Published in the Summer 2006 issue • Advice
My boss is a creep!
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You are not required to confront the harasser, especially when the person is your superior. Consider your personal safety and security first. However, should you decide to pursue this legally, your case may be stronger if you have made it clear to him that his behaviour is unwelcome.
If you don’t want to confront him directly, you can try things like:
- If he says something quietly or hints at something sexual, repeat it back in a loud voice and ask him what he means. This is especially effective when there are customers or other people around.
- If he stands too close, ask him to move back.
- Leave out pamphlets or articles around on sexual harassment.
- Use the phrase “sexual harassment” or “sexual assault” freely and frequently when he is around. Say things like, “I’ve been reading up on sexual assault. Did you know that if you touch me without my consent, you can go to jail for 10 years?”
If you choose to confront him:
- Bring someone with you to be a witness.
- Speak clearly and practice what you’re going to say. For example, “I’m not interested in a shoulder rub. I don’t want you to touch me, ever. You need to stop talking about sex.” Or, “I’m not being sensitive. No one likes to be sexually harassed. If you don’t know the difference, I can give you some reading material or the phone number to the Human Rights Commission. I’ve found them very helpful.”
- If you are uncomfortable talking to him, you can write a letter. Describe the behaviours that you don’t like and tell him that you want him to stop. Make sure the letter is dated and that you keep a copy for your records.
Employers are required by law to prevent harassment and discrimination in the workplace. So, if your manager is the problem, try talking to the owner of the restaurant. The employer is also required by law to protect you from any abuse that results from your complaint. Unfortunately — and this is totally unfair — people often find that they are penalized for reporting harassment. For example, the person you tell may not believe you. You may find yourself being watched and treated like a troublemaker. Your employer may suddenly have problems with your work. All of this is illegal, so the best thing you can do is bring a witness when you talk to the owner. Keep a record of your actions and mention to the person that you are keeping a journal. Management may react more quickly when they see that you know your rights and that you mean business.
There are different legal remedies available to you. You can file a complaint at the human-rights commission in your province and they’ll investigate your case for free. The kind of remedies you can get include a cash settlement (with compensation for mental anguish) and a letter of apology from the employer, or your employer may have to post signs in the workplace on people’s rights under the Human Rights Code. Unfortunately, this complaint procedure is bureaucratic, could take a long time (often years) and sometimes they decide not to investigate at all (for instance, if the last reported incident is more than six months ago).
You may also be able to lay criminal charges. The offence of “sexual assault” can include any use of force or unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature. Additionally, if you are aged 14 to 17, a person with whom you are in a relationship of trust, authority or dependency can’t touch you or try to get you to touch him or her sexually. The offence of “sexual exploitation” would clearly apply to that manager of yours. If you report him, the police can have him arrested and, if convicted, he can go to jail. In the case of sexual assault, the maximum penalty is 10 years. For sexual exploitation, it is a maximum of five years.
If these legal remedies seem severe to you, that’s because sexual harassment and assault are seriously wrong. You have a right to a harassment-free workplace.
There have been many times in my life when I felt like a victim — hopeless and alone, lost and afraid. But then something shifts inside of me and I discover my inner warrior woman. I may panic and cry and freak out, but then she kicks in and kicks ass. I hope that you will discover your inner warrior. This may not be your battle, you may not be ready, and that is okay. But know that, deep down, you are stronger, braver and more capable than you give yourself credit for. You too will kick some serious ass when you’re good and ready.
Until then, I will be shooting mental daggers at that manager of yours. I hope his wife divorces him and sues him for everything he’s got. Loser.