I wish I had one of you were I work so you could take care of this problem for me! I am the administrative assitant at a very small law firm (3 people). My boss is an older man (in his 60’s), his partner is in her late 30’s and the junior associate is another woman in her mid 20’s. I am in my early 20’s.
My boss, the only man in this small firm, is constantly telling me his preference for skirts. And not just skirts – short skirts. With neutral nylons, if I must wear them, not dark or black. If I do wear pants to work (dress pants, with heels and a nice blouse), he takes it as a personal insult. If I wear a skirt or dress he thanks me for “dressing up” for him. It’s infuriating. Granted, I haven’t really said anything because I was new, but I am coming to a breaking point. It’s come to the point where one Friday he let me and my youngest co-worker go home early. He then asked me if I would dress up “nice” for him on Monday since he let us go early that day, all the while saying nothing to the other girl he let go early as well. He never say anything about this to my young co-worker, and his partner complies with and enables this behavior. I find it completely inappropriate. What should I do? Is this even legal? He seriously comments on my clothes at least 3 times a week.
This is what you need to do: Tell him to stop.
I realize this is uncomfortable and you’d rather the problem just went away. Or, as you mentioned, you’d like to turn it over to an HR person. Granted, most HR people would happily throttle someone like that for you, but you don’t have one and so your options are to quit or deal with it yourself.
The next time he makes a comment say, firmly, “Bob, do not comment on my clothing choices. It is not appropriate and could be considered sexual harassment.”
Then document the conversation. Every single time he says something remind him that it is inappropriate.
A few outcomes are possible. One is that he will be embarrassed because he truly did not realize what he was doing was inappropriate. (After all he may have read this horrible post that Ask a Manager linked to.)
Another outcome is that he will become defensive and state that he was “just kidding” and you are “too sensitive.” If he says that, don’t apologize for being offended, just state that you do not appreciate it. “Now that you know I am offended, I’m sure you won’t do it.”
A third outcome is that you’ll be fired. I’d like to say that’s not a possible outcome, but it is. Sexual harassers can also be jerks. If that happens, definitely apply for unemployment. I’m not a huge fan of lawsuits because they rarely solve anything and drag on forever and since you’d be suing a lawyer he’ll be able to defend himself cheaply. You can contact your local EEOC office for help.
If you repeatedly tell him to stop commenting and he does not, make sure you document every instance and go ahead and contact the EEOC. Also, start looking for another job. Some battles are not worth sticking through to the bitter end.
Note, you must tell him to stop before you escalate the issue. If you don’t, you fall into the category of wimps that drive me nuts. We’re grown ups here and should attempt to solve our own problems. Hopefully, your case will fall into scenario one and bringing it to his attention will solve the problem. Most don’t go into category three.