When there is a predator in the office
After the mortgage meltdown, I consulted for five years at some of the top companies in the world. One of those companies was a popular discount airline that you all use regularly. There were at least 30 consultants there from my agency that consisted of various types of developers and project managers. One of the developers sat behind me and often talked to me about what people were doing in the office, what’s going on in the news and what he did over the weekend. He was divorced and had gotten custody of the kids and would often talk about the struggles of being a single dad. He would also ask for advice in dealing with his teenage daughter. He appeared friendly and harmless especially since he had gotten custody of his kids (a girl 16 and a boy 12). I wasn’t romantically interested in him, but I enjoyed his company, and he wasn’t coming on to me, so I felt safe. We sometimes snuck off to Roosevelt Field to window shop when the boss wasn’t around. We also went to lunch together or with a few other consultants. Let me warn you now that he didn’t remain nice so let’s refer to him as “Bad Guy” for the rest of the story.
There was another guy in the office that was a permanent employee and had worked there for quite some time. He was a bad guy turned good and was now pastoring a church. He would take me home from work every day because we didn’t live too far from each other in Brooklyn (at the time) and the office was on Long Island. Let’s call him “Good Guy.” We had a lot in common however I wasn’t romantically interested in him either but did consider him a good friend. Well one day, Good Guy mentioned that Bad Guy approached him and asked him to stay away from me because he was romantically interested. I found this to be bold and aggressive for Bad Guy to approach my friend in this manner since everyone already thought Good Guy and I were together (we were not but Bad Guy didn’t know that). Additionally, Bad Guy didn’t ask how I felt before he approached another guy. My feelings did not seem relevant in his pursuit of me.
I decided that it wasn’t appropriate for me to call Bad Guy out on approaching Good Guy because that would probably escalate things between them. I felt the best approach was to distance myself from Bad Guy and let my actions show I wasn’t interested since he never came out and told me he had any romantic interest. As I said, he sat behind me, so it wasn’t easy to ignore him, but I just gave yes or no answers, didn’t respond to his stories or turn around and didn’t include stories of my own. I refused lunch outings with him and let the other women know what was going on so they wouldn’t initiate lunch outings with him and me.
He then started speaking with the other women in the office about me. He was asking them why I wasn’t talking to him and telling them he always has problems with women. Their response to him was that I wasn’t interested in him and to leave me alone. However, he wouldn’t let up. He didn’t know everyone was telling me every time he mentioned my name.
The Harassment Starts
It started innocently, well so I thought. He started saying how great my jeans were and then it escalated to how great I look in them. Then the reckless eyeballing began. I would turn around, and he’s staring at my butt and wouldn’t stop when he knew I saw him doing it. It eventually escalated further to IMs (on the company network) of how sexy I am and how round and plump my ass is which I would respond to with a vomit emoji. I didn’t know whether I should pity him or be afraid of him.
On Fridays, it was my responsibility to get a status update from all the developers so I could put together and overall project status update. I asked Bad Guy for his status, and his response to me was “I’ll give it to you after you go to lunch with me.” I told him I need to get my work done and I don’t have time for games so please provide the update. His response again “You’ll get it after you go to lunch with me.” I lost it! I’ve never felt so victimized and belittled in the office. After screaming at him and demanding that he do his job by providing an update, he gave me a look that I took to mean that I would regret rejecting and embarrassing him. Then he goes on to tell me that he didn’t like my tone and because of that I can now only communicate with him through email. This man was sexually harassing me, and now he’s trying to flip it on me since I screamed at him for harassing ME. After all, everyone in our section saw me yelling at him. I saw him looking around making sure the men were taking notice.
The Cat Strikes Back
The first thing I did was write down everything he had done. The second thing I did was call the agency and report him, and they responded that they would investigate. Then I went to my manager (his manager as well) and informed him that I had to report Bad Guy to the agency for sexual harassment. He wanted examples of some of the things he was doing and saying so I had mentioned the text about my bottom. He was as disgusted as I was and said let’s wait to see what the agency does since we all worked for them.
Meanwhile, Bad Guy declared war on black women (he was of another race). He started harassing another black woman in the office, and she called the agency and reported it as well. She did it at her desk loud enough for him to hear. I saw him speaking to the men, so I guess he was putting a story together just in case he needed one. I’m sure he noticed I was very calm and quiet which is unlike me and was wondering what I had up my sleeve. He didn’t know I had reported him first and went into graphic detail about the things he was saying and doing to me.
The Agency Responds
I went to lunch, and when I got back, the company had locked me out of the computer. I went to my manager, and he told me to call the agency. I called them, and they told me to come to the corporate office at 9 AM the next day, bring my ID, computer and any other equipment that belongs to the company. Yes, I’m just as shocked as you! I found out later that they also told the other black woman and him the same thing!
“Well, I will let you know before you read further that they clearly “Had Me Fucked Up”! If there is one thing I learned, it is to cover your own ass! “
Boss Bitch Wear Your Crown!
I put on my interview suit and my brightest smile and went to their fancy park avenue address. Their VP and Head of HR escorted me to a conference room. They had such serious looks on their faces, and I had a smile on mine. VP started to talk, and I cut him off. I said, “Before you speak, I want to let you know that I have been the victim of sexual harassment by another consultant who is also employed by you. You had my computer access blocked; however, I still have multiple pieces of evidence to prove the harassment. I have printed copies. Would you like to see them?” They looked at each other and said “No” in unison. They both looked at each other again, and then HR spoke. He said” I’m sorry you dealt with that and we have a no tolerance policy. We wanted to let you know that we will be letting him go today. He’s here today, and we want to make sure you are safely away from the building before we do that. Is there anything we can do for you?” I said “Yes, you can pay me for the day since I wasn’t allowed to work due to being sexually harassed. You can also let my manager know that I will be back tomorrow, and I didn’t do anything wrong.”
After my computer got locked, I packed up my stuff and went home. The other consultants and employees were watching me and didn’t know what was going on, and I didn’t say anything. One minute they saw me screaming and the next minute they saw me gathering my things mid-day. An hour later they saw the other black woman gathering her things, and then Bad Guy. It was the biggest scandal that ever rocked that office. Nobody knew what was happening, so they were making up all kinds of things. One story I heard was that the other black woman and I were let go for harassing Bad Guy, and so they let him go home early. We had waited outside for him and beat him senseless. He was in the hospital recovering. I got such a laugh out of that one!
After everything was over and done with and the agency called my manager, a meeting was called with the staff that afternoon. My manager explained to the team what happened and that Bad Guy was let go. The next day, some of the managers came over to me and said they were glad I was back. A few also said if anything else like that ever happens again to let them know. I got some nasty looks from some of the men who were friends of his (behind my back). However, they were not bold enough to do it in my face so I could care less. What kind of man makes faces behind a woman’s back and then pretends he wasn’t doing it when she turns around.
- Always keep a paper trail with dates and times. As you see, if you report harassment you may be blocked from your computer and will not have access to the proof you need. Take a screenshot with your phone (not a phone issued by the company).
- I know this is a hard one, but if you have someone, you can trust then let them know. You can have the trusted person watch, so you have a witness if you need one or help block if they see the harasser invading your space.
- There is no shame in getting support! You should never feel alone in any predatory situation. Sometimes you can fight harder without using your fists, but you need to know how. Go to therapy if you need to. Whatever you do, don’t let the creep make you feel afraid to come to work. Take back the power he or she is trying to take away from you.