Sexually Harassing Coworker

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a bullying and harassment: he continues to cuss and talk about his penis and women’s tits. Should I see an attorney?

I work with a guy that is a bully and has been written up twice for calling me a fucking bitch and then for cussing in front of a command officer. He is my partner at work and they keep putting him back with me and behind their backs he continues to cuss and talk about his penis and women’s tits. Should I see an attorney?

Signed, Woman Partner Of A Sexual Harassing Bully

Dear Woman Partner Of A Sexual Harassing Bully:

You say a bully coworker was written up for calling you a “Fucking Bitch.” Did someone hear him do that or was it because you complained about that to your superior? Now that you’ve been assigned again to be a partner with him, have you told him to stop his sex talk? Have you again reported his sexual talk?

From what you write, I understand that your commanding officer, rather than separating him from you, has assigned you two as partners?Our site addresses communication, not legal, matters. We are not attorneys and are not giving legal advice. Should you get an attorney?

My answer, therefore, is not legal advice, but meant to help you think through what you have experienced and to prepare you for your next steps. My answer is “Not until,…”. Not until you have prepared a log of past and current incidents of explicitly what you have been called, when, where and who heard him talk that way. Also of time(s) you asked him to stop and when and how you reported that to your superiors, orally and or in writing. Not until you look in the mirror and review if you have let such behavior pass as ok by talking suggestively your self, silently letting it pass or laughing it off.

Not until you have made it clear that you have stated to him his sexually explicit talk should stop. Not until you have established his sexually bullying talk has been reported above and has not been stopped. Not until you have firmly stated to management that you have been and are being assigned to work with a sex-talking bully who has created a hostile working environment. Not until you have the courage to stand up for your self, when you hear such justifications as “boys will be boys” or “if you want to work with men you must be willing and able to not let such talk get to you.” Not until you have checked with your policy book to see what is advised about sexual harassment and a hostile work environment.

This is to say that you don’t have to put up with such talk, but that you should be prepared and persistent. Management is at fault if it doesn’t investigate and separate you from him while investigating. Also management is responsible to do more that write him up. You should consult an attorney, if you have reported such behavior as you describe with your Equal Opportunity Officer and management has not corrected it. You can consult an attorney, sometimes without cost you, but you should know that even when one takes a case with an agreement to only take a percent of a settlement that you might have to pay some. So carefully get a contract of what will be expected of you. You should know that can take a long time, but if can likely get it settled if you have made an effort to get it stopped and it has not, and/or if there is retaliation for your reporting it.

You don’t have to present details of all that has happened when you request to be separated from this individual, but it is wise to make that request in writing and to keep a dated copy. It should then be investigated and you should not have to work with this individual while it is investigated. It is in the investigation that you will provide the detailed log of the history of when this started with dates and specific language and context of when, where, who was present and whom you have told. These overlapping considerations are best to think through. It is good to have told a friend or someone whom you trust about what has occurred, but don’t gossip about it or let it obsess you. Work is hard enough without sexual harassment. It will not stop until you make a concerted effort to have it stopped. Working together with hands, head, and heart makes big WEGOS, does not mean to work with a harassing bully.

William Gorden