Last week, I wrote a post about the workplace sexual harassment of a teen girl I know. Outraged by her situation, my focus was entirely upon harassment experienced by women. Both Laurie and Mr. SSC commented about the fact that men are also harassed in the workplace – by women as well as other men. I asked Mr. SSC if he would be willing to share his own experience of workplace harassment, and I’m very grateful that he has. For me, it is an unwelcome surprise to learn that some women in positions of power can be just as corrupted and lecherous as some men.
Please describe each of the 3 experiences of workplace sexual harassment that you encountered in your 7 years working as a waiter.
I experienced workplace sexual harassment from 2 women and 1 man. The 2 women worked at the same restaurant, and the man was at a corporate restaurant.
#1: “She was a constant butt grabber. It was ridiculous.”
The first time, it was a middle aged lady, quite nice, fairly attractive, married and she ran the front of the house. She would flirt some, but nothing sleazy, but she was a constant butt grabber. It was ridiculous. Not every time I’d be around her, but close to it, she would grab my butt. Not just a little pinch, but a full on grab. I asked her to stop repeatedly, and then once she said, “Well you can grab my butt” and put my hand on her butt. She also started making inappropriate suggestions about what else we could be grabbing…
Did I mention she was married? Yeah, not a situation I want anything to do with, but the owner, also a woman, didn’t take it seriously or see it as harassment. Maybe in her defense she never saw it and thought I was exaggerating, but the manager got a wink, nod, “quit doing that” sort of reprimand and the behavior continued. Ultimately, I left there to take a job in Atlanta working with my brother in a different restaurant, so that was how that situation resolved itself.
#2: “If you picture a stereotypical ‘dirty old man,’ this was how she acted.”
The second time, was at the same restaurant, with a different owner, and the woman was again the front of the house manager. If you picture a stereotypical “dirty old man,” this was how she acted. It was very similar to your post and the person the teenage girl was dealing with. She wasn’t very subtle about it at all to me, but was reserved around other waitstaff and kitchen staff. Again, she was a married woman, and she also would give out drinks at the end of the night and want people to hang out at the restaurant with her after hours. She was just crass, suggestive, and crossed the lines way worse than the first person. Sure butt grabbing, but way more straight up dirty talk that was just uncomfortable and kind of gross.
I went to the kitchen manager who gave me the “dude, deal with it, and quit being a wuss” response which wasn’t helpful at all. Then when I talked to the owner she didn’t believe me, at least not to the extent that it was happening. She thought it was just harmless flirting from what she’d witnessed, and nothing was really done about it. It did get back to the manager and then she got vindictive and mean while still being lewd and suggestive. I’d get bad shifts, bad sections, and was usually cut first on the nights she was working. Ultimately, I moved to Colorado – for school not to get away from her, lol – and I got resolution that way, thank goodness.
#3: “This time it was a guy that was harassing me . . .”
The last time it happened was in my new restaurant in Colorado. It was a corporate place and they had training against that sort of behavior, so they tried to run a tight ship. This time it was a guy that was harassing me, though it didn’t start off like that. It started as just flirting, which I didn’t think anything of to be honest.
Then it kept on, and got to a point I felt like I should’ve said something early on. I didn’t feel like I was leading him on, but I felt like it was my fault it had gotten to where it did because I didn’t come out and say, “quit flirting with me, I’m not interested” back in the beginning. I just ignored it mostly. Then it crossed a line and all the stuff I should’ve said months earlier finally came out. He was embarrassed that I was feeling harassed by him, and after that we got along great. No more harassment, no negative repercussions, we just had a good working relationship.
Would you say that your personal finances were impacted by harassment in any of these cases?
Overall, I wouldn’t say that my personal finances were affected by any of the situations, except from the dirty old lady. Because she started giving me bad shifts, bad sections and would cut me first it definitely affected my tips and take-home money. Fortunately, it was only a few months before I got to move away from there.
How would you compare the issue of sexual harassment experienced by men as opposed to the issue of sexual harassment experienced by women?
I don’t think my experience was much different from what women experience to be honest. When I read about the teen girl in your post, I just thought, “Yep, been there, done that. It sucks.” Not that I was saying that it’s okay by any means or that it should just be accepted as “restaurant behavior” but rather that it’s a pretty ubiquitous situation regardless of your gender. It’s not right and shouldn’t be tolerated in any workplace.
Do you think that sexual harassment experienced by men is taken seriously in our society?
My experience did make me feel that sexual harassment of men isn’t taken seriously in the workplace. Granted, if that same thing happened at either company I’ve worked for in the O&G (oil & gas) industry, there would at least be a reprimand from HR, and maybe some training. I’m not confident that it would be seen as seriously as if I was doing that stuff to a woman. If I was accused of that same stuff, I feel like it would be an uphill battle to not get fired.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d be hard pressed to go to HR about sexual harassment, even in a mega-corp situation. I don’t know why I feel like it wouldn’t be treated seriously, but that’s just how I feel about it. I could be totally wrong. Fortunately, I haven’t had to find out what would happen because I haven’t experienced that in either of my O&G workplaces. My only experiences were with smaller, private owner restaurants where they didn’t take it seriously.
Do you know of men who have been sexually harassed in the workplace? Why does our society generally treat harassment of men less seriously than harassment of women? Your comments are welcome.