“If, after I filed an EEOC claim, my boss is menacing me and even touching me in a disturbing way, what should I do?”

Question: I recently filed a claim with the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). One of the managers named in my claim has recently been hostile toward me. Several weeks ago two incidents took place that have me on edge.

One day, about mid-day, this manager was hustling down the aisle of our office, hears me laugh, and turns toward me and angrily says “You shouldn’t be that happy,” and gave me a look that could kill. It shook me, but I got over it.

But then, two days later, he actually put his hands on me. I noticed this manager walking around our area that morning talking to people; he looked at me but did not speak. Later that morning as I am sitting at my desk working, on the phone with a customer, with my back to the aisle, this manager comes up behind me, grips my shoulder and shakes me back and forth hard and hissed sadistically in my ear, “Good morning, my friend.” He had pressed his head against mine, and I could feel his breath in my ear.

I was so shocked and upset I could hardly finish the phone call.

Can I report him for retaliation and bullying? Would it help or hinder the EEOC claim? What if he does something like this again? Should I quit? I am reluctant to, as I have been with this company for 30 years.

         N.M.
         Lenexa, Kansas

Answer: N.M., when clients of mine report conduct like the conduct you report, it doesn’t take me long to think about what they should do: 

1. Document the Conduct. I suggest you IMMEDIATELY put what happened down in writing, in as much detail as you can, including the names of people who may have witnessed the incidents. Be specific about dates, times, places, words spoken, exactly where you were touched, how long the incident took place, and every other fact. While nothing else might have happened over the last few weeks, such conduct – if not stopped – could happen again, or worse.
 
2. Report the Conduct to HR, and the Police. I truly believe that this conduct should be reported to both Human Resources, and to your local police. What you described is both unlawful touching, (a kind of violence if you ask me) but even worse: an implied threat that, frankly, has you justifiably frightened. Your report will likely force the company to keep the manager away from you, which is what you need them to do. HR and the police may or may not investigate or punish, but that is beside the primary point: you need to send a strong message of “That will not be tolerated” to your manager. The sad thing is that this kind of bully has probably done this kind of thing before, and will again, unless someone stops him.

3. Report the Conduct to the EEOC. It seems to me that there is a good chance these two incidents occurred because you named the manager in your EEOC claim, and that they represent retaliation against you for doing so. Discrimination and harassment at work are violations of the law; retaliation against someone for filing a complaint is a more serious violation of the law. It is  a separate, distinct and very serious violation of law. I don’t know if this will help your initial EEOC claim, but it surely won’t hurt it. It is really a second claim, and a far more serious one, at that.

4. If He does this Type of Thing Again, Repeat Steps 1, 2 and 3.

5. No, YOU SHOULD NOT QUIT. That is the last thing you should do. That would give him the victory of violence, the win by intimidation, and the satisfaction that bullying is acceptable, which IT IS NOT. 

I really, really mean this: even though many people are afraid to do as I suggest above, these are the steps that are most likely to prevent the madness that your manager shows is inside of him, from coming out again at you. Bullies are really scared little people inside, and almost always back down when confronted. This is the best way to confront him, and I hope you will consider doing so. You will, I truly expect, find out he is, inside, afraid of your bravery in filing the EEOC claim to begin with.

I truly thank you for writing in. I hope others reading this will bear this in mind, too.

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          Best,
          Al Sklover 

© 2010 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.