How to deal with sexual harassment in the work place and my feelings about it?
October 7, 2012 2:45 PM   Subscribe

I have been sexually harassed at work on two separate occasions, I need help deciding what to do about it and understanding my own feelings.

This male coworker is from another department, we know each other but are not particularly friendly with one another in general, meaning we don't have conversations beyond, 'hi hows it going, great see ya later.' He is a bit older than me and married.

The first incident was in the spring, he snuck up behind me and put his chest, only his chest, on my back. I jumped and said 'you scared me.' He laughed and walked away.

The second incident was over the summer, he again snuck up behind me- while I was having a conversation with someone else- and grabbed my waist, putting one hand on each side and kind of squeezing me. I turned around, gave him a nasty look and said 'what the hell?' I immediately resumed my conversation and he wandered off.

Since then nothing has happened, although I saw him a week ago and he told me we were scheduled to be at the same function so I could 'look forward to him harassing me.' I was completely shocked by that comment and had no response at the time.

I wish I had different reactions in each of these situations. My girlfriends say, just tell him to stop touching you! But each time- well he does literally sneak up behind me- he catches me off guard. And I seem to just react. . . I guess I feel almost guilty for not adequately protecting myself or something.

The other thing is, although I've talked to several coworkers about it, I feel somewhat embarrassed about the whole thing and don't want to draw attention to it, or me.

These emotions conflict with my values and how I would like to behave, but I don't know how to be more assertive in the actual moment when I'm just having this gut reaction.

So my coworkers are encouraging me to go to HR, I'm wondering if I should try to address the issue with him first.
posted by abirdinthehand to Work & Money (46 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Your co-workers know this guy and your work environment better than we do, so if they think you should go to HR and you consider them trustworthy, I would take their advice.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:51 PM on October 7, 2012 [21 favorites]

I'd file a complaint and get this recorded as soon as possible.

I see this happen every once in a while, dealing with it immediately is best. Fire off a great warning shot to your management and let them know what's happening.
posted by snsranch at 2:53 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

This is HR time, to give them their crack at dealing with it. Though it is important to remember that HR is not your friend - they represent the company's interests, not yours.

"I guess I feel almost guilty for not adequately protecting myself or something. "

You have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about, this creep does. It is his responsibility to not be a creep and your company's responsibility to keep you safe, for all kinds of good reasons you should never ever need to to confront an asshole coworker who is creeping on you in the workplace. He should be ashamed for being a creep and your company should be ashamed for harboring a creep - none of this is on you.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:55 PM on October 7, 2012 [12 favorites]

You've been perfectly clear that you don't want this treatment. He has said in so many words that he intends to harass you at an upcoming function.

Yes, do go to HR? Put in an email that:

I am writing about a concern I have about the behaviour of Gordon Harrison, who works in the sprocket department.

In March of this year, he snuck up behind me [the rest of your paragraph here]

[followed by your next paragraph]

[and your next paragraph in which he announces that he intends to harass you]

It seems clear that I have registered my displeasure with Mr Harrison's behaviour, that he is aware that it constitutes harassment, and that he nevertheless intends to continue this harassment into the future. I will be taking advice and would like to know what steps the company will be taking to ensure my safety from Mr Harrison's harassment from now on.

Please also consult an employment lawyer. Taking an hour's worth of advice does not commit you to suing.
posted by tel3path at 3:00 PM on October 7, 2012 [22 favorites]

I agree with what tel3path says, though in your note to HR, also include:

-- the exact dates and locations of each of these three incidents, if you can remember them. (Did you send out incredulous emails or texts to a friend afterward? Those could help pinpoint the day.) If you're not sure of the precise date, at least include the month.

-- include the names of any coworkers who witnessed these incidents, especially the second one.

Also, in addition to sending an email, print out a letter with the identical information and deliver it to the HR office.

Good luck! You do not need to put up with this, and don't feel guilty at all.
posted by lisa g at 3:09 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

As you have an HR department, use them.

Dates - times - actions - names of witnesses.
posted by heyjude at 3:21 PM on October 7, 2012

he told me we were scheduled to be at the same function so I could 'look forward to him harassing me.'

He asked for it...

So my coworkers are encouraging me to go to HR, I'm wondering if I should try to address the issue with him first. give it so him.

The caution against trying to solve it yourself is that negative attention is still attention. He's like a schoolboy trying to get you to respond. He wants you to interact with him. If you do that – regardless of the content of the conversation – he may well be getting what he wants.

He knows well what he's doing. He may well have done it before. He's clearly asking for it, so give it to him.

it is important to remember that HR is not your friend - they represent the company's interests, not yours.

Good insight. It may be hard, but try not to be emotional. This is not about him violating you (although he may well have). It's about him violating decorum and company policy. And that is most certainly enough. Don't look for HR to coddle you. Look for them to take action against him.

I wish I had different reactions in each of these situations. I guess I feel almost guilty for not adequately protecting myself or something.

You don't have different reactions and that's fine. There are appropriate channels to deal with these problems. You do not have to be any different. Sexual harassment is a form of emotional violence. And victims of violence often think, "why did I allow that to happen to me?". It's not logical, it's emotional. So, it's a bit natural and it's okay.

Your feelings are okay. His behaviour is not. HR exists to solve these problems. If they don't solve these problems, the state government will. End of story.
posted by nickrussell at 3:22 PM on October 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

"Though it is important to remember that HR is not your friend - they represent the company's interests, not yours."

Always keep this in mind when going to HR with anything. Regarding your current issue as described: your interests are aligned with the company's interests, so getting them involved could/should be helpful.
posted by fueling depth at 3:26 PM on October 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

But each time- well he does literally sneak up behind me- he catches me off guard

It's ok to be caught off guard and it's ok to speak anyone that is bothering you after you've gathered your thoughts.

Yes, go to HR. This guy has marked you as prey and he will gradually ratchet up the harassment, as can be seen by him pointedly saying he'll harass you at the upcoming work function. Getting HR involved now will be an excellent idea.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:34 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with Tel3path and Lisa G. One thing that I would like to add is that it's important to prep your witnesses before you file the complaint to make sure the incident is fresh in their memory when HR comes to them. The conversation ought to go something like this:

"Hey, do you remember last month when I was talking to you and Richard Cranium came up behind me and put his hands on my waist?"
"Yes, why?"
"Well... it's not the first time that he's done it. He also has done some other stuff that made me really uncomfortable."

Don't say you're going to HR unless the witness specifically pressures you to do so - if they do encourage you to go to HR, let yourself "get talked into it", otherwise, just act like you're really uncomfortable and don't know what to do. (Telling them you're going to file a sexual harassment report makes you look more like an aggressor than the victim.) Your goal here is just to make sure the incident is fresh in their minds, and maximize the degree to which the witnesses perceive you as a victim. That way, when HR surprises them with a "quick chat" to find out what happens, they will frame the incident in a way that is more sympathetic to you and casts your harasser in a worse light.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 3:39 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

So my coworkers are encouraging me to go to HR, I'm wondering if I should try to address the issue with him first.

If someone broke into your house and stole something on two separate occasions, then told you they were going to do it again, would you try and address it with them or go to the police? It's not your responsibility to teach him that what he is doing is wrong, even in the very unlikely scenario where he is not already fully aware of that.
posted by jacalata at 3:39 PM on October 7, 2012 [8 favorites]

So my coworkers are encouraging me to go to HR, I'm wondering if I should try to address the issue with him first.

Don't address it with him first. That puts you at risk - he could react poorly, or file a false claim against you to undermine your credibility.

Go to HR first. If they're doing their job, they'll talk to him, and then you don't have to confront him at all. If he comes near you again, tell him off, then file a further report with HR.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:43 PM on October 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

Penolope Trunk has had some blog posts on workplace sexual harassment.

IMHO, any communication to him should be via the companies email, with a BCC (emphasis on the B) to a trusted co-worker, and an external email account specifically set up for this (like gmail).
I would send him an email stating something like:
In the interests of maintaining a civil, professional workplace, I am communicating directly to you and not HR. On two previous occasions you have inappropriately touched me and you stated that you intended to do so again. I unequivocally do not consent to being touched unless my life is in imminent danger, and do not consent to having my personal space (minimum of 24 inches) invaded without my foreknowledge.

If he calls or tries to "just talk" to you about it, tell him there is nothing that needs further discussion, and you trust it will remain that way, then hang up/walk away.

If he does do it again, IANAL, but I believe any non-consensual touching is assault, and you would be justified in calling the police so that you would have an official report (and you'd need to follow up that day to make sure the paperwork is filed). Screaming and running away would also be warranted, after all both he and HR have no idea if something has happened to you which would make his touching trigger a PTSD reaction.
posted by anon4now at 3:57 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

"I'm wondering if I should try to address the issue with him first."

I guess I'm the only person left around here that thinks you should just tell him to knock it off instead of immediately escalating it to lawyers and HR. Besides, if you go right to HR, they could always ask him "is this true?" and he can say "I was just goofing around" and they'll brush it off because you have made no attempt whatsoever at telling him that his actions are not welcome.

I'm not a fan of just running to HR. Just tell him to knock it off first. while I know that "omg, he touched me and I didn't directly invite it" is taboo here, the human factor should be considered. We were all brought up differently, and he might mean absolutely nothing by it.

My vote: If you see him, just politely say "Hey, you might think it's funny but I don't. No touching. Understand?" and leave it at that. It might resolve the entire situation. If not, then you obviously have other avenues. But I'd start with just telling the guy to knock it off.
posted by drstein at 4:00 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

You do need to be more assertive with people like this and tell them right when the bad behavior that it is unwelcome and you expect it to never happen again. Men like this are like puppies (nasty , bad puppies) in that if you don't immediately scold them when the behavior occurs it's wasted effort. I was initially in favor of letting him know what your expectations are first but, after reading the really good advice by a lot of other women here, I now also agree that you should go to HR and let them know.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 4:16 PM on October 7, 2012

he might mean absolutely nothing by it

It doesn't matter what you "mean," only what you do. This person has assaulted the OP twice and has threatened to continue this pattern of behavior. This behavior is so unequivocally unacceptable that I find it unlikely to believe that any direct communication with your harasser would be fruitful.

You, presumably, have a list of responsibilities for your job that you will not be doing for any minute you spend dealing with this guy. It's HR job to clean this up—let them do it.
posted by grouse at 4:29 PM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Functionally, it doesn't matter what dwells in his heart. The guy is either extremely poorly socialized or he's malicious and in either case, a correction from HR is in order.
posted by feets at 4:34 PM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh man, unwanted touching and grabbing? HR with dates and times and witnesses. Dude is waaaaaay over the line and needs the big hammer of correction now.
posted by zippy at 4:45 PM on October 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

Be very careful about going to HR "to solve" this problem. The solution could easily result in the following :

- his word against yours - no action taken but you are potentially marked by HR

- HR does not consider these two incidents as legal sexual harassment, and no action is taken except a warning. You still get marked by HR.

- HR takes action and investigates through interviews and witnesses. He could be fired, but you would need to carry and cooperate through this ordeal.

HR is *not* your friend. They are not your enemy either, but they will protect the interests of your company - and that's what I mean that you may be "marked" in the eyes of management and could affect your career there (why many filers end up leaving their companies).

A good bet is to tell him to stop in documented form. Those who say go to HR don't have to live with the consequences - you will.

Your friend? Your attorney. Consult before going to HR.
posted by Kruger5 at 4:52 PM on October 7, 2012

I think you should have gone to HR right after the first or second incident not months after.
now that you know how he is just be ready at this function and if he ever does anything react the way you wish you had before. tell him off right then and there, make it clear that he makes you uncomfortable and you want him to stop.
and as for going to HR, well it will do you more damage than good "that's just my personal opinion".
posted by Isun at 5:26 PM on October 7, 2012

My sense is that this is more of a personal-space issue than a sexual one. Is he a loud-mouth as well?

However, his saying he looks forward to harassing you is an excellent opening for you to say, "huh, funny, because I do see it as harassment." Then watch his face fall.
posted by rhizome at 5:28 PM on October 7, 2012

He sounds like a exceedingly immature person who has a major social skills defiiciency. Do you know whether he has done this to other people? Regardless, I would definitely report the situation to HR. And there should be nothing for you to be embarrassed about.
posted by Dansaman at 5:51 PM on October 7, 2012

I think you should document everything in an email to HR, as previously suggested, and follow up with a meeting. His comment to you constitutes a third act of aggression, and it's a good impetus to take action now before this goes any further.
posted by bchaplin at 5:53 PM on October 7, 2012

I once went to HR with a harassment complaint against a coworker that I knew about as well as you describe knowing this fellow (out of the blue he had started sending me emails detailing his demands for our future relationship (!), as well as a few other disturbing things).

The first thing they asked was, "Did you tell not to do that?" Well, no, because talking to him at all was not something I wanted to do. They told me I had to verbally tell him exactly what it was I wanted him to stop doing, and then, if he kept on, to make another complaint. They told me I was not allowed to discuss the situation with my coworkers at all because that might make him feel harassed himself and might open them up to lawsuits. They told me there was not anything wrong with people expressing an interest with other people in the workplace so long as the second party had not actually told the first party to stop.

This was at a nationally-recognized business, employing thousands.

I ended up feeling much less safe after talking with HR than I had when it had just been the guy sending me inappropriate emails and spying on me, because I realized that something I had thought of as a source of protection for me was not actually that.

Go to HR if you like so that you can have a record of having gone and made the complaint. But remember that they're there to keep the company safe, not you; and you might bring themselves to their attention as a trouble-maker. I think you would make more headway with your problem by telling him in no uncertain terms to never touch you again. Which sucks because you shouldn't have to be the one to police your coworker's bad behavior to yourself, but there it is.
posted by frobozz at 6:28 PM on October 7, 2012 [8 favorites]

My instinct is that you need to go to HR. HR may be in place to protect the company, but I think your interests converge here. You want the harassment to stop, and they have a vested interest in the harassment stopping (they certainly don't want harassment that could lead to a lawsuit).

I think especially if your coworkers (who presumably know what HR is like) are telling you to go to HR, then presumably they know and HR will be helpful.

As an aside, I was (sort of) in this situation many years ago. I was a teenager working at a national restaurant and one of the assistant managers did exactly this kind of thing (grabbing, picking up, etc.) to the teenage girls working there. Finally after a couple of times, I went to one of the other managers to complain about what was going on. I was nervous, of course (I was a teenager complaining about my adult boss!), but they were incredibly helpful. The rest of the managers called me to apologize for what had been going on and he was fired pretty quickly after that (and I almost never had to work with him after my complaint and before he was fired).

All that to say, HR is not necessarily your enemy. They have a lot of power, and they can resolve the issue quickly. And really, if they do nothing, then you have other legal avenues you can explore (which obviously they know about and don't want).
posted by McPuppington the Third at 8:06 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Please listen to people who are telling you not feel bad for not reacting in some sexual harassment textbook-perfect way! You sent a clear message, so good for you. Good luck with your next steps!

(Also, please ignore Penelope Trunk. As far as I can tell, she is deeply sexist and has only her own best interests in mind.)
posted by wintersweet at 8:28 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I worked for 40 years around offices with men and women, way before there were any real penalties for sexual harassment, and had to learn to put a stop to it myself - there was no backup from HR, a supervisor, or anyone else. Almost without fail, all it took was a deep glare and a "Back off!" Worst case meant telling the guy in front of other people that I didn't find him amusing and he needed to keep his hands and smart remarks to himself, period.

Having the option of threatening him with a report to HR is a real bonus.

If I were in your shoes, I'd save the report to the big dogs as a last resort; it could have some negative influence on your own status, whether that's fair or not.
posted by aryma at 9:10 PM on October 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'm probably going against the grain here, but I believe there's a lot a woman can do to delineate her own boundaries. I don't know the specifics of course, or this guy's relationship to you, and I'm not an expert in workplace harassment, but my own approach would be to step back, glare and say "Excuse me? I'd rather you didn't touch me thank you," or something like that. You do have power in this sort of situation, remember that. Not blaming you, just a suggestion.

Have there only been two instances? Months apart? Get an idea of how HR handles these things first - have they been sympathetic in similar cases before? Is this guy influential and they aren't going to go against him? Do your research. You might like to believe there is some awesome HR department at work that has your best interests at heart, but that may not be the case. On the other hand, management might be looking for a reason to get rid of him. (On the other hand, if they get rid of him, others may believe it was unfair, blame you, etc, etc.) It's all politics. Be smart.

Good luck!

Oh, on preview, aryma said the same thing!
posted by inkypinky at 9:15 PM on October 7, 2012

If you have a large HR department, the specific group you are looking for is Employee Relations.

You will almost certainly not be able to make an anonymous complaint. You will, however, almost certainly be protected from retribution. I would advise going to HR before lawyer. Check your company's policy manual; there should be a section on harassment.

HR can help.
posted by charmcityblues at 9:16 PM on October 7, 2012

You might also like to read some books on assertiveness, and even take some classes in something like martial arts, boxing or whatever. Good life skills! : )
posted by inkypinky at 9:20 PM on October 7, 2012

The OP did tell him to stop, by saying "what the hell?"

The guy knows it is harassment, because he used the word "harassment".

If the OP is being held responsible by this audience, for not using the legally correct wording "I would like you to stop sneaking up behind me and grabbing me" at the time of each incident, she will most likely be held even more responsible for not going to HR after the second incident.

Yes it is true that HR is not your friend, that is why it's so important to consult an employment lawyer as well. That's why I used the phrase "taken advice" in my sample email.

HR may tell the OP to ask the harasser to stop, and if they tell her that, she'll have to comply. Often, women are held to a pseudo-legal standard in the court of opinion that they must say the word "No!" in a forceful tone of voice in order to prove that they've met a pseudo-legal standard of nonconsent. When women are actually under attack, however, they often sense that a forceful response may provoke their aggressor, who in any case is often the only witness; or (as in one MeFi question) they may not have managed to get the word "No" out completely before the attack begins, or (as in this case) they may not actually have used the word "No" but have used some other phrasing like "What the hell" instead. Therefore, I don't necessarily think the OP has to tell this guy (again) directly to stop before she informs HR, and they can still ask her to do so after she informs them.

Yes, OP, you could get victimised for reporting this and I don't think you can get away from that. However, this guy has assaulted you twice and threatened you in a very direct way. I don't think reporting this situation can make it any worse.
posted by tel3path at 12:56 AM on October 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

The guy knows it is harassment, because he used the word "harassment".

He said she could "look forward to him harassing [her]." Any time I've heard someone say something like that, they didn't mean "I'm going to harass you! Boogity-boogity-boo!" I've always taken something like that to mean "I'm going to joke around with/pick on you."

As far as the personal space invading and the tickling (at least I pictured tickling when you described it), those both sound a lot like flirting. In fact, I've had all three of those things done/said to me just this week by a guy I've been flirting back with.

Of course, if you don't want him flirting with you or touching you, that's totally your right and he is being pretty unprofessional. If it were me, I'd talk to him before going to HR. He could just be a clueless and/or awkward idiot and it would suck if that were the case and he got branded as some sort of harasser.
posted by Weeping_angel at 1:40 AM on October 8, 2012

I just want to clarify: I'm saying he could be harmless; I'm not saying you should have to deal with anything that makes you uncomfortable. I just think it's possible this is could be a misunderstanding and this guy could potentially lose his job over it. Or at the very least, he'd be that guy who has the sexual harassment complaint in his file.
posted by Weeping_angel at 1:57 AM on October 8, 2012

Yeah, it's a shame that he might have to suffer the consequences of his actions, but as has also been mentioned on the green in recent questions, it's often not true that this kind of accusation can ZOMG RUIN!!!1!!! His life 4EVAR!!!!1!!!! He may have learned he can openly assault women and suffer zero consequences because that's actually how it works in many cases.

So I wouldn't encourage the OP to caretake whatever mental problems this guy may or may not have. It's just as likely to spring from a predatory mindset that has never been corrected, and if he is mentally incompetent, he's certainly too severely impaired to function in society without supervision if he's unable to understand what does and does not constitute assault or harassment.

Either way, reporting it is more likely to help him than harm him. The OP can only take responsibility for her part.
posted by tel3path at 2:12 AM on October 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Go to HR. He may be doing this to other women, and yours may be the complaint that pushes them to act.
posted by Jilder at 3:27 AM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Read bits from the EEOC's description of harassment:

"Harassment is a form of employment discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (ADA).

Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive."

"Petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not rise to the level of illegality. To be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people."

"Employees are encouraged to inform the harasser directly that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. Employees should also report harassment to management at an early stage to prevent its escalation."
posted by xyzzy at 6:39 AM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Unless anyone thinks the guy in this scenario was unable to interpret a glare and a "What the hell?" as an indication that the conduct was unwelcome, or perhaps that he was unable to connect it to his actions of a moment before, I think the OP can reasonably wait to confront him until HR instructs her to do so.
posted by tel3path at 6:47 AM on October 8, 2012

If the guy is at all above you in your company's hierarchy, yeah, I'd absolutely go to HR if he's making you feel uncomfortable. But if he's not, I still think you should at least try to tell him to stop. You haven't done that. (even a "What the hell?!" can be misinterpreted. Although he hasn't touched you since the "What the hell" incident, right?)

Obviously if that doesn't work, go to HR but I like to hope for the best in people. Maybe I'm hopelessly optimistic but I personally like to give people a chance to do the right thing first.
posted by Weeping_angel at 10:05 AM on October 8, 2012

He's had three chances.
posted by grouse at 10:06 AM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

No. He hasn't had three chances. He's had maybe one (possibly misinterpreted) chance. Would it hurt to go up to him on a day when you're not flustered and just say "It makes me uncomfortable when you touch me. Please do not touch me again."?

If that doesn't work or he gives you any trouble for asking, HR will still be there the next day and your case will be stronger. Now, if he's your boss or someone else who could endanger your job security, then by all means, HR.
posted by Weeping_angel at 10:51 AM on October 8, 2012

Would it hurt to go up to him on a day when you're not flustered and just say "It makes me uncomfortable when you touch me. Please do not touch me again."?

We do not politely request that people don't touch us.

What you're looking for is "Lay another hand on my and I'm going to HR." Then walk away because there is literally nothing he has to say that you need to hear. Including, predictable, what a fucking bitch you are.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:10 PM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

We do not politely request that people don't touch us.

Actually, I do it, and with great success.
posted by stefanie at 1:37 PM on October 8, 2012

We do not politely request that people don't touch us.

Another way to put it: we do not have to politely request that people don't touch us before we get angry at them and possibly talk to HR for doing so, because not randomly touching co-workers is so damn basic that we expect it by default.
posted by jacalata at 5:30 PM on October 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

"We do not politely request that people don't touch us.

Actually, I do it, and with great success."

And you know what? That seems to be the groupthink of MeFi these days. In vast swaths of the human population, touching is not a huge deal.

"because not randomly touching co-workers is so damn basic that we expect it by default."

No we don't. Again, this is the leanings of the MeFi crowd. I grew up around some of this and was petrified to approach people, much less touch them. Now as part of my job, I pretty much *have* to touch people. And honestly, I think that the country would be a lot better off with less of "don't touch me" unless someone is being aggressive about it.

Another aspect of it: Perhaps he's treating you (op, the female) as a true equal. Does this guy goof around with male coworkers? Does he touch them? Sometimes people just touch as part of who they are. This "omg, he touched me, i've been assaulted, I'm a victim" mentality is ridiculous. If someone touches you and you don't like it, then just tell them to not do it.
Where I work now has a female employee that has run to HR several times now for what are essentially her own issues. Someone said something she finds offensive? Ran to HR. Someone put his hand on her shoulder and said "Hey, how are you?" Ran to HR. Not once has she ever said "Ugh, that's offensive, knock it off." What the trips to HR have done was to create a negative environment for everybody else around because they feel that they have to walk on eggshells. That's not how adults should be.

Just tell the guy to knock it off in person. Seriously. *sigh*
posted by drstein at 8:08 PM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Hmmm, I find it hard to believe that putting your chest against someone's back would fall under the "touchy feely" type personality.

Usually that kind of touching occurs within some form of friendliness and conversation- not sneaking up behind people you hardly know. And I'm pretty sure this guy isn't grabbing his male coworkers by the waist from behind or putting his chest on their backs! Frankly around here he'd probably get a punch in the face.

I haven't gone to HR- at the function we both attended he did not attempt to touch me, but he did approach a group I was with and made a big show of proposing to me. I called him a stalker- half-jokingly. . . after he left us, I told the group, which included my supervisor, about the previous incidents. I felt that this was good half-measure and have decided to hold off and address it if there is another uncomfortable touching incident.

Thanks for all the advice regarding HR everyone. I was not aware what a risky situation it could be professionally to report the incidents, good to be aware.
posted by abirdinthehand at 3:23 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just go to HR and file a complaint. I wonder how many other women he's done the same thing to and got away because no one considered it serious.

Also, record dates.
posted by bbyboi at 11:52 AM on October 28, 2012

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