Sunday, May 17, 2009

Email from a gay guy accused of sexually harassing a woman

A couple of years ago, just after I'd introduced the "Dear GB" queue in this blog's right hand side-bar, I got an email that was much more urgent that the entries that were in the queue at the time. On that occasion I allowed a bit of "queue jumping" and posted the email with my response almost immediately. Since then, however, I haven't let anyone jump the queue!

But yesterday, a long time reader who's emailed me privately on countless occasions send me a request for advice which does seem more urgent than the other two requests that are sitting in my "Dear GB" queue. Given the urgency of his situation, coupled with the fact that this guy has been emailing me since July 2006, I've decided to allow a bit of queue jumping again. So with apologies to the two guys who he's jumping ahead of, this is the email that I received from this reader yesterday:

Dear GB

I've got the mother of 'high-maintenance' female employees to manage. To be blunt she is an unhinged, calculating, scheming woman. I don't use those words lightly. As with many companies, turnover is on the decline, and she knows her job may be at risk as she's smart enough. Last week she lodged an official grievance against me. Some 59 issues raised including racism (she's not British) and SEXUAL harassment being just two of the most hostile.

Following lengthy interviews with her, my Managing Director now finally believes this to be a calculated attempt to undermine me and oust me from the company, therefore enabling her to take on my job. All staff who've been interviewed report my impeccable behaviour concerning racism and those who work in my immediate office area have on record stated the sexual harassment charge allegation is just ridiculous and without any substance. The company are now trying to find a way to 'manage' her out of the business as soon as possible without further costly claims.

Should I just 'out' myself to quash this vile accusation?

Naturally, I sent this reader an immediate reply, in which I included the following paragraph:

I think you should come out if you don't think it would damage your career. Indeed, it's possible to relax and hence perform better at work when one isn't hiding one's sexuality. But you don't need to come out to everyone, well not at first anyway. You could just tell your immediate boss. In fact, given that you are gay, I'm sure he'd be very interested in the news because it could help the firm strengthen it's legal case in connection with his woman, if it were to get that far.

About two and a half hours after I sent that reply, I received the following response from him:


Thanks for your most speedy response. I'm wouldn't say I'm hiding my sexuality. Just not relevant to my work and has never been a topic of conversation in the workplace:) Small company - I'm one of the few white collar suits amongst the blue collars. I keep things formal as the guys on the factory floor like that. They enjoy telling me filthy tales when I'm handing out pay advice notes etc. I listen and smile politely :)

Do I have to provide evidence concerning my sexuality? Sworn testaments, stash of porn etc? I don't see my sexuality as a clear cut issue to be honest. First and foremost I'm just me and by the way I like guys if you must know sort of attitude. The woman has really been driving me mad for months. Every word I've exchanged has been guarded.

GB, my mortgage depends on you :) I trust your judgement to flesh out the topic etc.

I'm not a lawyer, but my guess would be that one only needs to provide proof of sexuality if the case were to go to court, and if the other side of the case were to dispute the fact. However, I have no idea what would be acceptable proof. I find the idea that a big stash of gay porn could be used to prove that one is gay rather amusing, but at best, I'd have thought that that could only be circumstantial evidence. My guess would be that testimony from any of the reader's boyfriends or gay lovers, coupled with the inability of anyone to find any girlfriends would presumably be sufficient.

Given that the grievance has 59 issues, it would be inadvisable just to focus on the sexual harassment charge. Judging by his manager's reaction so far, it seems that he's likely to survive this, however he mustn't become complacent. So rather relying on the advice of friends, bloggers, and blog readers, perhaps the best course of action would be to find himself a lawyer who's an expert in this field!

Do any other readers, particularly lawyers, have any thoughts on this situation?


John F said...

Ugh, what a drag. Some people are just impossible to work with. He should be thankful she's not his manager!

Your reader sounds a very level-headed and down-to-earth fellow and the woman sounds a right nightmare. Even more importantly, it seems his MD agrees with this and is taking steps to mitigate the influence of this vile woman on the company. In my humble opinion, he has done everything right thus far.

It would seem that his sexuality is not the crux of the issue here; indeed, there are 58 other complaints in addition to that of sexual harassment lodged. It does not sound that his eventual absolvement of guilt (fingers crossed) will hinge on the sexual-harassment charge.

He should bear in mind, however, that the mere fact that he is a gay man does not mean that he is incapable of sexually harassing a (presumably) heterosexual woman (or a lesbian for that matter). A case can be made for sexual depravity to be completely detached from one's sexual orientation; depending on the nature of the specific allegations, the reader might want to ask himself what benefit he would get out of revealing his sexuality.

Ultimately, I am having difficulty seeing what good it would do to come out to the company at large; you gave the right advice by counseling him to be very selective in his audience. If your reader thinks that revealing his sexuality is specifically necessary and relevant to that case at hand, then he should inform his managing director, ask for his/her advice in how to proceed, and then formulate a strategy (perhaps in cooperation with the MD) accordingly.

Otherwise, it might not be worth the trouble.

Best wishes to your your reader.

Unknown said...

I would have to be concerned what sexual orientation has to do with sexual harrassment. They are quite exclusive. Proving that one is gay does not mean he can't be bothering some poor woman!

It does appear that I know this woman! Well, there are many like her, and we all have to deal with them at one time. They are very sly and are able to use the system to their benefit. If only they could channel all that energy for useful purposes.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way out of this one. He needs a good human resources lawyer since she obviously knows her way around the system.

CockSearch2009 said...

I'm a lawyer. If your writer testifies "I'm gay", that can establish he's gay. But he's highly biased, as he's got an interest in his testimony.

So, if he brings in someone who can testify, from personal knowledge, that he's interested in sex with men (a former trick would be just the thing, a long-term boyfriend would be totally ideal), he's gone a long way toward establishing the point.

An absolutely gorgeous female friend who testifies "Nigel's my dear friend since 1998, and he's never laid a hand on me or even suggested such a thing," now that would be absolutely idea. The right woman, one the judge might like to bed himself, could actually prove a negative for you - which isn't an easy thing to do!

Was Once said...

I personally would come out and face it now with head held high, she is expecting you to cower.

You help more than yourself(think large) by coming out when things are tough.
I came out to a huge firm, at a critical juncture in my life, and this was 20 years ago.

Whatever happens, know that the bad karma this woman is creating for herself will one day make life terrible for her.

Was Once said...

I must also confess at age 8(1968), a neighbor girl who was pissed I would play with her(I had male friends) told her parents I did something bad to her. Her parents told my parents and I was punished severely and a week in my room. It came out later, that it was all a lie, and my parents never apologized until I was 20 as they thought I would forget. But no, I bought it up again and until I did did they address it.

Anonymous said...

GB - Your reader may want to consider launching a lawsuit against this woman for defamation and slander if the allegations are untrue. Even the slight mention about it to this woman may put her on the defensive...then, you turn the tables on her. It's not only the job that is at stake. It's also about safeguarding one's long-term reputation, so that future prosperity can be built as well.

Also, I would advise this reader to bring a tape recorder everywhere he goes.


Anonymous said...

It sounds like she's one step ahead of the game. Employment law is a complex field (as I understand it, second hand!). Different types of grievances put the burden of proof on different parties.

If your company is big enough to have a decent HR department then you need to speak to them. Otherwise you need to consider finding a lawyer versed in Emloyment Law. Don't assume anything, just because common sense tells you one thing or another.

Tricky! Probably best to be proactive, in any case.

Anonymous said...

I have quite similar experience a couple of years ago at previous company-- yes I left the company because of that. I have been out but it didn't work there and I got serious mental problems, which lasted for a year.

I guess I was weak then. If I am allowed to say something to the reader, just do what cocksearch2009 says.

Anonymous said...

The exact situation happened to me whilst working in the USA. My direct female report felt she should have been promoted and filed a sexual harrasment charge against me.

As is typical the company went into lock down. Investigations were held. For 2 weeks I did not even know what I was supposed to have said.

After the 2nd weekend I came into work. Sat down with Legal Counsul of the company and said that although the piece of private information was of ZERO relevance to the Company and I resented having to discuss this with someone who was not a friend I was in fact "gay".

The issue was resolved in hours. I was given a full apology and the investigation showed me to be an exemplary employee.

He should disclose but stress he does not want to hear another word about it.

Wish him luck.

Anonymous said...

One suggestion would be to just casually mention the fact that you are gay to your boss, laughing ot off that you are difinately interested in "that woman" Your boss may or may not choose to use it, but you will have told him but without making a deal of it