I am the Controller at a high tech company. Nude posters, pictures of nude playing cards, offensive tee-shirts, and sexist/sexual remarks from the President down to assembly workers have always been a part of the atmosphere. My female co-workers and I always laughed it off and joked about what ignorant men they were. Eventually we got the posters and other pictures down.During this whole period of time, there has always been a certain mind set about the male vs female employees. The females are relied heavily on to run the place, bullied into putting in long hours, and always expected to pick up the males slack.
For instance I am also the human resources person and the accounting clerk. "Why is it that you need an accounting clerk anyways, what is it you do all day long?" I didn't accept the Human Resources Position at all and was never told I would need to take on accounting clerk responsibilities either. But I did, and other female employees also rolled up their sleeves for the good of the company. I spent several nights there all day long getting the daily work in and finalizing financial statements. The men enjoyed vacation time without having to report it(so vacation days just remain accrued), days starting at 9 and ending at 3, two hours worth of cigarette breaks out on the dock, higher pay structures, and a relatively stress free job.
Additionally, our purchasing agent, who had always gone along with the sexual jokes and innuendos and tolerated having lewd rumors about herself, started having enough. She tolerated it before because purchasing agents are sales people. You have to put up with this kind of thing from vendors sometimes to make good deals. Well she had had enough and things started getting bad for her.Our production manager began to get sick of working long hours so the sales staff (order takers really) could make their commissions early and take off for their golf game or their Cape Cod house. I only Thank God she didn't know how much they were making in just base salary never mind commissions. I unfortunately knew however and I also knew that an employee under her supervision was making more than her, that employees under her had received 40% raises more than once in a year, and that she hadn't received a raise since before I came 1/97. I heard the abuse she put up with but was assuming initially that this was just the way her and the managers got along. I was assuming at this point this was ok with both of them.
I myself had put up with sexual comments and verbal sexual abuse from the Vice President and our President, the Sexual Harassment Officer by the way, but had laughed it up to this point and thought they were just harmless stupid men that if confronted would be very contrite and sorry. I was very well paid because when the corporation was going bankrupt under the management of the CFO, the President finally understood what it was I did and recognized I'd been warning him all along. I already had three jobs lined up, and gave him an agreement to sign before I would stay. I have had several previous jobs to this the most recent being five years in a CPA firm. However, I have worked for many other different types of companies, and have relatively been treated like gold. I had never experienced what came before my complaint or after before. I had never believed that any man could be as ignorant and small mind as the men that work in my company. If anything, I always worked for men who I could find no fault with in this regard and if they made jokes involving sexual conduct, I always knew I was respected and liked. If I had ever felt offended, they would drop it immediately and apologize. Not the case here.
Workers began coming to me with their complaints and stories regarding sexual harassment and verbal abuse. Tensions began mounting at an alarming rate. I was realizing my female employees did not feel comfortable with their treatment. They did not feel they could go to their sexual harassment officer with their complaints as he is the one sitting there all day looking at porno on the internet and they told me he would only shoot them down and make their life miserable. Finally, I heard a sexually explicit remark about a female employee. That this male employee would practically shout this out in a public place was not necessarily new, but I had never actually been in the pressence before. I had my reasons having to do with a claim of rape being rumored around the company for not confronting this employee. So I marched myself upstairs, and went into the president/sexual harrassment officer's office. Previously I had thought he was ignorant, sexist, and abusive but deep deep down basically a decent human being. In retrospect, I can see what a demented perspective that was. He basically said "boys will be boys" and implied these issues are non-productive so I am not doing anything about it. Going in I had thought he would simply say "ok that's unacceptable, I'll get right on it". I was under the delusion that I would bring this to his attention, he would apologize, and merit out a warning maybe even just verbally. This response, however, prompted me to say fine, but I'm documenting this formal complaint I've filed with you and I am documenting every instance of sexual harassment I witness and that comes to my attention from now on. He basically said fine you go and do that then. Clearly he did not think I would.
A few minutes later my documented understanding of the conversation was e-mailed to him. He not only e-mailed me back that my action was intolerable (thank you jerk), but he came into my office all red faced in front of a female employee who unfortunately left. He also told me that in order to combat this sexual harassment he is going to stop all conversations between employees like (he specifically said) me and Patty, because that could be construed as sexual harassment. This new ruling was never mentioned to any other employee and certaintly not to any male employee.The Vice President took time out to tell me that the President tells him everything, and mentioned this to him. How he resented being forced to confront an employee on any issue. I did not take this as a sign of support.A male employee came in shortly thereafter with an offensive tee-shirt on. The production manager suggested that he may want to change it because of the atmosphere recently and because of course it was inappropriate. This employee took a hissy fit, said he quit, and left the building. He came back with a different tee-shirt on but left about five minutes later. The production manager received the dressing down from the president. He implied she only did this because she was friends with the purchasing manager who was having similar problems to every other female employee and had talked about them with the president. He also implied she had no right to do this. I was later told to pay the employee with the inappropriate tee-shirt with a sick day to compensate him. The purchasing manager having had enough, found another job (at much less pay just to leave), and quit. The employee that I filed the sexual harassment complaint against, and who could never do the job he had, became not just purchasing agent but materials manager. The production manager became upset at this and would not cooperate with this person. A meeting was called between the production manager, the Vice President, and the new Materials Manager. They asked her why she had a problem dealing with this person. She answered that he never did any work, this was a very important position and he was not qualified, and that he had made sexually offensive comments. The Vice President replied "is that like when the (purchasing manager) sat on (the sales vice presidents) lap with no pants on". An arguement consisting of all types of inappropriate statements from the Vice President ensued. The production manager called in sick the next day and told me of this conversation. I informed the Vice President that I needed to see the President immediately that day.
The President/Sexual Harassment Officer came into my office and replied immediately to that statement, "well what's the problem, it's true." By the by, not that it matters, both parties slandered in that statement verify that it's not true. No employee can come forward or be named who "witnessed" this pantsless lap sitting action. The purchasing agent, who had given her notice by this time, shortened her exit time when she learned of this. Well with that response, I began listing some of my earlier statements of sexual discrimination in the workplace. Some of them having been discussed with the President before. To these he responded that the production manager and the purchasing agent were uneducated, gained all their experience from him, and he did not charge them tuition for that experience. The production manager has a phd and the purchasing agent has her bachelors plus fifteen years of purchasing experience. Both of them have wasted considerable time and effort with this company, and our being punished in ways they don't even know about. We discussed the President's sexually demeaning remarks to me (something he does not make the mistake of doing as often to me), and he began saying "I just used that word to illistrate a point. I know I used that word in our discussion, but I didn't mean I had actually used that word in discussing you with other employees ect". Yeah Right!!!! He also said basically that the men are not required to work as hard because they have special knowledge. Special knowledge apparantly only the President can grasp and understand and this gives them special priviledges. Like additional vacation time without reporting it, higher wages, more frequent reviews, .... That just because employees worked under a female, did not mean that female should make more. Then he told me we should stop the conversation because it was an "emotional" one for me. I said it really wasn't, but did he feel it was "emotional" for me because I was a woman?
Later that day the President apologized and asked me to forget the conversation we had. My complaint to the Mass Commission Against Discrimination was already under way. The production manager quit the next day, and I submitted my complaint to the sexual harassment officer right after. I certified mailed this complaint to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination the next day. Imagine my suprise the next morning when I saw a letter accepting my resignation (I had never given) on my desk, saying he was "sorry to be loosing a valuable employee and valuable member of the team", and his ill conceiled snide remark about the contract not being entirely legal. (thanks again jerk) I had contacted a lawyer the previous day for consulting my rights should anything like this happen before sending my letter certified mail. We really didn't think they would be stupid enough to pull this the next day. I had explained to this lawyer that I was not intending to sue them for money, I really only wanted the investigation to possibly protect the few women left. I also felt the weight of responsibility being the Human Resources person and not having put my foot down earlier. The fact that I never accepted this position had no bearing on my conscience at this point.
When I submitted my e-mail explaining that he could not accept a resignation that he had not given and would have to honor the terms of our contract, He e-mailed me back that I had definately quit, of course he was going to honor the terms, and in now way was his "accepting my departure" a reflection upon my complaint. What is ironic, was that morning I was going to thank him for not being hostile after I gave him the complaint. A simple apology and agreement that he would turn the duty over of sexual harassment officer to someone else, would have probably gotten me never to go on the inteview for the complaint. Now I am seeing red.Then came the meeting where he baggered me about the sexual harassment complaint and tried to debate it. I basically told him it was filed with the MACD because I felt he was negligent in his duties, I would not speak to him nor his lawyers about any issue, and that he would have to wait and debate it with the MACD. He continued to bagger me about just what behaviour I was talking about, that he couldn't understand my letter, that he had forwarded it to his attorney's. I told him again he would have to wait. He then told me that my obvious hostile attitude would have to be dealt with. I asked what hostile attitude. He said my refusal to discuss this. I explained it was all previously discussed, in writing on his desk, in the English language, and it was now my legal right to not discuss it with him. He continued, and I proceeded to sit in silence.After five minutes of silence, I asked if there was anything else I could help him with today.
He began questioning why financial statements weren't produced (this after I had speant 59-60 hour weeks helping him with an IRS audit while doing the year end workpapers and saving the company $80,000)and then (God Forbid) took a much needed vacation, that I was no longer trustworthy (were that true the IRS would have their $80,000), and that an add is going in the Boston Globe on 8/9/98 for a controller for this company. (All who apply watch out!!!!!!)He became beligerant and argumentative as I explained that my over work load has not allowed me to do this, but if he would give me a list of his priorities. I will give him a list of what will not be accomplished and he can divy up the work in writing to me with timelines ect. Finally the conversation which he said "has nothing to do with your complaint and I welcome the opportunity to address it" was over.My husband says he proud of me for taking a stand in what I believe in. I just hope they will eventually learn their lesson.