Saturday, August 20, 2016

My Sexual Harassment experience

I have been hearing a lot of talk recently about sexual harassment in the workplace and it brought up an old wound of mine.  I have never really talked about my experience, in fact when I mentioned it to my husband he was shocked that I had never talked about it.  I thought now would be a good time to take a few moments to give you my own story and my thoughts on the topic.

The year was 1994, I had just graduated high school and was taking classes at a local community college.  I needed a job to help pay for expenses and I wanted to be able to start saving for all those dreams that I had.  I took a job working second shift at a local embroidery factory.  My job was called hooping. I had to take two squares and put them one inside the other where the embroidery would go on the shirt. For anyone who doesn't quite get that,hopefully the following video will explain. Of course we had big industrial machines, but the concept is still the same. I had to get that hoop and everything just perfect or I would have seconds (mistakes).

I was very good at my job and I enjoyed the rhythm of what I did, it was soothing and comforting. 
It was tough going to school during the day and working until midnight, but I liked my job and the team I worked with.  Everything was great for the first few weeks until my supervisor started saying things to me. At first it was all innocent, asking about my day and how school was going. Then it went into how pretty I looked and how nice my jeans fit.  At that point I took to wearing long t-shirts to cover everything up. It eventually got to the point that he would get very close, I mean right up at my ear to talk to me and put his hands on my shoulder. I didn't like it and it made me very uncomfortable, but I didn't tell because I knew it would make it worse.  A male friend that I worked with saw what was happening and told me I needed to report  my supervisor, but I told him to just let it go and not worry about it. 

By now it was to the point that I hated going to work and I would feel like throwing up every time I thought about it. Eventually that male co worker told me that was enough, he wouldn't let our supervisor treat his mother or girlfriend that way and he wasn't letting it happen to me. He reported our boss, everyone was called into the office, questioned and sent back out to do our jobs. My supervisor was not reprimanded in any way. In fact I was the one who was whispered about and treated unfairly by other co-workers.  

My time with that company only got worse as my supervisor started making me redo items that didn't need to be fixed. He became hateful and even more emotionally abusive, so I quit that job.  I knew that staying there would only make things worse and the high ups were not going to touch my boss, so I made the decision to leave.  Should I have? No. The big wigs in the company should have done something with my boss to make him stop, even if that meant firing him, but that was never going to happen.  I do know that before I left he had already found his next victim. I heard a few years later that he had finally been fired for sexual harassment. I wonder how many times he was reported or not reported before the company finally took action. 

I was just a teenager and I found another job the next day and moved on past it.  I never really thought much about it until recently with all the news reports. I know that anyone can be sexually harassed, even men, but it is more common for women.  Most stay in the jobs and never report it. Why? Maybe they feel like they can't find another job or that they just have to deal with it, but they don't. Maybe like me they know if they tell things will only get worse.  I will never know how my story might have turned out if the company had never known. My boss might have tired doing something to me that I would have had to defend myself.  I do know that I have never worked for another company again that I had to deal with being harassed in any way.  

Women and Men need to know that they don't have to take this treatment.  If you are being harassed in any way go to the company and tell them. Keep a record of every complaint that you make, a paper trail is always worth it.  If it doesn't stop keep going to the next boss up until something is done, even if that means you have to quit and sue the pants off of the company (pun intended). 

"That's my 'two-cents worth', what's yours?"

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