Boss' behavior feels like sex harassment

Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

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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 Also check the guidelines to see if you want to pursue this beyond your company's HR department.