Dear Tell All: I work at a Madison mom-and-pop company that’s been in business for a long time. It’s still owned by the guy who started it, who’s now in his 70s. He’s the undisputed lord and master of the organization, with no human resources department to consult when he gets out of line. His wife is a co-owner but has little to do with day-to-day operations and rarely shows her face.
My boss has always been a mixed bag. He pays his employees decently, gives us bonuses, and provides health insurance and retirement benefits. In many situations he has a big heart, as when people need time off for emergencies or personal reasons.
On the other hand, he can be a sexist jerk. He makes cracks about women that are supposed to be funny but are more often borderline offensive. He engages in a kind of sexually aggressive flirtatious banter with us female employees that has always felt more annoying than threatening — until recently.
Maybe it’s my imagination, but it seems like my boss’ behavior has verged closer to sexual harassment since Donald Trump was elected. It’s possible he feels emboldened by Trump’s success: a pussy-grabber who not only got away with it, but got rewarded with the presidency. Or maybe I’m just more sensitive to male chauvinism with Trump in the news every minute.
We women who have lasted a long time at the company always roll our eyes and fend him off. But post-Women’s March, I’m feeling less inclined to let my boss get away with his demeaning comments. What are my options?
Dear Katniss: With women on the march across the world, now is the time to take action against your piggish boss. Don’t let the decent wages and benefits blind you to his unacceptable behavior. And it is unacceptable.
Write down what’s happened, being as specific as possible with dates, places, times and witnesses to the harassment. Ask your co-workers to do the same, and enlist them in the resistance to your tormenter.
Then confront the bastard. If he pushes back or fires you, take your documentation to a lawyer or contact the Wisconsin Equal Rights Division, 608-266-6860.
It won’t be easy, Katniss, but I know you can stand up to this villain. Draw courage from a sign spotted at the Women’s March, quoting Audre Lorde: “I am deliberate and afraid of nothing.”
Do you have a question about life or love in Madison?
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