offensive co-worker/supervisor comments - Mothering Forums

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Old 09-27-2005, 03:36 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I just need to rant a bit.

I work in an mostly male office. There are several people in the office who feel that it is ok for them to make little 'comments' every day about my pumping breast milk at work. Before I get the birage of responses on how I should report them or tell them to take a leap - let me tell you they are the 'sacred cows' of the office and I would be setting myself up for the 'you really need to just deal with the fact that they are like that...' talk. It seems that if you have been with the company long enough it is ok for you to be degrading. My direct supervisor has made numerous comments that moms are just there to collect the paycheck and have no real career goals.

The two other women in the office have had to deal with the same sort of things. We have all responded in ways to try to get things to stop - with no sucess.

I have always worked in male-dominated offices. I have always had to deal with the odd comment here and there - but never to the degree I have at this place. I am a new mother which has caused things to get worse. I know I should try to get a different job - but I am a little older, my husband and I would like to try to have a second child soon - so then I will be in a situation where I am just starting a job and I am pregnant. I need to work to help pay the bills - plus I enjoy having a job (well, I use to). I am thinking about going out on my own - but I am nervous about making enough to hold up my end.

So, all that said, I will end with a therapy scream:
BBBBBBAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH !!!!
thank you.
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Old 09-27-2005, 04:23 PM
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That is complete BS. I cannot believe that crap is tolerated--and worse, that you report directly to one of these idiots.

Maybe you and the other two women should open a competing business together. I have also been thinking about going out on my own, but it's kind of scary. If I had co-workers to do it with, though, maybe it wouldn't be so intimidating.
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Old 09-27-2005, 04:31 PM
 
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what's the deal with people? I just don't get it. Would those guys tolerate it if someone said something similar to their wives? Probably not.

That said -- starting a new job and pregnant isn't the worst scenario in the world. Especially if it is a *better* job. Pregnant and this job might be awful too!

Kristin -- mom of Erin (11/5/02) and Leah (9/29/05)
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Old 09-27-2005, 04:43 PM
 
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That actually sounds like sexual harassment. Do you have an HR department you can report this to? Document the incidents and take it to them.

Mom to DS 5/05 and DD 9/08
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Old 09-27-2005, 04:50 PM
 
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If you are unhappy with the job anyway... Why not report to the labor department (whatever it is called in your state). I am pretty sure this would fall within "hostile workplace" provisions for gender discrimination. Of course, life will probably get worse for you after you do this, so you have to weight the cost for you. But it might be a great big wakeup call for these clowns and the other women might stand behind you. For sure you would be doing future women employees a big favor.
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Old 09-27-2005, 05:06 PM
 
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I am trying to think of a way for you to handle this w/out making waves, that is what you are looking for right?

How about..... (this is just off of the top of my head)..."You guys are so funny, but be careful, someone could take this the wrong way and report you to (insert someone important). That just happened where my friend works. Someone reported them for talking like this and my friend had to testify against them, it was real difficult. You never know what BS will bother someone these days."

You know, play the friend card.....

With that being said, that is really disgusting. I work in a place where that would never be tolerated. MY main boss lets me kick him out of his office so that I can pump.
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Old 09-27-2005, 05:12 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I have thought about reporting the situation - but the community I work in for my field is small. I would be blacklisted as the trouble maker. I NEED the paycheck - I don't make a huge amount, but..That in itself is not a reason to let them get away with this behavior - but I am really not in a possition to take on 'the world' at the moment. I have picked my share of fights - but at the moment I am so on the edge. I have no support for my trying to live a more natural/environmentally friendly life - I am given grief about EVERYTHING from my family. I have moved around a lot so I really have no good frieds. I am not up for the 'take on corporate america' fight. My husband is supportive - but he works tons of hours. He thinks I should just go out and get another job. But he will not have to deal with the 'oh sure, just starts a job then is out on meternity leave' comments. I have seen that happen far too much.

oh by the way Qestia - the HR person is the one who gives the 'well, that is just the way they are' talk. Plus he has also made comments.
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Old 09-27-2005, 05:29 PM
 
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I completely understand that not everyone is in a position to report such things. I've been in places where I could and places where I couldn't. Sounds like you are stuck in an icky situation. I'm especially shocked that an HR person would take such a dismissive view.
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Old 09-27-2005, 05:31 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Helena's mamma

oh by the way Qestia - the HR person is the one who gives the 'well, that is just the way they are' talk. Plus he has also made comments.

That is so completely wrong. The HR dept is supposed to be your advocate, they should be taking their job way more seriously. I am so surprised that businesses are not more scared of lawsuits. Our HR person is a total worry wart over discrimination. I would document all of this, even if you don't think you'll bring anything up. You never know if someone else might, and you might be called to give your opinion.

I would personally record the HR person saying discriminating comments and anonomously mail the tape to the president, CEO, or board director of the company.

But I know you don't want to go there. I would take the joking manner that a pp brought up, I have seen people do that before. In our office, people say "cough-EEO-cough" under their breath as a joke, when someone has said something that could be construed as offensive. (meaning Equal Employment Opportunity). Or another funny one is referring to CLM's (career limiting moves). Yeah we like our acronyms around here.
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Old 09-27-2005, 05:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am sorry if I am coming across as cranky or stupid - I don't know. I just feel so powerless. I have NEVER felt this afraid to act. To do something. I am so frustrated with things but I can not get my head around how to move through it. I have never felt so much like streaming in my entire life. I just want to stand on my desk and tell them to all go to **bleep** at the top of my lungs. Which I realize is not very mature.
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Old 09-27-2005, 05:45 PM
 
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you don't come across as cranky or stupid, I am just shocked that your HR person is involved in this way. When I was pregnant our HR actually showed a video about sexual harassment to us, that among others things, pointed out unwelcome comments about pregnancy counted, which I hadn't realized before (but which made me understand why I felt so horrible when this one woman told me how huge I was every single day). Anyway, this is very immature, but when I was getting those comments I finally burst into tears--after the person kept up immediately after I very politely told her how they made me feel. This was not intentional, but you know... it stopped the comments. Might be worth a shot?

Mom to DS 5/05 and DD 9/08
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Old 09-27-2005, 05:46 PM
 
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I know its hard. Don't feel like you have to do something like report the offenders, you have to look out for yourself first and backlash is a very real thing. In an ideal world, you could report this and it would go away.

Maybe if the joking approach doesn't work, you could make a snarky comment back at an offender? I don't know if that is such a good idea, it would be pretty unprofessional, but would probably make you feel better. Sometimes I like just coming up with comebacks inside my head, just in case

I've had a few comments at work to the effect that people cannot believe I am still pumping when my baby is a year old now, like it is so unnecessary at this point. They haven't even been offensive, they just make me feel like an outsider. I try to remember that the men that say these things are probably jealous that their wives are or were not as committed to the well-being of their children. I kind of get on my high horse inside my head, yk? Then I feel a little better.
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Old 09-27-2005, 06:01 PM
 
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I'm sort of crasahing this forum (I'm not a working mama) but I saw the thread and this sort of thing is a hot button issue for me, so I wanted to lend some support.

I'm so sorry you are dealing with this and feeling so stuck about it. Maybe the best thing you can do for now is confront the comments head on - "I don't appreciate your comment. Please don't say that to me again." If HR isn't going to help you, maybe taking matters into your own hands and respectfully commenting back is the way to go? Ugh.

Quote:
Originally Posted by KateMary
The HR dept is supposed to be your advocate, they should be taking their job way more seriously.
Actually, this not true and it's is a dangerous attitude to have. HR is actually there to protect the company, not the individuals who work there.
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Old 09-27-2005, 06:03 PM
 
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What they are saying does skirt the line of legality. If things get really bad and you can't just manage to get them to back down by dropping hints, consider getting another job offer and then really confronting them. If you have another job lined up, you will be in a position of power.
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Old 09-27-2005, 06:05 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mamameg

Actually, this not true and it's is a dangerous attitude to have. HR is actually there to protect the company, not the individuals who work there.
True, but protecting the company would also mean protecting it from possible lawsuits due to the kind of behavior that's going on in this case. HR is there to make sure that employees follow laws and regulations also. In this case, HR is really not doing it's job in any way-- not facilitating for employees and not protecting the company.
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Old 09-27-2005, 06:21 PM
 
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I would write a letter and send a copy to the HR or office for filing grievances and have this on record. If there is no improvement I would take it a step further to a lawyer. This has got to stop and not be allowed. In any work place this would be considered harrassment.

BF is your personal business....and so are your bathroom habits. If they cannot respect you as a human being, you have a right to say something.
First have a private meeting with your supervisor and tell him/her you do not appreciate them devalueing your position with the company. Whether you are there for a paycheck or is your concern, not anyone else's...besides aren't they all getting paid? I would make the point that you will accept strict professionalism only, or you will be able to make the company own up to its shortcomings.

There are lawsuits about this and it is not pretty....and the company will benefit to clean it up! It is the law that you can pump and that is all there is to it. They can keep the politics to themselves, or any other controversal stupid opinions.
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Old 09-27-2005, 06:23 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aprilushka
True, but protecting the company would also mean protecting it from possible lawsuits due to the kind of behavior that's going on in this case. HR is there to make sure that employees follow laws and regulations also. In this case, HR is really not doing it's job in any way-- not facilitating for employees and not protecting the company.
Oh, I completely agree. HR is definitely not doing it's job in this case. I was simply clarifying that they are NOT there to protect the workers. They are there to protect the company, and often, that involves handling worker's issues so that they don't turn into lawsuit. Even though they may talk all nicey nice to the employees, the underlying motivation is always protecting the company.
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Old 09-27-2005, 06:32 PM
 
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That sucks! I agree that going out on your own or looking around for a new position may be your best longer term option. You know, if you find a better company to work for, the comments you're dreading about getting a new job and going on mat leave may never materialize - you're just conditioned by these jerks to expect that kind of thing.

If you're going to try to head off these comments in the meantime, good luck. I think that people who make these types of remarks know they're offensive, they're just relying on their own power and confidence in being able to make them. At the same time, they rely on being able to say they had no idea anyone was offended, or was so thin-skinned as to be offended by such harmless comments.

The problems with the 'jokey' replies suggested above are:
1. They're indirect, so they can take them or leave them. They already know their remarks are offensive, but they can keep on framing it in terms of 'no one ever said' and ignore what you say.
2. There's only 2 other women in the office, so warning them to be careful lest they get reported still means, in a passive-aggressive kind of way, 'reported by one of the three of us.'

The only way I see to address it, if you want to try to stop it, is to be direct and address the particular people making the remarks. E.g. "you may not realize it, but my reaction to comments like that is [fill in the blank here], and I'm going to ask you not to make them anymore." With the supervisor, point out that you're a committed worker and that you don't appreciate hearing him make generalizations like that.

Yuck. You have my sympathies!
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Old 09-27-2005, 07:59 PM
 
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What a gross situation. I'm so sorry that you are dealing with this.

My sister worked in a somewhat similar environment, where female staff made formal complaints to the mgmt & HR, and nothing was done. Don't know about where you live, but here in Ontario the company is legally liable if they are aware of harassment and take no action to stop it. The group of women banded together to make a formal complaint (sorry, not sure of the outcome).

If you are feeling harassed, you DO need to say "that makes me uncomfortable. Please stop that behaviour." What is OK to one person is obviously not the same for another. If its unwanted, its harassment. If you get no change from your mgr, then go up the ladder.

In Ontario, this would definately fall under sexual harassment under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Can you find out if the same is true with a human rights commission or labour board where you live?

I agree with PP - it can be dangerous to assume that HR is there to be an advocate for staff. They are there to protect the company.
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Old 09-28-2005, 02:01 AM
 
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Yuck. Im so sorry you are going through this.

You can come here for a therapy yell and a whenever you need it.
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Old 09-28-2005, 02:46 AM
 
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I am so sorry you are going through that...I had similar situation with my old (thank god). I knew i had a justifiable cause for a law suit, but i decided to go another route. it was a very sad and stressful part of my work...but i still pumped and bf my son two years later...
goood luck
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Old 09-28-2005, 12:26 PM
 
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I am sorry to hear about this. Pumping at work is difficult enough without having to address all of the comments. And I cannot believe your supervisor's statement that women are only at work to "collect a paycheck" and care nothing about career goals. Sometimes I wonder just how far things have really come since the 1960's. Anyway, I understand your reluctance to make too many waves. I do agree with the previous posts on documentation. This is important. Also, I understand that your HR manager seems really cleuless to workplace discimination issues, but at the same time, do you think that he is actually aware of all that is going on? If not, maybe if you brought it to his attention (possibly with the documentation in hand), he may start to get concerned and actually address the situation. Yes, HR is there to protect the company, but helping the company necessarily entails keeping it out of lawsuits. His antenna should go up when he hears about all of the comments, etc. The other reason I bring this up is that if you ever do decide to go forward with some type of legal down the road, the company may be able to use the fact that you never "reported" the harassing comments as a defense...i..e., we didn't know that she had a problem with any of these comments, so how could we correct the situation? I understand that you are not thinking in terms of a lawsuit now, but documenting the harassing comments, reading up on the applicable law, and giving the HR manager the oportunity to address the situation (even though this could be an exercise in futility) may be the way to go.
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Old 09-28-2005, 12:43 PM
 
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Also, is this guy rude to everyone?

I worked at a place that we had a guy that was this way. He was really that way to everyone. They did get him out because of what is clasified as sexual harrassment but he was a jerk to everyone. At the time the guys had no way of getting rid of him, now I would think they could. That was when I was 14 years ago. You might find some support in your male colleges if he is a jerk to them also.
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Old 09-28-2005, 03:22 PM - Thread Starter
 
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They are rude only to the women - nice, eh?

THANK YOU EVERYONE!!! Thank you very much for the support and ideas.

I think I will document and get myself another job. I will let the other women in the office know that I am keeping such a list - so if they should deside to take things to the next level I will be able to be there for them even after I have left.
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Old 09-28-2005, 03:34 PM
 
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I think it's great you're going to start documenting things and look for another job. However, I highly recommend getting some harmless revenge in the meantime.

If someone makes a comment about you pumping, make a flippant remark back. For instance, "I guess your poor kids were formula fed huh?". Or "At least my boobs are good for something. You're a boob and you don't seem to do too much".

Those are not very pithy examples, but I'm sure if we all brainstorm we can come up with good comebacks (you would need to tell us what type of comments they're making). I think if you had some comments which were snippy, but not too far out there (don't want to get you in trouble), it would make you feel a lot better.

Also, if you don't think it would be too obvious that you're the one doing it, you can print out stuff on sex discrimination and accidentally "leave it" ... at the printer, or laying around on a counter or something. THAT will get the HR guy's attention. (you could also mail it to him anonymously)

If people are making comments about your pumping that imply you aren't getting work done, you can say something smart alec about how you're such a hip chick, you can get more done in 7 hours of the day what takes most people 10.

Just some little thoughts. I haven't been in your situation before, but I've been in similar work situations and you'd be surprised how a pithy comeback (or just a smarta$$ comeback) can help with the "powerless" feelings that go along with routine humiliation at the workplace.

I hope things improve quickly or you find something else. That type of thing can really eat at you.
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Old 09-30-2005, 03:41 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Helena's mamma
They are rude only to the women - nice, eh?

THANK YOU EVERYONE!!! Thank you very much for the support and ideas.

I think I will document and get myself another job. I will let the other women in the office know that I am keeping such a list - so if they should deside to take things to the next level I will be able to be there for them even after I have left.

Nice, eh....................... That sucks.
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Old 09-30-2005, 04:37 AM
 
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I would first check your contract and the terms of the grievance procedure. If there's nothing in there, take it to the HR guy. When he tells you that that's just how they are, I would tell him that you're finding HIS attitude (i.e. dismissive) offensive- that you came to him with a problem looking for creative ways of finding a solution, and instead he is reinforcing their behaviour, which is making you wonder if this is institutional sexual discrimination. It might make him think.
I'm a former Trade Union rep, and whilst I don't know the laws in your area, I do feel that you have a moral responsibility to act. I know life can be very tough for whistleblowers (btdt) but every time we let the sexist creeps get away with it and run another competent woman out of a job, that's another family who is left struggling. It truly isn't acceptable in this day and age.

Helen mum to five and mistress of mess and mayhem, making merry and mischief til the sun goes down.
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Old 10-03-2005, 03:48 AM
 
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While you are looking for another job and documenting the harrassment & discrimination (because that is exactly what it is) you might also consider talking to a) an employment attorney experienced with discrimination/harassment and/or b) your state department/agency that handles equal opportunity employment. Just talking doesn't mean you actually have to file an official complaint or suit, but it might give you a better idea about what your options are.

You shouldn't have to take this. Neither should the other women who work in your office.
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Old 10-03-2005, 04:54 AM
 
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Im sad you've gone through this.
They are idiots. Documenting and looking for another job is a good idea.
Good luck to you mama.
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