November 3, 2012

The signs in the Waltham office that I took pictures of the other day are still there.

When I got there yesterday morning, a male employee of Labor Ready walked into the building and immediately started loudly coughing.  He kept doing it after he sat down.

I said, not loudly but so that he could hear me “How about you knock that off?”

From the front desk, the manager yelled “Lena!  We’re not going to have that today.  We went through this last week.”

I said “We’re going to go through it until it’s done.”

Last week, I was coughed at by more than one employee of Labor Ready in the Labor Ready office during the hour that I was waiting to go to the work site.  Almost the entire hour had gone by before I said something about it, and the manager yelled at me then, too.

Yesterday, she said “He’s not doing it on purpose.”

I knew that if I tried to argue with her or said anything else about the harassment at that time, she would tell me that I couldn’t work.

Also yesterday, I met a Labor Ready employee whom I hadn’t met before.  He seemed ok at first.  He didn’t cough at me, sneeze at me, rub his nose at me, or put conglomerate code for harassment into conversations with me or with people around me.  In the car on the way to the auction, he asked me if I’d like to spend time with him outside of work.  I said “No, thank you.”  I wasn’t rude to him.

At the auction, he walked over to me and asked me why I’d said “No.”  I tried to deal thoughtfully with the fact that he wasn’t taking “No” for an answer, and that seemed to go all right.  It turned into a joke, or at least there was some humor in it, even though it continued for a while before the auction started.  He said something about my “defense mechanisms,” which nobody could appreciate; when someone tells you “No,” it doesn’t mean “I have a psychological problem because I don’t want to go out with you,” it means “No.”  Somewhere in the midst of my attempts to defuse the situation, he said he’d just asked me out as a friend.

In the car on the way back to Waltham from the auction, he started to ask me again why I wouldn’t spend time with him outside of work.  Even after I’d tried to deal with him doing that, and stopped trying to have a conversation with him, he didn’t seem to realize that he was starting to annoy me.  He kept asking me personal questions, one after another, until I finally said “You’re asking me a lot of questions, and I would appreciate it if you would back off.”

Then he started to psychoanalyze me again, saying “You don’t trust people, do you?”  I said “I’ve said that I don’t want to go out with you.  Then I said that I didn’t want you asking me any more personal questions.  If I need to be psychoanalyzed, I’ll ask for that.  The problem here is that you’re not taking “no” for an answer, and I’m asking you to back off.”

He told me I was being rude.  I told him that I wasn’t being rude, and that he was being rude because he wasn’t taking “no” for an answer.

He said “I never asked you out.”

I said “Yes you did.”

He told me that I was rude, that I had problems, and that I needed help.

The conversation continued like this until the car drove into the Labor Ready parking lot.

I went into the building.  Probably, I should have asked to speak to the manager or one of the other office staff privately about what had happened, but I had also been hassled by some people at the auction, stalked to Labor Ready by vehicles that morning, and knew that I’d be stalked when I left and for the rest of the day, and I said what I was thinking.  I told the first person that I saw at the desk what had happened.  Then the other workers who had been in the car walked into the building and up to the desk; everyone does that at the end of a shift to get paid.

The guy who had been pestering me denied that he’d done anything, said “I didn’t ask her out,” and whatever else he was saying.  The staffperson whom I’d told what happened said to him “At this point, what you’re doing is sexual harassment, so stop.”  The guy stopped talking, and I said to the staffperson “I’ll still go out on jobs with him if he doesn’t act like that again.”  What I meant was that I’d still work with him as long as he wasn’t going to continue to pester me and then be antagonistic when I tried to tell him to stop.  If I had been less upset, I might have thought to say “I’ll keep working with him,” rather than “I’ll still go out on jobs with him,” for this particular instance when there was a question of him doing something that has already been classified as sexual harassment in the workplace.

I went to the other side of the front of the desk to get my check.  He and I were thus separated.  I told the other staffperson, “If he keeps trying to say that he didn’t ask me out, there are witnesses to the fact that he did.”

He heard me say that, and started insisting again that he hadn’t asked me out.  The manager started yelling “That’s the end of it!  I don’t want to hear more about it!”

Then the first staffperson whom I’d told about what happened walked over and rubbed his nose at me.

They should have spoken to each of us privately and tried to resolve the problem without yelling at us or taking sides.  I SHOULD NOT have been harassed with a nose rub by one of the office staffpeople, especially in front of the guy who wouldn’t take “No” for an answer, told me something was wrong with me because I’d told him “No,” told me I was rude because I objected to him telling me that there was something wrong with me, and then lied about the fact that he’d asked me out, not only to me but to the boss, too.

If the guy who treated me that way yesterday thought that he could treat me any way that he wanted to, the reason that he thought that he would be able to do that and then degrade me when I told him “no” was probably that I get harassed in that office by the manager and by other employees and yelled at by the manager when I object to being harassed.  He took the next step toward where the conglomerate has been going all along, which was to treat me as if I, a woman who interested him socially, didn’t have the right to say “No” to him, a man, when he asked me to spend time with him outside of work.  Finally, he was supported in his behavior toward me by the failure of the manager to adequately address what happened, and encouraged in his behavior by the staffperson who rubbed his nose at me.


Copyright L. Kochman, November 3, 2012 @ 2:11 p.m.