Is This Physical Abuse?


One of my managers asked me what color of socks I was wearing and I refused to tell her. Then, she lifted up my trouser leg by force and tried to see my socks. Is that physical abuse?




Dear Angry:

In your question you used the phrase “ripped up” your trouser leg. I changed it to “lifted up” your trouser leg because it seemed likely that was what you meant.

If your manager did, in fact, rip or tear your pants you might have a reason to make a criminal complaint, but I doubt it would be related to physical abuse, since it doesn’t seem you would have been injured.

But if she only lifted your pant leg partially, it probably didn’t damage anything or injure you and wouldn’t be criminal.

We aren’t a legal resource so you should ask a police officer or see an attorney or your Human Resources or Personnel section to find out more about it and to get an opinion. Have all the facts of the story ready and give witness information if you have it.

It sounds to me as though there is something else going on! I don’t know what it is, but you probably do. If you were supposed to wear a specific color of socks but didn’t, that could be the problem. That was my first thought since you refused to say your sock color. Arguing over sock color seems ridiculous unless there is a requirement of some kind for a specific color.

If the manager thought you and she were joking around she was wrong to touch your clothing, but may not have thought it would be considered an assault. Could it be she noticed something about your socks and asked you, then was irritated because you wouldn’t tell her, so she tried to check for herself? It would be very wrong for her to do it that way, but that might have been a reason for her actions, and it wouldn’t be criminal.

Or, it could be you and your manager haven’t been getting along anyway and this was one more thing, whatever the cause, so you are reacting more strongly to it than you would if she was someone you liked.

You have some options: You can file a complaint with your employer about it, explaining the situation and saying how personally offended you were. If you have witnesses to the incident who can back up the details of the story, list them.

You can meet in private and ask why she did what she did, if you truly don’t know the reason. She might apologize now that she’s had time to think about it and realize she went too far.

Whatever you do, you should consider your wokring relationship and think about how you can do your part to improve it in the future. You can’t do it alone, of course. However, by focusing on your work and not over-reacting to relatively minor situations, maybe you can put the attention of both you and your manager on other things besides you and your socks! Best wishes as you work through this conflict with your manager.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.