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A girl at work slapped me. I didn't touch or offend her, she was drunk. There were no witnesses to support my story or security cameras in that area of the building.

The witness didn't support my story because he slapped me after she did to try turn it into a joke and thought he'd be implicated.

Edited in comments from the asker, clarifying the situation:

For those seeking my horrific action that 'earned' the slap: a male friend came up to her and hugged her. I joked at how drunk she was and said, 'pull in' which means kiss her. It was such a light-hearted joke because they both have partners and then I got slapped. I will attempt to answer all the questions. We had arrived back to the office from an end of year function. That's why she was drunk.

I am extremely angry at this stage because throughout the HR process that followed, her response of denying it, a co-worker I attempted to have confirm the occurrences, who completely denied any of it showing himself to be a complete coward, THERE IS JUST NO EQUAL SYMPATHY BETWEEN HOW THIS WOULD HAVE GONE DOWN HAD IT BEEN A WOMAN.

It blows my mind that in this day and age, equality and human rights are still just words on paper because in my time in the working world, I've been hit, slapped, kicked and my best option is to resign and risk losing my income because HR would rather riddle processes so much that it is exhausting to get anywhere. I had to approach my therapist to advise on the idea of cameras.

I clearly can't rely on the status quo being co-workers who have the integrity to say, 'assault is disgusting, no matter which gender it happens to, yes we will come forward and help'. Now you can all laugh at the spectacle of me getting emotional like this because the best I could think to do is tell the managers I'm not prepared to work on a job with her again. She mailed everyone in the office to turn them against me. i didn't tell a soul. I was discreet.

I came here for advice. I taking sleeping pills at night because I can't get the memories of co-workers hurting and hitting me this way out of my head and I can't go back and change it. And to know that I can't even change it when it happens in the present moment depresses me because it means that my human rights are dependent on my personality type being introverted so because I don't have the inclination or upbringing to have slapped her right back, I've got to carry this on my shoulders in silence. Especially since even when I ask for help, I'm going to have the finger pointed back at me anyway.

I just think that this is where co-workers all around the world end up killing themselves. No one listens. No one cares. No one lifts a hand. Everyone takes the easiest way out and then are so puzzled when they hear about the person who did away with themselves because they're just too stupid to make the connection. I refuse to be a victim so if no one will help me, I will help myself. I will work harder to ensure I don't have to stay in these situations.

I will try find a way to become a spokesperson whose rights are ignored in the workplace because I know that no one deserves to feel this way. The world has to move forward and we've got to become more emotionally intelligent and we've got to begin to support one another as workforces because I can tell you now, that I'm not the only victim here who walks away hurt. She walks away with secret guilt and a lower self-esteem and everyone loses in the end. Let's have each other's backs guys. We're all grinding together.

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What was she doing drunk at work? Was this during working hours? How do you know she was drunk? Is this the first time? Have you brought it up with the girl? –  Oded Nov 22 '12 at 11:20
If she slapped you while she was drunk - consider forgiving her or talking to her? –  TJ- Nov 22 '12 at 11:24
What would you want to happen? Do you want her to get fired? Reprimanded? Do you want an explanation? Apology? Has this happened before? How close are you with this girl? Do you work together regularly? What did you do or say that lead up to her hitting you? My general advice to handling being slapped by a drunk girl would be to forget about it. If it affects your work situation, then maybe talk it out with her directly. –  pap Nov 22 '12 at 11:43
Hey Warren, please update your question with an edit to your post. Don't make everyone have to read through every single comment on the page in order to understand your situation. On Stack Exchange, each question should be largely self-contained, and editing is a core function that helps make that happen. Good luck, and welcome to Workplace SE! :) –  jmort253 Nov 23 '12 at 15:52
There are so many things wrong here: 1) Being drunk at office, 2) Inappropriate and offensive comments by the OP, 3) Slapping, 4) Going to HR about this. OP should have just apologized for the comment after being slapped and then forget the whole thing ever happened. –  Angelo Nov 24 '12 at 11:03
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6 Answers

up vote 16 down vote accepted

Leaving aside the more obvious issues here (like the fact an employee was drunk in the office, which in most places I have worked is "instant dismissal", and that "drunk" is a sliding scale from "might be a little unsafe to operate a vehicle" to "incoherent in thought and speech, and will have no recollection of what happened") what has happened is not okay, and from your question, I'd suggest you are not okay with it either.

Personally I decided a while ago that I wouldn't tolerate even being shouted by someone in a work environment - being sworn at (not in jest) or physical violence are, to me way beyond this.

Consequently, I have apologised and walked out of meetings when shouted at, and on one occasion got close to walking off a contracted job on a client site, when I was being verbally abused by someone (who was drunk, at 10am)

To me, its just not professional.

Immediate action is always the wisest choice - had you immediately found a manager, someone in HR etc and explained the situation then the lack of cameras would be irrelevent compared to the fact that the other person was drunk (unless you both were...)

After the fact, it is harder.

If you can't let it go as a one-off drunk incident that they might not remember then I'd suggest the following:

  • call them to oneside for a private discussion ("Can I just talk to you for a minute in private please?")

  • calmly and clearly that their behaviour is not okay ("I feel your behaviour on Wednesday night was utterly unacceptable for a professional workplace. If it ever happens again, for any reason, I'll be forced to take action")

  • leave

Don't get drawn into a discussion or explanation - infact saying "I don't wish to discuss this further, and consider it closed" at the end can help.

You may or may not get an apology, but you have set the boundaries for any future incidents, where, as I have suggested above, immediate action at the time is always the most effective.

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Being drunk in the office might be "instant dismissal" in many places, but the questioner did clarify that he works in advertising. In my experience of the advertising industry, being drunk in the office is not "instant dismissal" - rather, it's what we call "Friday afternoon". –  Carson63000 Nov 23 '12 at 10:28
Nicely put, I particularly like the point of being REALLY clear with the person, and realizing that you may have to build a history of bad behavior to get management help. –  bethlakshmi Nov 23 '12 at 14:45
@Carson63000 - ah - that was added after my post. I have worked in a few places that have that clause in their employment agreements AND have a strong drinking culture in company time, or even an onsite bar. –  GuyM Nov 23 '12 at 17:53
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Okay, so I'm your manager and you come to me with the following:

"A female coworker and I were in some part of the building nobody else was in. She was drunk but I didn't touch her or offend her. She slapped me!"

So.. what were the two of you doing in this isolated part of the building? Why was one of you (just one of you?) drunk at a time when it would be the company's business to care? More to the point, why did you feel it was important to point out that you "didn't touch her?" If some crazy lady in the street attacked me, I wouldn't tell the cop I didn't touch or offend her. I'd just tell him she attacked me.

What happened here exactly? You were standing around in a broom closet by yourself doing nothing (model employee) and Suzy from accounting walked in, slammed 10 shots of tequila and then slapped you? You don't think management is going to want perhaps a little bit more detail than that? And will that detail paint your actions as an employee in a good light?

And why am I, your manager, supposed to be anything but pissed at you right now for coming to me with this complete and obvious BS? Drunks don't slap people. Angry drunks slap people who through interacting with them, made them angry. So yes, you did offend her somehow. After all there was nobody else there to offend her so what I want to know, is what you want me to do about this problem other than decide both of you were engaged in highly unprofessional behavior and verify that by getting Suzy's side of the story before tossing one but more likely both of you out on your asses before one or both of you decide it's the company's fault for not protecting the two of you from each other.

Unless of course the real story is just that you made a highly inappropriate and unwelcome advance on somebody at the company Christmas party, she got angry, and you're out for revenge for the slap. Then I'm just going to point out that you're a complete jackass in the most professional terms possible, and put a coded sticky note up reminding me to find a good excuse to fire you before the next company party because harassment suits bother me a lot more than you getting insult and assault twisted.

If the story really is more like this:

"I was just dropping off my TPS reports in the back room at 10:00 a.m. Suzy tumbled out of the broom closet with a half empty bottle of vodka, said something to me in slurred drunken speech and then just up and slapped me!"

Then yes, you will see me suppress a laugh, because it's just patently absurd, and absurd is funny, but Suzy's days are numbered if you told me right away because it's not hard to tell if somebody is drunk on the job and no, I can't have drunk employees, especially ones that randomly pimp-slap people for no reason whatsoever. That's just two great reasons to fire somebody that go great together.

But it's really not that simple is it? Or you would have told somebody about it right away. And there'd be a lot more details in the question. If you're not sure having all the facts of this incident laid out in front of a manager is going to advance your career at this place of employment, I'd let this one go and hope that Suzy does too. Maybe make a learning experience out of it by really soul-searching on what it was you did that could have pissed her off if she isn't just one of those very rare crazy completely irrational drunks. But if you think really, really hard about it, you might find that the one that's owed an apology is not you.

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-1 (if I had the rep). Way too harsh. The only thing you know for sure is that the OP's question wasn't very informative. Maybe you're trying to play devil's advocate, but you are potentially attacking the victim of an assault here. –  Ergwun Nov 23 '12 at 0:22
Dude, you'd all been drinking, it seems like an over-reaction yes, but it also seems like you are over-reacting by trying to turn a social incident into a HR incident. These things are going to happen when people get drunk, and they may not mean it - hell I've done enough things drunk which I'm personally glad everyone has forgotten about. If what you really feel strongly about what you say about human rights, then you'd take it to the police, as it happening in the office is neither here-nor-there if you feel you have been legitimately assaulted. –  Dunhamzzz Nov 23 '12 at 11:25
@WarrenvanRooyen: You ask for compassion and empathy and indeed deserve it. It was wrong for the woman to hit you. However, I also don't see any compassion or empathy for her on your part. As you said, she was drunk; maybe she didn't intend to hit you as hard as she did; maybe she didn't see "pull in" as a light joke - that's a phrase I'm unfamiliar with and seems like more than just a kiss, but even if so, it is an inappropriate suggestion if it's not taken as a joke, and given that she was in a compromised mental state and alone with 2 males, she may have seen it otherwise. –  GreenMatt Nov 23 '12 at 18:55
The lack of detail in your original question was something that needed to be framed from a boss or HR manager's point of view. In full light of detail I would concur that you were in fact wronged, but I doubt most would agree you were wronged harshly enough to bring it to HR, especially considering that she was drunk (office party?) and your comment was obnoxious if not offensive for even suggesting infidelity. –  Erik Reppen Nov 27 '12 at 19:16
Also, men get extreme prejudice for even hinting violence against women for good reason. Most can't do a damned thing to defend themselves if we decide to take it further. Not really fair, but neither is being born a lot stronger than they are so let's just call it a compromise and grow thicker skin when they forget that sometimes when they're drunk and we've just made an off-color remark. She was out of line but I wouldn't consider it HR-worthy unless this wasn't an office social event of some kind. Then the real problem is that she was drunk. –  Erik Reppen Nov 27 '12 at 19:35
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I think I would try something along these lines, in private, casually, if you can:

Helen, when you slapped me, it made me feel violated. Just thought you should know.

Now she has the opportunity to apologize. If she delivers it well, I think you'll be happy to let it go at that point.

If she talks back, just leave it, walk away from it. If you think it will affect your or your team's performance, I think you should escalate.

Edit: Before you do this, I think you should try one last time to put yourself in her place and consider your own behavior from her perspective. If there's anything to apologize, do that first, deliver it with sincerity and deference if you can. If she's smart she'll apologize for her part in turn. If not, you can proceed along the lines above.

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Language like "it made me feel violated" may not fit with everyone's self-concept and identity as a male. In any case, it is over blown. In any case, that sort of thing is for situations where you're confronting the molesting hockey coach after 30 years of silence, not for when a girl slaps you. In this situation it just comes off as melodramatic and effeminate. –  Kaz Nov 26 '12 at 17:52
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What makes you think that what you said was either innocent or even ok? Why should women have to put up with getting their every act sexualized in the guise of "light-hearted jokes"?

Based on your edits, this is how it looks from my perspective: You used an innocent situation between two colleagues to

  • a) make a point of advertising how drunk she was
  • b) suggest an inappropriate relation between her and a coworker and that she should cheat on her husband

We can argue whether or not she overreacted by slapping you, but why should she have to accept getting sexual or lewd suggestions made at her for what we have to assume was a completely innocent, congratulatory hug given by a co-worker.

I'm sorry, but I have a hard time seeing you as a victim in this. Especially since nothing you've stated has indicated that this is a pattern behavior, that you routinely get abused by this woman or that this was in any way done to assert power or intimidate you. For all appearances, this looks like a reaction to a rude and suggestive remark made by you.

Now, it appears that you have decided to go ahead with this issue through official channels at your place of work. My hunch is that this probably will not yield the results you are after. At best, HR or your supervisor might initiate mediation between you and this woman to resolve this particular issue. But considering that you appear culpable it might end up with a formal reprimand, either for you or both.

I'm not saying this is how it is, but based on the information you have provided, this is how it looks to an outsider - and likely how it will look to a manager or HR representative. Erik Reppen's excellent answer from earlier also elaborates more on the subject of appearance to management. And considering the circumstances, I don't think you will be well served by framing this as a gender equality issue either.

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We were all friends so my comment in context is certainly not sexual harassment. It's banter. I don't however know of many friends who consider physical assault to be good old fun. I see the way you're trying to spin but face the fact that these offenses aren't proportionate. It's like someone making a comment about someone's shoes entitling them to throw their coffee on the person. If she didn't take my comment as a joke, the right thing for her to do is either tell me there and then that she doesn't appreciate it or otherwise report me and I'd happily apologise and express it was unintended. –  Warren van Rooyen Nov 27 '12 at 8:12
@WarrenvanRooyen It's not me you have to convince and I'm not trying to "spin" anything. I'm telling you what this looks like from an outside perspective and how it might appear to a supervisor/HR person. Nor am I trying to offer sympathy, validation or affirmation - if that is what you are looking for, then I don't think this is the right site to find it on. You can of course choose to ignore my perspective, but I don't see the point in debating it. Instead, I advice you to examine your situation objectively, what led you to end up here and how you can navigate out of it. –  pap Nov 28 '12 at 7:40
100%. I was asking for help. My criticism is going out to the guys who passed judgement based on assumption. I've attempted to answer every person's question where elaboration was required. –  Warren van Rooyen Nov 28 '12 at 16:51
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One has to tread very carefully when reporting incidents involving workplace harassment. I am afraid there's not a whole lot you can do if there's no evidence to back up your story. In most companies, unless there's solid evidence, management tends to give benefit of doubt to the accused, which, by the way, is a good thing.

My suggestion instead would be that you try to resolve it first with her directly. Set up an unofficial conversation with her (preferably outside office, if possible), and bring up the slapping topic after a while. Tell her calmly but firmly that you did not approve of her behaviour. Considering that she was drunk, it could well be that she slapped you unintentionally. If she apologises for her mistake, accept her apology, tell her to be careful in future and move on.

Humans make mistakes every once in a while, so it is alright to take them in your stride and forgive them once in a while. However, if you observe her repeating it, or have reason to believe she is abusing you deliberately, then don't hesitate to take the escalation path.

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If the complaint is legitimate you should strongly consider reporting it, even if you don't think it will result in an immediate response. If a few many people report 'small' incidents the should get logged somewhere, and after a couple times it will be a pattern. –  Zoredache Nov 23 '12 at 2:02
I did not intend to suggest that it should be ignored. My suggestion is to try to resolve the matter directly with person first. If the person repeats the behaviour, then don't hesitate to escalate. That's just my 2 cents anyway. –  Happy Nov 23 '12 at 5:19
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It is really a brave issue to brought up. But this is really a matter of high concern. If it had happened for the first time, then you should personally talk to that particular girl(obviously when she is not drunk, you cant afford second one). You should clear some points rearding

  • why this unusual behaviour(there might be some issues between you and her before)
  • Clear any doubts
  • Small apology will not not hurt her anymore
  • Not to imitate this behaviour in future.

If this behaviour from that girl had happened before, then you should raise issue in front of higher management. They can handle it very well. As you said There were no witnesses to support my story or security cameras in that area of the building.. I dont think they will completetly deny your statement. because it is really an issue of someone's self respect and no one could raise such kind of issue without any problem(as it is against a girl, who not so usually show these kind of abnormal behaviour, atleast not in workplaces).

But take in mind that dont leave this issue unheard. It it happened yesterday, it could happen tomorrow. Dont put your self respect to get hurt.

If you will not care about your self respect, then no one else will

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Thank you Sahil. I told her in the HR meeting that her behaviour was 'low class' and that her and the guy I thought would be a witness lacked integrity. Sometimes, in fact millions of times all over the world, men and women are mistreated and there isn't technology or witnesses to defend their story. I've decided to leave the agency next year to study and start my own business so that I don't have to be subject to this anymore because I do respect myself even if she doesn't. –  Warren van Rooyen Nov 23 '12 at 8:02
Why have to decided to leave the company. you cant let yourself down for someone else. if you are leaving the company so as not to face that girl anymore, then its not a solution. you have to be strong enough to face such kind of ambiguities and get over it. and i dont think such an issue could decide your job . –  Sahil Mahajan Mj Nov 23 '12 at 8:13
You are right but I think we all owe it to ourselves to throw ourselves out of our comfort zones in the hopes of living a better life and that's just my opinion but I've taken abuse many times in my current job position. Don't worry, it's not a reckless emotional decision I've made. I have money saved up for the time it would take to study further and then I can perhaps secure a more respectable lifestyle in the working world. Thanks so much for your concern;) –  Warren van Rooyen Nov 23 '12 at 8:21
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protected by Rarity Nov 26 '12 at 20:53

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