Dealing with an Inappropriate Boss

By Paula Santonocito

Q. I literally just started a new job yesterday. During the interview, the boss seemed very flirty. I thought it was strange but dismissed it. Well, now that I am working in close proximity with the guy it’s apparent he’s more than a little flirty. He has rubbed my shoulders, come up from behind me and kissed me on the back of the neck, and told me I smell lovely. I’ve responded by telling him he’s a big old flirt and that he’s making me uncomfortable. Does his behavior border on harassment? And if so, what should I do?

A. Border on harassment? This guy has crossed the border and is now in lawsuit territory. It is not okay for the boss to rub your shoulders or kiss your neck. Yikes and eww!

You should tell him in no uncertain terms that his behavior makes you uncomfortable and request that he stop. Although you were probably trying to keep your remarks low-key and friendly, the “big old flirt” comment may have given him the wrong impression. You need to be direct.

What happens if he continues?

You should repeat your request with a reminder that you’ve had this conversation before. At the same time, you should let him know you won’t tolerate his behavior and will have to make someone else aware of the situation if he doesn’t treat you with respect in the workplace.

Again, however, you must be clear. For guidelines on how to address the situation, check out “Preventing Sexual Harassment: A Fact Sheet for Employees,” a publication prepared by an attorney, available at the U.S. Department of Transportation website.

For information about filing a sexual harassment claim, visit the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) website.

Finally, it’s interesting that you picked up on a vibe from this guy during the interview but chose to ignore it. Maybe you told yourself you were imagining things or reading too much into friendly behavior. What would you have done differently if you had acknowledged the red flag?

Would you have taken the job, knowing you’d be working for Mr. Sleaze? Chances are the answer is no.

With this in mind, you may want to resume your job search. Even if you are effective in your efforts to establish boundaries, this does not seem like a work situation conducive to a happy, successful career. You deserve better.

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