Dear Bogey: On Sexual Harassment

By Dr. Trask’s Fall 2020 COM 252 class

Photo by The Guardian

Interpersonal Communication is the ability to identify, connect with, and analyze interpersonal communication concepts by engaging in critical reflection, engaged discussion, and applied learning. To achieve this objective, over the course of several weeks, our COM 252 class will attempt to help our MCK students by providing advice and suggestions for creating and maintaining healthy relationships. The goal is to synthesize the content we have learned from this class, the class text, research, personal experiences, and write for public consumption.

Dear Bogey,

Recently I have gotten a new position as a server/cocktail waitress at a new restaurant in town. During my interview, my manager asked some strange questions that did not necessarily relate to my qualifications for the position, such as inquiring about my relationship status and commenting on my physical appearance. Despite applying for a carryout/assistant position, I was given a job as a waitress even without any experience. During my first few weeks at work, I was coddled. I thought at first it was because I was new, and he was trying to help me out in a professional fashion. He would buy me food or pick up my tab unexpectedly, poke fun at my appearance or mimic my table greetings, and constantly ask to see my smile. Sometimes, he even asks to have private meetings with him in his office for no clear reason. But more recently, the special treatment has been becoming more and more apparent, especially to the other servers and staff. Yesterday, I called out of my shift and he asked me why and told me I should still come see him and hang around for a while. I’ve made it clear that I have a boyfriend and am not interested, but he is very persistent, and his attempts have only gotten more aggressive. Last week, I rejected his offer to go to dinner after work with him and he cut my hours by nearly 30%. I really need this job, and with COVID threatening all other options for getting hired at a different position, I feel uncomfortable thinking about quitting. How should I handle this situation in the event that speaking out may give him a reason to further cut my hours or punish me?


Scared to risk it

Dear Scared to risk it,

First of all, I am very sorry that this has been happening to you. From what you have said, this is 100% sexual harassment. [1] In the United States, there is an organization called the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, [2] and one of the things that they cover is workplace/sexual harassment. I think this could be a good source for you and I also found some others that I think will help you out as well. I understand that you do not want to quit this job and that COVID-19 has become a very big issue in the service industry. You also mentioned that you are nervous about his retaliation if you speak up. The biggest thing that I want you to take out of this is that you have done nothing wrong and that it is your manager who is in the wrong here and you should report them no matter what! One of the articles I think will be the biggest help to you in this situation was published by Forbes magazine. [3] This article features eight steps of what you should do if your boss is harassing you. For example, the first thing you should do is document every interaction between the two of you. I would also add that if you have any friends that are also co-workers, try and have them witness a few of the incidents as well. This will come in handy when you report your manager.

Now, if your manager decides to retaliate after you report them, I would report him again but this time contact the owner of your work as well. Sexual/workplace harassment and retaliation to it are suable offenses and I am sure no business, owner, nor manager would want to be sued. If you do not want to go the lawsuit route, I found an article about early signs of sexual/workplace harassment and what management should do to stop it. [4] No one deserves to be harassed no matter the situation and you have to remember that even though in some cases they are higher than you, you are still a person and have rights no matter what career you have.  



[1] Floyd, K. (2020). Interpersonal communication (4th Ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. 

[2] Floyd, K. (2020). Interpersonal communication (4th Ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. 

[3] Hannon, K. (2016, July 14). What To Do If You’re Being Sexually Harassed At Work. Retrieved November 23, 2020, from 

[4]   Ramsaroop, P. (2007). The prevalence and nature of sexual harassment in the workplace: A model for early identification and effective management thereof. SA Journal of Industrial Psychology, 33(2), 25–33.

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