25-Oct-13 16:07:41

Oh, okay, I didn't realise. I work in a department that's spread across EMEA, and you can't record people without their knowledge in every country.
(Well, you can if you have the technology, but you may not - just channelling my mother there!)

smearedinfood Fri 25-Oct-13 16:15:04

If he's an optician he will be registered with the General Optical Council, so you can also make a complaint there.

smearedinfood Fri 25-Oct-13 16:17:24

Also police.

RenterNomad Fri 25-Oct-13 16:33:27

Your old boss would be an excellent extra "reference" to bolster your case with HR. Are you in a union?

Think about complaining about the manager, too; that will also explain why you had no confidence in approaching him with your complaint.

peggyundercrackers Sat 26-Oct-13 01:56:40

Ebearhug - you say you cant record people without their knowledge? I guess that rule doesn't apply if you work for NSA or GCHQ...

also IME I found that once they knew I was recording things everything stopped as they didn't know if they were being recorded or not - they didn't take it further because I had the evidence although I never offered them a copy. even if they said to HR I was doing this illegally how would they prove it? my word against theirs.

zippey Sat 26-Oct-13 02:46:53

Another thing to think about OP, is that you are in a good position, if you're not all that worried about losing your job (going by what your DH said about not going back) - it means you can go into this with a bit of confidence.

Im not sure about covert recording - all takes time and effort, does your place have cctv? But deffo report, and you can give this creep his comeuppance, as well as perhaps helping future employees from suffering the same torture you have had to endure.

Chottie Sat 26-Oct-13 06:57:11

Please don't let this man get away with this disgusting behaviour. Can you speak to other women who have worked with him? The more evidence the more the company will have to take this seriously.

I can remember my DM telling me stories of this sort happening when she started work in 1947 - sadly not much seems to have changed.....

differentnameforthis Sat 26-Oct-13 07:32:34

but I still don't know what to do.

You are being assaulted. If you cannot take this to head office, you need to go to the police.

tribpot Sat 26-Oct-13 07:41:46

Absolutely shocking, OP. You should not be treated like this. Get it all written down and speak to HR or the police. He needs sacking.

martinedwards Sat 26-Oct-13 07:52:51

sound recorder, even video, as you can get stand alone usb recorders for not much nowadays.

go over the managers head, call your old manager for advice but get the complaint rolling.

Jimmy Saville and Stewart Hall spring to mind. they got away with it for decades because no-one complained.

BrownSauceSandwich Sat 26-Oct-13 11:31:31

Christ alive, OP, this is just awful! You don't need to feel stupid or weak... Any one of us could be subjected to bullying and sexual harassment, and we all need to know that we are able to make it stop.

You've had some good advice above, I really hope you get a quick result from HR. Apes like those two have no place in positions of authority in the workplace.

PolterGoose Sun 27-Oct-13 10:31:54

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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