I had a situation posed to me today that I wanted to get an answer to by tapping into the collective expertise of the readers of this blog. I am going to relate a story of “sexual harassment” and see what the crowdsourcing answer is. Ready?
A friend called me and said he was struggling with what to do and was wondering if he could run a situation by me and get my response. He had terminated a female employee the other day on the basis of poor sales performance. During the termination and exit interview the female employee said “I wanted to tell you about something that occurred at a conference.” What she told about was a conference two years ago during a time when she was an administrative employee and not a sales rep. After the business portion of the conference many people retired to the bar. My friend left and went home so he did not personally witness any of this; it was just the story being told to him.
The female sales rep relayed that as the evening went along and many drinks had been consumed another manager, the boss of my friend, started getting “frisky” with the female employee. He put his hand on her knee and was rubbing it occasionally. He then suggested that since they both had rooms for the night that perhaps they should retire to one of them for more “friskiness.” She declined his offer and they went their separate ways. Nothing else was said. Later she changed positions in the company going into sales. More than a year later she was not doing well as a sales rep and thus was terminated for poor performance, by my friend, which led to this story being told.
The reason he called me was he was wondering what he should do with this information. As a manager, there are company rules that state that he has an obligation to report any incidents of anything that might appear as sexual harassment. He called the company ethics hotline anonymously and was told they could not answer his question as to whether he should report it or not. So that was his question to me, should I report this? Oh, by the way, he is concerned because there is a culture of not being kind to people who “rat” on other people. So he is concerned about his job if he goes forward.
A review of the facts
Here is a quick review of the facts so that you can make an informed decision:
- This occurred over two years ago
- The female employee did not say “sexual harassment”
- The female employee did not report the incident at the time
- The female employee did not suffer any job action as a result of rejecting the “friskiness”
- My friend only learned of this as a side note to a termination process that had nothing to do with the incident
- He made an attempt to report it to the “ethics” people, but has not tried HR
- He is afraid that reporting it may at some point cost him his job under the guise of poor performance
His question to me was “What should I do?”
I am not going to tell you my answer. I want to find out what you would tell this man if you got this call. You can approach it from a legal perspective, an HR perspective, a friend’s perspective, or whatever point of view you want to take. Just leave an answer so we can learn from the collective wisdom.