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I put up with harassment/sexual harassment & threats of violence from my General Duty Manager at work - I finally went to the Police after 5 months as I could not take it any more and they are now in the process of arresting the individual as the allegations are so severe - I am worried about how this will affect my relationship with other members of staff, especially my General Manager, when I return to work.

This will go to Court and I am terrified about losing my job - and how to face everyone. Can anyone offer advice on this issue?

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Did you discuss with HR before going to police? Do you have evidence? –  Oded Sep 1 '12 at 20:19
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I discussed the issues with my General Manager however I did not state that I was going to the Police & yes there is CCTV evidence which the Police are seizing. –  SLW Sep 1 '12 at 20:21
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+1 for going to the police. Good luck! –  Bob Cross Sep 3 '12 at 14:15
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probably might be worth formally starting a grievance against the other employee just so that hr can take aproraite action. –  Neuro Nov 5 '12 at 1:13
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@gnasher729 - why wouldn't you? –  Oded Dec 3 at 13:57

5 Answers 5

up vote 44 down vote accepted

I am not a legal expert, nor should you be taking legal advice from people on the Internet - you should be consulting with a lawyer.

As for what advice I can give:

Your working relations with other members of staff is likely to be awkward and strained - this is only natural and to be expected (after all, following your accusations, a manager is being taken into custody and will in all likelihood be prosecuted). The managers guilt is irrelevant here.

On the other hand, if this person is known to be a bully and has a reputation as such, you may be seen as a hero - the one why stood up to him. I can't really tell as I don't know anything about your situation and how this person is seen by others in the company.

Chances are that you will get different reactions from different people - some will think the manager is innocent, some will not and will treat you accordingly.

As for the losing your job - as far as I know about British law (I've been a resident for the last 11 years), your job is safe. They can't fire you for making the claim, though they may want to put you on gardening leave until the legal proceedings have finished. At that point what will happen completely depends on the result (the crown doesn't prosecute, the manager is found innocent, the manager is found guilty - there could be any number of outcomes).

As I said - you should lawyer up, or at least consult a lawyer.

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Agreed 100% until you said "ask your HR department" for legal advice. A large part of an HR manager's job is to stop the company getting into trouble; this would be a conflict of interest. Do, however, talk to the HR department if you need a way to escape the backlash while avoiding your need to take the company to tribunal. –  pdr Sep 1 '12 at 20:41
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@pdr - What I mean was that the HR department may point her to an independent legal counsel. But fair point. Removed that bit... –  Oded Sep 1 '12 at 20:43
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@SLW - Glad I could do a bit to help. But do take what pdr commented on to mind. The HR department have the company's interests first and foremost in mind. If you do get this meeting - take a lawyer with you. –  Oded Sep 1 '12 at 21:18
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In my experience (in the US) HR is will go into full CYA mode when a clear cut legal discrimination/harrassment problem appears, often firing the offender. But, if it's in a gray area where evidence isn't clear or on the borderline of legal (some workplace bullies are good at this), they're more likely to fire the whistle blower and try to sweep the incident under the rug. –  jfrankcarr Sep 1 '12 at 23:55

One piece of general advice to add to Oded's excellent answer, which I won't rehash:

Don't engage anyone at work who wants to talk about it.

There will be three categories of people:

  • Those who don't believe you and are open about it.
  • Those who appear supportive but aren't.
  • Those who are genuinely supportive.

It is best for you if you don't engage any of them. Just say "it's very stressful for me, it's a legal matter now, let's leave it to the courts," and talk about something else entirely.

You're not going to win over anyone who doesn't believe you. They will have their reasons, some malicious, some understandable (perhaps bad experiences), but none personal. It doesn't serve you well to play into that. And those who are genuinely supportive will honestly respect you more for not risking spreading gossip.

All that said, know that you are the victim here. Don't be afraid to talk to others about it. Don't internalise your fears and turn it into guilt. Get support from friends, family, a therapist, a support group, anywhere. Just don't get it at work.

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I wouldn't try to explain that you personally don't want to talk about it, I would just use a general excuse like "this isn't something appropriate we should be talking about" because it isn't. Personally, I'd avoid the subject like the plague. One thing you have to focus on is doing your job. If it's too stressful to do that, you should be taking time off. If other people see it's bothering you, then they're going to be more curious about asking you and the atmosphere will be more awkward. –  animuson Sep 1 '12 at 21:42

There are already some great answers here, but there are a few points, especially relevant to the UK, which have been missed so far.

First of all. If you are a member of a Union, or even if you are not, but your workplace recognises a union, you should contact your Union representative immediately.

This is an issue which most unions train their representatives in thoroughly, and many will be as happy to help non-members as they are to help members (since if the value of the union is demonstrated to you, you are likely to become a member for life).

If Union help is not an option, then you should definitely contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau. They also often have advisers trained in dealing with sexual harassment cases and they are an excellent resource for pointing you in the right direction for the next step.

When contacting the CAB, it is best to book an appointment to see a specialist advisor. While most CABs offer advice to drop in customers, you will most likely end up waiting for ages and then be sent to a general advisor who will probably suggest booking an appointment with a specialist anyway.

Given how strapped for funding the CAB is (they are a charity and have been squeezed a lot lately) they provide an amazing service.

Additional notes:

  • Unions in the UK are opt-in, so you're only a member after you have joined and paid your subs.
  • It is best to book an appointment to see a specialist advisor at the CAB, if you just pop in, you'll wait for ages and then be sent to a general advisor who is likely to suggest booking an appointment with a specialist anyway.
  • Be very careful about no-win-no-fee solicitors, especially at this stage, there are more than a few cowboys out there.
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I wish I could say people will be supportive and all will be well. Sadly, my experience has been that the victim most often receives far less support than the attacker.

People do this for several reasons. Those who have been sexually harrassed as well (maybe even by this person) may be upset because you didn't tolerate it and they did. This means that their choice wasn't the only one they could have taken and people tend to be upset when people don't make the same choice they do (You should have seen the vitriol I got at one place for putting in my notice when they all hated the place too). When you go against their choices, people often feel as if you are judging them even when you are not. I think it is the betrayal of those who have also been harrassed that hurts the most because you would expect them to understand. But if they didn't take the same action, they often feel you betrayed them.

Others (especially managers of the opposite sex) will be upset with you because they are afraid you will do the same thing to them. They will feel they can't make a joke in your presence or that they can't be alone in a room with you even for things like performance appraisal where they should be alone with you. They don't know where you draw the line and thus they will always be afraid you will have them arrested as well. Yes, I know you probably wouldn't if they don't physically attack you (which is what I'm guessing happened since you say there is video evidence). Sometimes people who are not harrassed have no idea how much hell you went through before you had to do something. They will think this is a one-time incident that came up out of the blue and that you might turn on them at any moment for something totally trivial.

There will be people who just absolutely can't believe that Joe would do that, so you must be in the wrong. He's a good family man with a wife and three kids. He couldn't possibly do what she said he did.

There may also be an element of "She thinks she's so perfect, I'll show her."

So be prepared to have to work twice as hard to get half the credit you used to get. Be prepared to be misjudged for every thing you say. Be prepared to have your most innocuous statements be misinterpreted and have people threaten (or actually) to turn you in for things at the drop of a hat. You may find moving on to another job is the best option. If you do decide to seek other employment, do not mention this issue when asked why you want to leave. Interviewers may very well interpet your explanation as "This person is a troublemaker. Do not hire."

You will need support to get through this. Try to get as much suport from people outside the workplace as you can.

I know how hard it is. I was attacked in the office in full view of 20 people. All of them told me they would lie on the stand if I had the guy arrested. My boss told me that I could forget about ever getting any promotions (I was very junior) and then they sent me on work-related, out-of-town trips with the guy. I didn't have him arrested and have regretted it many times since then.

You have more courage than I did. So I salute you. And I wish you well. And I hope your workplace reacts better than mine did and better than I have seen it react many times over the years to many people with similar problems. But be prepared for it to be very bad at work and then it is nice surprise if it is not. Stand tall, be proud of yourself and let the chips fall where they may. At least you can live with yourself.

You have a legal case pending, so it is best to deflect all comment with something along the lines of "I can't talk about the case."

And make sure you have legal counsel. It's not fair that the victim has to protect herself from retaliation, but it all too often is the case.

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I would think this falls under the "whistle-blower protection" afforded to employees in the UK when disclosing criminal activities (sexual harassment/threats). As usual, I'm not a lawyer etc so take it for what it is. That of course doesn't prevent people from ostracizing you at work, it just protects your employment itself. If you are fearing for your employment, you might want to look deeper into this so you know what your actual rights are.

Without knowing any details though, a manager that behaves the way you describe has likely done that towards others than just you and would probably not have that many friends within the organization.

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Legally the OP may be protected by this, but chances are good that the workplace environment and personal attitudes towards her will change, making it an awkward environment for her. –  Oded Sep 3 '12 at 12:12

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