A reader asks Dr. McLaughlin, in his regular IT surgery, to give some advice on the matter. They have accused him of making sexual remarks to a female employee.
I work for a Telecoms company in Central London.
One of the girls at work has reported me for supposedly making sexual remarks to her.
This has truly shocked me.
I‘ve got to attend a meeting tomorrow with my bosses and HR, and my accuser will be present. I‘m more than shocked. I‘m terrified that I might lose my job over this. It has certainly blunted my career at the very least.
Just a Joke
I was only joking around. I work in a team. There are two other guys and this girl.
It‘s just a bit of banter. The other guys always laughed and she didn‘t seem to mind.
I did call her things like ‘slut‘ and other similar things, but she knew that I wasn‘t serious. It was all a bit of a joke.
Now, she has reported me.
Why couldn‘t she speak to me first? She never objected at all or said that she minded. Now she‘s done this.
By the way, I used to go out with her very briefly a couple of months ago.
Dr. McLaughlin’s IT Surgery
That‘s a tricky one and you have to handle it with great care.
I sense that you seem to think that this may have happened because of the brief affair that you had with her and that this has caused her to do this.
This may or may not be the case.
However, it doesn‘t really matter. You can‘t use it as your main defence, as she‘ll simply deny it.
The evidence as regards your remarks is available, and stands by itself.
Are You Sure?
I ask you, are you sure that your remarks were fully meant as jokes? Are you sure that they weren‘t just disguised as jokes to try and push a stiletto in?
Perhaps she did mind, but didn‘t want to seem a bad sport, or perhaps she didn‘t want to make a scene. Maybe she suspected that you had an ulterior motive for saying what you did, but that your colleagues wouldn‘t believe her.
Perhaps it all got a bit too much for her and that is why she complained.
Anyway, that‘s the situation as it is.
What you should do is to pretty much say what you have told me, i.e. that you had no idea that any offence was taken, that it was just office banter, and that if you had realised that any offence was taken that you would have stopped immediately.
If your accuser is in the room at the time, turn round to her and offer her a fulsome apology, and say that it will never happen again. Don‘t say directly to her that you never meant any offence, as she won‘t believe you and may even say something to refute what you have said.
Offer to transfer to another team, if she felt that she couldn‘t work with you any more. They are likely to suggest that anyway, if they don‘t boot you out altogether.
If you want to be a bit Machiavellian about it, tell one of those who are judging you beforehand that you went out with her briefly and that you think it might be something to do with revenge. He (and it would have to be a ‘he‘) would likely pass this on privately to the other members of the ‘jury‘.
I suspect that the opposite is the case, and that it is she who dumped you, and that it is you who was trying to get a bit of revenge on the fly.
However, the assumption will be made that you had a liaison with her, that it was a one-night affair, that you dumped her, and that she hasn‘t forgotten this. You don‘t even have to say this. That will be the assumption.
That‘s the way of the world. I am not on your side but that is the best advice I can give you.
If she was asking my advice I could give her some very good advice, but as it is you, I would suggest that taking the above advice is the best that you could do.
Oh, and by the way, start looking for another job. Your career with the company is finished.
Even if you get away with making sexual remarks, they are not going to promote someone who was accused of sexual harassment. It would send completely the wrong signal to the workforce.
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