Trigger warning! This post contains a subject that may be sensitive to some people. There are descriptions of unwanted physical contact. If you feel that you may not be able to handle this sensitive topic, I urge you to not read this post. I would not want any painful memories to resurface.
This is the story of how I used one unconventional way to deal with a sexually harassing boss. I would not tell anyone to use this because it could have unwanted consequences. Keep reading and you will see why I used it.
When I was nineteen, I decided to get a job for the summer. I was in business college and wanted some money. So….
Anyway, a pizza place close to my house was hiring, so I applied for the Salad Prep position. Why Salad Prep? It was the only job that sound decent. I had no desire to be a server. Nothing against servers, I just didn’t want to be one.
During the interview, the Salad Prep position was mentioned but the manager said he needed servers more. Well, I didn’t really want to; but I needed a job, so I took it.
So each morning, I arrived at nine and got everything ready for the salad bar. Then the restaurant opened at 10 am, I’d work in the dining room as a server and restock the salad bar when needed.
Yes, I was doing two jobs, and only being paid the server’s pay which was $2.41 + tips. At the time, I was young and didn’t know anything.
Now I know that if I’m going to do twice the work, I’m going to get more pay!
My manager, let’s call him Lee, was a tall, slim, middle-aged man with slicked-back blonde hair. He reminded me of those sleazy-looking men from the 1970s disco movies who wore lots of gold chains and wide-lapeled leisure suits.
He was not appealing to me at all. But apparently, I appealed to him. Because after we had been working together for a few days, he started putting his hands on me.
Not violently! Just a hand on the shoulder, then on the middle of the back, then on the lower back.
I was shocked! No man had ever touched me without my permission. I didn’t know what to do! So, at that time, I said nothing.
That was a bad idea. Because the touching continued.
Over time, this touching stressed me out so much that I started having nightmares of being trapped in the walk-in freezer with him. It was the only place in the entire restaurant he could trap me and I wouldn’t be able to escape.
That’s when I said enough is enough.
One day, I was working with the assistant manager, who I will call Katey. I told her about what had been happening and asked her what I should do.
Her response surprised me. She said hit him! He had touched on her too when she first started. After she hit him; he stopped.
I asked if I would get into trouble if I hit him. She said nope, so that’s what I decided to do the next time he touched me.
One Sunday, it happened. I was in the back work area and was going to go back up to the dining room.
That’s when I saw Lee coming toward me. I rushed to the back area door to try to get away before he could say or do anything.
Alas, I was too slow. He came up beside me and put his arm around me in a kind of side hug.
I had had enough! I turned slightly and gave him a quick jab to the stomach. Not a full punch, but with enough force for him to feel it. Then I walked off towards the dining room.
I heard him laugh and comment about how everybody must be rubbing off on me because I wasn’t acting like the sweet person I was before.
I can’t remember the exact words, but I remember feeling embarrassed and mad by what he said.
Thankfully, he never touched me again.
A few weeks later, he was replaced with a new guy, we’ll call Ted. He was less sleazy but just as creepy. He was a guy in his 20s and would talk about his teenage girlfriend. Yeah! Not my favorite person.
Ted switched me from full-time days to part-time nights. This wasn’t what I had signed up for. I had been hired for full-time. So, I quit about three weeks later.
Side note: Strangely, all of this happened at the same time as the confirmation hearing for then-Supreme Court Justice nominee, Clarence Thomas.
So a Senate Judiciary Committee questioned a former assistant (Anita Hill) of Thomas’s about the sexual harassment that he had perpetrated on her.
The testimony that Ms. Hill gave changed how harassment was viewed in the workplace. Soon laws against it were put into place.
Now you know why and how I stopped a sexually harassing boss.
Also, what I learned from that situation was to stand up for myself and that, sometimes, unprofessional behavior has to be used to get my point across. I don’t mean violence is always the answer but in this situation it was.
Now in the United States, there are laws against what happened to me.
If anyone in the workplace puts their hands on you without your permission, or say you have to have sex with him or her to keep your job, or brings things into the workplace (like sexually explicit images or talk) that make you feel uncomfortable, speak to a Human Resources (HR) rep.
If you don’t have that at your workplace, contact the EEOC. This is a federal agency that enforces workplace laws and will help you out. To learn more about sexual harassment and/or file a claim, click here.
If you have a comment or a story you’d like to share about a workplace encounter and what you did to stop it, please leave it in the comment section below. I would love to read out it!