My manager, who I will call Mr. Bully, belittles, intimidates and harasses one of my employees on a regular basis. Yesterday he threatened to write her up for no apparent reason and made her cry. We are both afraid of him and fear retaliation if I speak up or report him to HR. I’ve tried talking to his manager, but he says Mr. Bully is a friend of our company’s President and there is nothing he can do. When I try to discuss his treatment of my employee or other problems in our department directly with Mr. Bully he yells at me. Then he says we are good right and asks for a hug.
Oh and another thing, he touches and gropes both myself and my employee. I know his manager has seen him do this, but he pretends he has not. This manager then told me to tell him to never touch me again. My employee does not want me to go to HR about the touching because she doesn’t want Mr. Bully to find out we reported him. Both of us really need our jobs and are certain our company’s President will not allow him to be reprimanded.
Mr. Bully is from another country and we understand his behavior towards us (we are women) may be influenced by his culture, but we don’t like it. What should I do?
To start with Mr. Bully’s manager is a spineless weasel. The minute you reported the touching to him regardless of whether he witnessed it himself, he was required to take reasonable care to correct the harassment. In saying that, you also have an obligation to protect your employee from sexual harassment. It is your responsibility as a manager to thoroughly investigate a sexual harassment charge even if you are asked not to. If it comes out later you were aware of sexual harassment and did nothing your job could be in jeopardy.
I recommend you go home and write down every harassment incident you recall. Include dates, times, locations, who was present and what occurred. Include the “asking for a hug” incidents. Stick to the facts. Don’t write: he’s a creep and everyone I talk to thinks he’s a creep too. Don’t give excuses like he is not from our country and doesn’t understand our culture. Don’t say: Mr. Bully’s boss witnessed the incident, but refuses to admit it. Just write Mr. B’s boss was in the room.
First thing tomorrow morning pull out your employee manual and determine how to report a harassment incident. Follow the procedures indicated and file your report. Your company, most likely the HR department, will begin an investigation. They are required to make every effort to keep your identity confidential during and after the investigation. However, you or your employee’s identity may be obvious from the facts of the complaint.
It doesn’t matter that Mr. Bully is a friend of your company’s President. There is nothing he can or should do to prevent Mr. Bully from being investigated, but if you think your employer didn't fulfill its obligation under the law, or you experience retaliation consider contacting the EEOC.
In the interim if Mr. Bully touches you or your employee again tell him his behavior is not acceptable and must stop immediately. He is trying to bully and intimidate you as well as your employee and has created a hostile work environment.
It was hard for me to hear blatant sexual harassment such as this is still occurring in my back yard and that managers remain unwilling and afraid to report it. When this acquaintance initially came to me I was reminded of Penelope Trunk’s post Don’t report sexual harassment (in most cases). Penelope states:
After you've filed a report, human resources will protect the company, not you. The law is set up to encourage a company to take proscribed steps to protect itself from liability rather than to protect your emotional stability, or, for that matter, your career.She suggests employees have a frank talk with their harasser prior to going to HR and to negotiate with him/her themselves. She recommends asking to be transferred to another department and if that doesn’t work to begin looking for a new job.
I am sure Mr. Bully has harassed women who have worked for him in the past and will do so again if he is not stopped. The thought of this manager getting away with this sickens me. I hope Penelope is wrong and HR will be successful in changing his behavior.
What do you think? Should employees report sexual harassment?