Sexual harassment in the 21st century

February 14, 2013

 

“Stop it, John. You’re creeping me out.” The speaker was a female pharmacist in her early 30s. Hollywood good-looking, she wore a skirt and blouse to work every single day. She was short. I suppose that was the reason she always wore high heels. She was a Doctor of Pharmacy, and no one was ever going to forget it. This was her 15-minute meal break, and she was eating soup at the table in the employee’s lunch room.

“I suppose you’re going to sic your husband on me,” the store manager laughed. He liked to run his fingers through the hair of female employees when standing behind them. The women, whose faces would squeeze into a grimace, usually tolerated it. He was the boss, after all. They needed their jobs.

This pharmacist put an end to it quickly. Not by tattling to her husband, who was on active duty as a naval aviator, but by saying all the right words: “I don’t need my husband’s help.”

The manager’s hand was on the chair back. She pushed it away. “I can handle you all by my little old self.” She grinned. It was a chilling smile. “Your conduct is unwelcome, John. Don’t do it again.”

“I didn’t mean anything by . . .”

“Yes, you did. Don’t ever touch me again. Don’t even talk to me unless there is a witness present.”

“What? You don’t need a witness.”

“No, but you do.”

“What?” The store manager took two steps away from her chair. “What do you mean?”

“I mean that after Human Resources reads the letter I’m writing to them, it might be better if you never talk to me again, about anything, without a witness.”

Taking control

Talk about knowing how to take care of herself. This pharmacist, in less than 10 seconds, separated herself from the crowded pack of victimized female employees by controlling her own situation. And she used the right word: Unwelcome. That is the exact word that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission suggests that you use. As in: “Your touching me is unwelcome.” Or this: “I made a mistake sleeping with you before. Your continued requests for sexual favors are unwelcome.”

More common is this: “I do not like your dirty jokes; they are unwelcome.” My favorite: “That look you give me, like you are taking off my clothes, is unwelcome.” And, most disgusting: “It is unwelcome when you grab your crotch when you are talking to me.”

One step further

You can’t stop at unwelcome. You have to seal the deal by clearly demanding that the harasser cease and desist: “Do not continue to ask me out.” “Don’t look at me like that ever again.”

If the offending manager does not stop, the next step is to complain to your corporation’s Chief Compliance Officer (The company’s Top Cop). After that, the poor bastard probably better not look at you at all.

I have worked with 10 times more female technicians than I have with female pharmacists. Most of them have been decent women. Most of them have been hard workers, loyal and trustworthy. But few of them have been unusually strong. Many of them have been single women, with minor children at home. They have to feed and clothe their kids. They have to keep their kids clean and make sure that they get their shots. They need their jobs. For many store managers, female technicians are just dating potential - future conquests.

I cannot be held harmless. I acted like a pig during my career. A few years during the ’70s, I was single. In my defense, the women were not married and I believed they were willing. I began looking elsewhere for my dates when a tech asked me for a raise while I was enjoying a smoke in bed. I practically burned the house down trying to find the hot cigarette I had lost in the covers.

Not just women

Sexual harassment. You visualize an innocent little girl and a demanding hairy brute. I knew a male technician who thought it was really cool to be sleeping with the female pharmacist in charge. That was, until he didn’t want to do it anymore and couldn’t get out of it. First he lied. When that quit working, he said that he had found a girl friend. That went over like the proverbial lead balloon. Then he told the truth. She gave him a look. “You like working, don’t you?”

Welcome to the 21st century.

Jim Plagakisis a community pharmacist in Galveston, Texas. You can e-mail him at jpgakis@hotmail.com and cc us at drugtopics@advanstar.com. You can also check out his website at jimplagakis.com.