Too many times.

Photo by Steve Snodgrass via flickr

I’ve been reading all of these stories, and I’ve never really felt more compelled to share my own than right now. I’m a teenage girl, and while I’ve had my share of harassment on the streets, in stores, and at school, I’ve always had a special kind of harassment at my workplace. I work at a discount theater in Northern Virginia, and it seems that every time I come in for work, nearly every male patron chooses to hit on me, ask me on a date, flirt with me, or try to touch me. They leer over the counter and try to stare down my top. More often than not, these are grown men with their wives and children sitting in the theater while they go get snacks from me. Do you know how many times I’ve heard “You look tired.”, “You have beautiful eyes”, “You should be a model.”, “What’s your name?” “Tight ass.”, “Great tits.” or my personal ‘favorite’ “You look sexy in that outfit.”? Too many. And for the record, I wear mom jeans and an oversized plaid shirt to work, along with the smock we are forced to wear. Nothing sexy about it.

And the worst thing is, when I try to bring it up among my female co workers, they just brush it off. They don’t care. And my male co-workers, including my forty five year old manager try to hit on my and rub up on me in the same way!

I’m frightened to come into work, and I don’t know what to say to these people without it getting reported to my manager or boss. I want to quit, but I need the money to save for college, plus my dad helped me get the job and I don’t want to disappoint him.

But I’m sick and tired of being a sex object at work.

Submitted by Brietta

Location: At work, VA

Time of Harassment: Day Time (9:30A-3:30P)

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8 responses to “Too many times.

  1. Brietta, I am so sorry to read that this is your daily work experience and that you’ve experienced both a lack of support from your coworkers and out right harassment from your boss. Thank you for sharing your story here – I hope this community can help you navigate this situation. Is there anyone else in your family or at school or elsewhere whom you feel comfortable turning to for help with the situation and for finding a different job?

  2. What a terrible story. It’s really hard to speak up, especially when you’re afraid of losing your job. Unfortunately, your best choice is probably to see what else you can find. Still, you shouldn’t have to put up with that kind of behavior. I would try saying something to the least frightening of your co-workers next time they try something such as “please don’t touch me,” or “please don’t make those kind of remarks, it’s unprofessional,” or whatever you think they would respond best to. You could also say to the customers politely, “you know, this is my place of work–I don’t think that’s appropriate.” Are they really going to run to your boss and complain that you told them that when they said “nice tits” to you. I doubt it.

    Is there a higher-up manager or owner you could speak to? If so, I would write down a description of every act of harassment you experience on the job for a few weeks along with the date and time and who else was present during it and bring it to him/her when you go to discuss the problem.

    Another thing to consider is that your story sounds like a classic hostile work environment–it might be hard to find a lawyer, but you could try googling “hostile work environment” or “sexual harassment” and attorney and your city and state–some firms might give you a free consultation.

    Good luck and hang in there. Don’t let this get in your way of going to college

  3. “I want to quit, but I need the money to save for college, plus my dad helped me get the job and I don’t want to disappoint him.”

    You’re not the one doing the disappointing, these creeps harassing you are!

    I agree with Christine’s response. Find an adult you can trust and speak to about this. Someone close to you will support you and help you find another job. No one should have to go through this type of harassment at the workplace.

  4. I’m not sure how to say it but I completely empathize with your situation. I’m a college student and a few years ago I worked at a local pizza shop. I completely hated it mostly because I felt disrespected and harassed by two of the three managers. I guess the worse part is that (or least I felt) I couldn’t really do anything about it since they were my bosses and I sort of thought that I was supposed to be okay with it since my everyone (even my female co-workers) acted like it was. But really, a 20something manager acting that way towards a 16 year old subordinate is completely unacceptable even though i didn’t realize it at the time. Scratch that, any boss harassing an subordinate at any age is completely unacceptable. I definitely came come and cried about it but I felt like I couldn’t quit because it was my first job and I didn’t have another job lined up or anything and my parents were VERY proud of me for working. Okay, this is a ramble about my life… sorry!

    I guess what I want to say is: YES, THIS IS ALL WRONG but very common and don’t be afraid to quit (if you don’t need the money to survive, I guess) and/or make as much hell as possible about. Is your theater a chain? Maybe you could call call corporate. HR? If they don’t believe / take you seriously maybe you could record an incident on your phone? If it’s not a chain, could you talk to the owner? I know I our owner seemed me / like he particularly didn’t like me but…

  5. I am also sorry to hear about what you’re going through. I would seriously consider telling your dad about what is going on so he can at least possibly help you look for other employment. There are jobs out there where you don’t feel like a piece of meat.

  6. Sexual harrassment is illegal. You should not tolerate it from your manager and coworkers. Simply tell them you don’t appreciate their comments and come-ons. Tell them to keep their hands off you. Document your experiences in a safe place where nobody else can find it. Date, time, who was involved, who witnessed it, how it made you feel. Then if it continues, take your journal to the the theater owner or management company. Go over your manager’s head. Tell them you want the ILLEGAL behavior to stop immediately or you will be forced to consult an attorney. STOP TAKING IT.

  7. What do you think about creating a log of the incidents? This is a strategy used for stalking and other harassment. I recommend logging the date, the time, others who may have observed the incident, and how you felt afterwards.
    You also mentioned that other female coworkers brush it off, but have you approached them privately? I wonder if they would respond differently. You might even find a guy ally.

  8. This is awful. Really sorry for what you’re going through. What I’m about to say is a bit simplified. I’m not a lawyer but I have helped workers in situations like this before. Having said that, here is my reaction:

    The stuff coming from your co-workers and managers is particularly stupid on their part as it leaves the company open to a lawsuit. If management allows this environment to persist, the company becomes legally liable for the sexual harassment you’re suffering.

    – Log everything in as much detail as you can, as far back as you can. Try to include times, dates, names of people involved (including any witnesses), and a complete description of the situation etc. That includes as much detail as possible about times you have made your manager(s) aware of these incidents and the fact that they took no action to correct the problems. Don’t worry if you can’t remember everything, better to have even a little detail on an incident than omit it.

    – You need someone who can help you advocate for yourself and also think through the options. Maybe that’s a parent, family friend etc. (As an aside, I have to say, I think/hope your Dad will surprise you here. I would guess his reaction is going to be wanting to go down there with a baseball bat as opposed to being disappointed in you.)

    – Think through your options. It the company does not correct these problems, you’d have the option to file a complaint w/ the Federal EEOC (www.eeoc.gov). There is likely a State agency in VA as well, though I have no idea how effective they are. In some states you can retain your own attorney and sue. You could go meet with higher ups in the company, present them with your evidence and ask them to make changes, you can leave and find another job.

    In the end, you need to decide what course of action is best for you. I wouldn’t recommend staying put under these circumstances though. Leaving everything else aside, it’s a really really unhealthy atmosphere to be working in. I think it’s time to make a change, however you decide to do that.

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