inappropriate bathroom behavior at work
December 6, 2012 10:52 AM   Subscribe

There is a unisex single-seater bathroom close to my office. Someone has been jerking off in the bathroom, and leaving the ejaculate in the toilet bowl (unflushed) or sometimes also on the seat. Super gross. I want it to stop.

The office where I work is a 8-5 muckity-muck office (upper level management), and I have only ever noticed it when I am working late. It doesn't happen often enough to establish any sort of pattern but it has been happening maybe once or twice a month for the past 4 months. It happened yesterday evening. Yes, I did take a picture. No, I'm not posting it.

There is an elevator near the bathroom, and I can't see the bathroom directly from my office unless I crane my neck, so I don't know if it is someone on my floor, or someone from another floor or building. I do think it is more of a "power" thing than a sexual action directed at me. I have a suspicion about who it is, but I'm not going to accuse anyone of anything (especially something hard to prove without getting all CSI).

I told one other lady at work - her reaction was basically that is NASTY but there wasn't really anything to be done. I'm the only person who has actually seen it (that I know of), besides the janitor, and I don't really want to have a conversation with her about it. I truly just want it to stop and I'm not sure of the steps to take next.

It's such a crazy and disgusting thing that I am afraid nobody will believe me if I "officially" report it. But I'm sick of being "surprised".

Details that may or may not be relevant:
  • I am a 40ish year old lesbian in a long-term relationship. Before you ask - I used to date guys, so I know what cum looks like.
  • I've worked in this office over 10 years. I am not upper management.
  • I have recently been passed over for a big promotion that everyone assumed I would get. (Upper management re-wrote the job description to exclude me.) My boss (who is leaving) has encouraged me to sue for gender and/or sexual orientation discrimination but I'm not going to.
  • I am actively looking for another job.
What do you think I should do? Should I contact HR? Just ignore it since I'm leaving soon anyway, and stop using that bathroom? If it happens again, and the HR guy is there, should I show him? (He was here last night but I didn't really know how to approach it.) The HR guy is really the only guy I know it *isn't*, since it happened once last month while he was out of town.

posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You should absolutely contact HR right away, and you should also expect them to take you seriously and start an investigation into who is doing this. You have photographic evidence that you aren't making it up. It doesn't matter why this person is doing it - whether it's intimidation or sexual harassment or just some kind of weird absentminded antisocial behavior - it's not appropriate and dealing with inappropriate behavior is one of the fundamental functions of a human resources department. Even if it's aimed at you and you leave the company, it could very well continue and someone else will notice and take offense in the future. It is in the company's best interest to address this.
posted by something something at 10:57 AM on December 6, 2012 [34 favorites]

Can you have a lock/key installed in the bathroom where employees need to retrieve the key to use it? It might deter the problem if they think someone might be paying attention.
posted by Autumn at 10:59 AM on December 6, 2012 [7 favorites]

Bathroom issues go to HR. It's not the funnest part of their job, but it is definitely on their duties roster.

Whether you care enough to engage with it is your own call.

If your perceptions are correct and they are already edging you out, though, I'm not sure I would say anything, if only because the HR person may be the one who takes reference calls on you and... I don't know. Obviously nobody SHOULD say anything about you complaining about this; but HR people are human too, and like to gossip like everyone else, and there's a chance you would not be serving yourself best by bringing this up right now.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:59 AM on December 6, 2012 [5 favorites]

this is what HR is for.
posted by modernnomad at 11:05 AM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Go to HR. You've got nothing to lose. My attitude wouldn't be to talk about why you think the person is doing it, or that you believe it's 'aimed' at you. Just say that one of the dudes is occasionally rubbing one out in the toilet and then not cleaning it up.

Trust me, NO ONE wants that going on.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:13 AM on December 6, 2012 [14 favorites]

First, this is completely unacceptable behavior.

I think the question of who to notify depends on access to the bathroom. You mention that the person doing this could be from another floor or even another building. Does that mean that this could be the behavior of someone who is not an employee of your company? If so, I think the proper office to inform is the property management company of your building. From what you described, anyone with access to the elevator has access to the bathroom.

If only your company's employees have access to that bathroom, then I agree with the comments that you report the matter to HR. And yes, whether it is a building management issue or an HR issue, you should definitely show it the next time you find it.
posted by Tanizaki at 11:20 AM on December 6, 2012

HR. This is a potential biohazard, as well as gross/creepy/hostile work environment stuff. If you would prefer to focus on the former, that could be strategic.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:21 AM on December 6, 2012 [6 favorites]

1. Definitely report it to HR
2. When you report it, leave out any and all editorializing as to who it might be, or why you think it might be happening, or the promotion, or any of that. Just the facts, ma'am.
3. Report it in writing.
posted by DWRoelands at 11:29 AM on December 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you do take it to HR, definitely don't suggest that it's aimed at you. Just that this disgusting thing is going on in the bathroom and you knew they'd want to know about it to put a stop to it at once.

(I've worked in staffing for years and a narrative like "so not only was someone jerking off in the bathroom, but that one lady came in to complain about it and said she was sure he was thinking about her at the time!!11!!" is exactly the sort of story that HR people like to laugh about, at length, on their third round at the happy hour. It's just not what you want associated with your name ever.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:32 AM on December 6, 2012 [13 favorites]

In my personal view, I don't see it as a power or intimidation thing, unless you're the only person that exclusively uses this restroom.

I think the culprit is just trying to do their business and exit quietly without being noticed. Flushing sounds would give others time to spot anyone leaving the bathroom. The fact it's sometimes on the seat instead of in the bowl is probably due to whatever wacky method is going on inside the stall (sitting down on the seat doesn't usually result in the bowl being a target, anatomically speaking)
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:55 AM on December 6, 2012

Yes. HR and just focus on it being gross and inappropriate at work, not at whether it's harassment aimed at you as such. It's gross and inappropriate enough to warrant a response even without bringing yourself into it.
posted by gauche at 11:56 AM on December 6, 2012

Adding my name to the chorus of "report this, but report it in an impersonal manner". Definitely lodge a complaint with HR, and definitely don't say anything about how you might think it is directed at you or about who you suspect it might be. Stick only to things that are unambiguously factual and impersonal. Given that you have (gross) photographic evidence, that should be plenty to get HR to do something.

Your speculations about the who and the why are legitimate and I would probably be thinking similar thoughts if I were in your position but there is no way that presenting those thoughts to HR could help you. Voicing those sorts of concerns may instead (and I realize that this is unfair) make you seem like a "troublemaker" to the folks in HR, or may make you a focus of office gossip. Unless you are willing to take on the whole structure of systemic injustice in your office, going down this road will be unprofitable to you.

The behavior is completely inappropriate all on its own and HR should do their best to put a stop to it. They may not have any good way of finding out who is doing it, but should they discover the perpetrator they will probably reprimand him. Or if he's a big mucky-muck, maybe they will just say something quietly to him off the record -- not fair, but that's the nature of this beastly world we live in.

About the best you can probably hope for is for an all-employees bulletin to be sent out saying "It has been brought to our attention that an employee has been whacking it in the office bathroom. This is extremely inappropriate and we are investigating the matter and attempting to find out who has been doing it. Should we discover who it is, we will discipline that person appropriately" at which point the behavior will probably stop and it will probably never come to light who was doing it.
posted by Scientist at 12:15 PM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Even bearing in mind the other details in your question, I don't understand why you would think this has anything in particular to do with you. Report it to HR because it is gross and inappropriate, but report it in an impersonal way. This is nasty, yes, but this is kind of what happens when you work in an office. Sometimes, people do completely random, nasty things in the bathroom for no other reason than that they can.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 12:39 PM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

At my office, there are apparently a few women who are so terrified of "bathroom germs" that they don't flush the toilet and leave the "paper rings" behind on the seat.

Different people have created anonymous "Please clean up after yourself" signs that seem to have at least some success.

Maybe you could try something similar? Craft an anonymous professional-looking sign. Start with something like:
    Notice: Please help keep this bathroom clean. Please clean up after yourself. Please flush. Thanks!
Place the sign next to the mirror or inside the door.

If that doesn't work, you could up the ante and post something like:
    Notice: To resolve cleanliness issues, a hallway camera is tracking this bathroom's use. Thank you for helping keep this bathroom clean. Thanks!
But for obvious reasons, that one is probably not a great idea (even if it's not really true).
posted by sarah_pdx at 12:47 PM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Or print up a sign saying, "Dear Masterbator: Please get a room, just not this one," and post it at sitting eye level across from the toilet.

You'd need to be able to do this without anyone knowing it was you. It would create such a stir, that the messy individual responsible would surely either take notice and cease and desist, or at least have his boner discouraged.
posted by Danf at 1:17 PM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would let it be somebody else's problem. The chances of it causing you trouble multiplied by the harm it could cause seem to be greater than the chances of it having some effect multiplied by the good it would do you.
posted by facetious at 1:35 PM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

The "please clean up after yourself" or "please flush" messages seem about right. I don't know if it's necessary to get hung up on the particular bodily fluid. If people were consistently not flushing other things or getting other things on the seat, it would be at least as gross.
posted by the jam at 2:41 PM on December 6, 2012

Don't put up a sign, it's HR's job, both from an Occupational Health and Safety perspective, and from a sexual harrassment perspective. Suffice it to say, I would be shocked if no one in the HR team has had to deal with inappropriate work wack-offs before, unfortunately.
posted by smoke at 2:42 PM on December 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yes, go to HR because this is a BIOHAZARD. Regardless of nasty inter-personal stuff they need to know to be able to act appropriately (ex-public librarian here - there are accepted methods for cleaning ejaculate effectively and safely). Not to mention that you may very well NOT be the only person who has seen it. So dump it in their lap, send them an email every time it happens and they can deal with it.
posted by geek anachronism at 2:49 PM on December 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

Just another perspective on this:
My office has separate-gendered bathrooms with multiple stalls. There have been several times when there was semen in the toilet. Clearly they _had_ flushed but some had lingered. I also know who was doing it because I've been in another stall when he was spanking it and had him come out at the same time as me and chat with me.

However, this person is very creepy, a huge tattletale, and collects information to use against people. He has approached me before to ask how to turn coworkers in for various small infractions, and I've told him I didn't know and wanted no part in it. I've also noticed him following me and telling me about what he's observed following me at work. We work in totally unrelated departments. I wanted no part in making a complaint about him, but really only because I felt the impact was small.

If they were unisex bathrooms and there was semen on the seat, yeah, that's unacceptable and I would definitely make a complain to HR.

After writing this post it really sounds like the dude I described is a huge creep and I should do something about it. But I work from home now and no one else ever seems bothered by this dude. I'm not even sure how I'd describe to HR what's weird about him. "I feel like he's going to catch me in a dogcatcher's net, feed me butter for a month, and then skin me alive and eat my eyeballs." Hmm.
posted by MonsieurBon at 3:40 PM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

i don't think there's much you could do. drawing attention to it might turn the guy on even more. this sounds like a very private bathroom and what people do in there is .... private.
posted by cupcake1337 at 4:41 PM on December 6, 2012

nthing the "let HR deal with it" responses, but adding that once you hand it over to them, I'd just try (however hard it might be) to forget about it, let them deal with it, and find that new job ASAP.
posted by colin_l at 7:22 PM on December 6, 2012

Whatever you do, don't make a sign. The only thing worse than being known as "the guy who was jerking off at work" is being known as "the person who made a sign about jerking off."

So go ahead and report it to HR. but I'd be prepared for this to continue, since it's not clear to me how exactly HR would put a stop to this.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:11 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you do go the sign route, I think the most successful signs say something along the lines of, "Please be respectful of our cleaning and sanitation personnel and keep our restrooms neat." I guess it sometimes alerts the aloof that hey! Your ignorance to germs or reluctance to touch the tp that touched your own ass becomes the issue of another living breathing hard working human! So clean up after your nasty bits!
posted by WeekendJen at 1:19 PM on December 7, 2012

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