WHEN IS IT SEXUAL HARASSMENT?
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that tends to create a hostile or offensive work environment.
Sexual harassment is a form of Sex Discrimination that occurs in the workplace. Persons who are the victims of sexual harassment may sue under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e et seq.), which prohibits sex discrimination in the workplace.
Under NY State law Domestic Workers are protected from acts or expressions of sexual harassment.
Dear Nanny X
I have worked with the same family for a few years now and they are very informal friendly people. Lately however the husband’s behavior to me has gotten more ‘playful’ like flirty and suggestive. I have always put down unwanted comments but now it feels like I have to deal with this idiot’s imbecile words daily or when he is around. I know his wife picks up on it too. But she doesn’t say or do anything. Sometimes I think she blames me. Sometimes he will stand close to me and I have to back away. In every other way he is a nice man. But the jokes are way too much now.
What do I do? I need this job.
An Anonymous Nanny
Dear An Anon Nanny,
this can be a common experience for domestic workers due to the proximity of working in the home. Understand that you have not asked for this type of puerile behavior. You have in fact made it clear you do not appreciate it. This man is clearly crossing a boundary. See the definition of ‘sexual harassment’ above.
I am thinking people will offer comments and advice. Here’s mine.
The next time this happens – stop what you are doing and speak to this man directly in a serious manner using a low voice so that he cannot in any way think you’re playing along. Say calmly:
“(His name) … I need you to know that I do not want you to talk to me in this way any more. It makes me feel very uncomfortable. If it continues I will need to speak to your wife as it is affecting my work experience here.”
Remain calm even if he over-reacts and accuses you of : misunderstanding, being uptight, or whatever. Keep looking at him directly. Let him have his say and then repeat, “I do not want you to joke around or say anything like that again. It makes me feel very uncomfortable. Do you understand?”
If it happens again go straight to his wife but look for another job as there is no guarantee this can be resolved. And your workplace is no excuse for other people’s denial and poor behavior.