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I'm being charged with sexual harassment.

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wmcintee

Guest
What is the name of your state? What is the name of your state?Michigan
Hi, let me start off by saying that I am an openly gay male and am being accused and charged with sexual harassment at work/school by a person of female gender.
First, I would like to attest that I do recognize that I had no business bringing my personal site up at work and I feel really bad and stupid for doing it. With this in mind. here is my story.
The week of July the 1st, my supervisor had a meeting with my fellow coworkers and I, which explained our assignments and goals while she was on vacation(she was leaving at the end of the following week). Everything was great during the week she was there...the ideas were flowing (I'm a graphic artist)...I was in love with my job!
The week after our supervisor had left for vacation, one of my coworkers was left in charge. She was also slated to go on vacation the following week as well. On a Friday, she had explained some design elements and was giving advice for some of the software programs we were using as resources and had mentioned a design concept called "floating boxes/layers" which allows one to layer images upon other images without overlapping on the actual HTML document. She claimed fact that Netscape had the inability to display these correctly. I found myself concerned about the whole subject because not only was I planning on using the concepts for my ideas, I was also using it at home designing pages for my own site. As I spent time that weekend designing certain parts, I found no truth in what she had said about those aspects...my page design was successful. I had returned to work that Monday feeling confident about taking my ideas at work to a whole new level. When I arrived at work on the following Tuesday, July the 16th, something had reminded me of what she had said, so I asked her if she was the one that had mentioned the "floating boxes" design concept last week...at first, i wasn't sure...but it was no big deal. She said yes, and I proceeded by showing her an example of my work. My only intention was to show her that I found the floating box/netscape theory untrue. She was sitting in the desk chair at a workstation and I had kneeled on the floor to the left of her. I gave her the URL to type in so that we could access the site. As she started to press the Enter key to access the site, I had realized that I had Flash content enabled that contained risque' images (to me it's risque', others may dismiss it as "adult content") and I made her aware that there was content there that I had no intentions of letting her view and proceeded to cover the screen with my left hand as I controlled the mouse with my right hand. I chose "Source" from the "View" contextual menu of the browser which brought up the raw HTML code for the page. We both viewed the code and I proceeded to put my hand up on the monitor screen again to block the Flash image so that I could close the Source code window without allowing her to see the Flash file. She then said "Ok, you can close it down now, I don't care to see it" I complied and got up from being on my knees. I then told her that I was concerned with what she had said about the floating boxes (layers) and Netscape the Friday before. Instead of mentioning "layers" I had slipped accidentally and said "frames". She said "frames?" and then I noticed what I had said when I meant to say "layers", so I corrected myself. She then asked me, "Is anything overlapping on the page?" At first I said "No" then I caught what I had said and corrected myself once more by saying " Yes, the buttons"
That was the end of that. That Friday, the 19th of July, she had left for her vacation. The following week, I had continued to develop ideas and turn those ideas into physical concepts. I was very proud and confident in my work. She returned from her vacation on Monday, the week of the 29th of July. On Wednesday, July the 31st, I was told by one of the head of our department that I was not to remain at work and I was to return to home and wait to be contacted by someone from Human Resources. I waited until Friday afternoon of that week for someone to contact me, but never did. I went ahead and contacted Human Resources myself. This person told me that she and I needed to have a meeting about my "conduct" at work. I attended the meeting and proceeded to get (excuse the metaphoric reference)"the crap kicked out of me" by the representative, not being able to get a word in edgewise, so of course I was never able to tell my side of the issue. The representative had me immediately removed from the assignment (this was a Technical Cooperative position). I contacted the the head of the technical coop department and told her what I could. She told me that she would find out what she could about the situation and told me to wait for her call. Later, she called and let me know that there have been charges against me. So now I am waiting for my "due process" and the student disciplinary action being taken against me. I am a good student and I maintain a 3.6 GPA. I have only one course left to get my degree. I just want to get my degree and get out of the college never to look back. I was always very sweet and helpful to my coworkers. I am so angry, hurt, and insulted, but I was man enough to offer her an apology for my actions and tell her that I was truly sorry if I had offended her. Believe me, being as open about my homosexuality as I am, my intentions were far from seducing her or enticing her. I had not coerced her, nor did I force her to sit in that chair and view my site. She was well aware of what I was hiding and clearly had the choice of sitting in that chair or getting up and walking away. Granted, I should have never accessed my site from campus and I am paying for it dearly. I have lost a job that I adored so dearly and I have been going utterly to peices over the situation. Honestly, I am thinking that this whole situation is a revenge tactic against me for proving one of her theories wrong. I am so worried that I will be stigmatized for life as a pervert or sexual deviate, which I am neither of both, and will probably never get the chance to finish school. All in all, thanks for listening guys. :(
 


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ahutchGA

Guest
I am not a lawyer, but I do have an opinion.

I don't think you will be branded a deviant or pervert. You made a stupid mistake, but I don't think anyone at your job thinks you're a pervert.

That being said, at my job, if you tell a dirty joke or make an innuendo to a coworker, EVEN IF THEY LAUGH, it is still harassment. That point was made very clear in our training videos (I work retail in GA). They can and will fire you for that, even if the associate doesn't appear to be offended at what you said/showed her (him).

Even though your supervisor had the choice of sitting there or getting up and walking away, you inadvertently exposed her to those images by having them on the screen. Covering them with your hand was not enough.

And were the images downloaded from the net while on company time? If so, that is another big no-no.

I'm sorry you lost the job you love, but next time please keep that stuff off your work screen. And keep your private life private. It's none of your coworkers or clients' business how you spend your freetime.

Hope this helps! Good luck!
:)
 

Beth3

Senior Member
The determination as to whether SH has occured has nothing to do with that the accused intended but what the harassee perceives. So the fact that you didn't intend to harass her or that you're gay and she's straight and whatever don't matter. They may be mitigating circumstances in determining how your employer and the school handle things but what you did was a real goof.

What would have obviously been a wiser choice was for you to have prepared some other demonstration to show this co-worker that she was mistaken.

Now...what to do. In the scheme of things, this is a fairly minor incident. She saw some inappropriate pictures. She wasn't assaulted, propositioned, stalked, etc. I would find it really hard to believe that the school won't let you complete your final course and graduate. When approached again by school administration, the best thing you can do is throw yourself on the mercy of the court so to speak, tell them you just weren't thinking about the content of the web site but totally focused on the software capabilities and apologize profusely.

Honestly, taking responsiblity for the mistake and error in judgement and offering a sincere apology go a long way except for the more egregious instances. And no, you won't be branded a pervert or sexual deviant the rest of your life although I'd be very careful about your web site if I were you.

Many employers won't care that you're gay but many will care if you have a pornographic web site of any kind. Employers worry about that sort of thing reflecting bad upon the company if it becomes known that "joe" or "jane" working for them runs a site like that. Perhaps it's time for you to tame it down.

Good luck and I hope you have your diploma in-hand soon.
 
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wmcintee

Guest
Thanks Beth, ahutchGA

Thanks...I don't think you guys realize how much those replies mean to me :)...I am not trying to use my homosexuality as an excuse or anything...I just don't want you guys to get the wrong idea...Just trying to make it clear that my intentions were honorable...yes...I'll admit it a thousand times over...I made such a big stupid mistake...I'm just afraid that I'm going to be kicking myself over it for the rest of my life...again, I cannot thank you enough for the opinions and replies, I am seriously screwed up over this.:(
 

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