Boss' behavior feels like sex harassment

Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

bio | email

DEAR AMY: I'm not sure how to handle a situation at work.

I'm a young man, and my boss is several decades older. It is a hostile work environment (he has demeaned employees and made sexual comments to women). Recently, he's been commenting on my looks and clothes, occasionally telling me that I look handsome. I've caught him staring at my butt and also touching himself as he says he needs to use the bathroom. I feel uncomfortable because this is getting more frequent. I know we're both gay, and he knows that I'm engaged to my boyfriend. I'm afraid to file a sexual harassment claim, because this behavior hasn't been overt. I don't have any proof, and he's denied other charges brought up by other employees to HR. Plus, if I'm wrong, I don't want to ruin his career because of my misinterpretation. I like where I work, and my job is secure. Should I start a job search rather than file a complaint? I don't know what to do.--Unsure but Uncomfortable

DEAR UNSURE: You should start by asking this man to stop. You say, "It makes me uncomfortable when you comment on how I look. Please don't do that." You should document that you made this request, including the date and time and his reaction. Also document every instance of his making a comment or behaving in a way that makes you uncomfortable, including a description of the behavior, your reaction, the time and date, etc.

Take your complaint to HR. Because others have complained about his behavior, I can imagine two scenarios: Either the department is building a case, or HR will do nothing.

This might not be overt, but staring, commenting on someone's looks or gesturing constitutes possible sexual harassment, according to guidelines posted at un.org/womenwatch. Also check the eeoc.gov guidelines to see if you want to pursue this beyond your company's HR department.