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My wife's male supervisor (engaged) hit on her, and asked her out many times. My wife refused him, and this supervisor stopped hitting on her, but turned everything to work harassment: far more comments for her work paper than before; hiding information to trap my wife into make mistakes; talking behind my wife's back with other supervisors (reported by another supervisor to my wife); poor performance review rating; etc.

Because there is no material evidence, I believe it is hard to report the issue to HR right now. We are also worried that her supervisor is more "useful" for the firm so my wife will be fired if we cannot turn him down.

I'm thinking to let my wife talk to him about the issue and record the conversation. If there is any sign in the conversation, we can turn it to HR then. What do you think about it?

Except for leaving the firm, what other strategy do you suggest?

Update #1

I just did a research, the state we live in is "one party consent state". So it seems legal to record the conversation.

The concern right now is that whether my wife's supervisor will give her more hard time if we report the issue to HR, especially if HR talk to him. His actions, in my opinion, might seem normal by other people since they are all work related, but only my wife knows how hard it is.

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    If one employee is recording another employee on company property, there may be issues beyond whether it's a one-party consent state. – Acccumulation May 11 '18 at 14:47
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    As a general note, in the US, suing an employer is not your only or first recourse if HR fails you -- start by filing a complaint with the EEOC, which is free. :) – MissMonicaE May 11 '18 at 16:09
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Additional comment on the already existing answers but too long for a comment:

  1. Keep a a very detailed paper trail. Every time an interaction or event happens that you believe is related write it down. Date & time, location, who said/did what. Verbatim quotes wherever possible. If there were any other witnesses or people involved, write down their names
  2. Collect at least 4 or 5 of those (sorry, she needs to stick this out)
  3. Then go to HR and show them your journal or documentation

This will make it a lot harder for HR to just push it aside as an "he said/she said" case. Detailed records are much stronger than very general and unspecific statements like "he is doesn't properly evaluate my work" or "he makes fun of me". This also screams "legal exposure" to HR. To some extent, your wife is being harassed and in he current environment most companies are very afraid of headlines and law suites around this. A good paper trail, is very effective in front of a jury, and HR knows this.

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    Be certain that your complaint to HR has a paper trail as well. – Glen Pierce May 11 '18 at 2:42
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S May 15 '18 at 6:39
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Except for leaving the firm, what other strategy do you suggest?

First of all be careful with the recording, as it is illegal in many States in the US.

Now, if this supervisor is making her life more difficult and spreading false information about her, this sort of actions could eventually fall on himself. The quality of her work should speak for herself; if the supervisor is taking this as some sort of vendetta, the best thing to do is to keep up the good work and the supervisor will eventually fall victim to his deception.

However, if this at any point escalates to more direct harassment, or starts "hitting" on her again, it would be time to write down every incident from then on and bring it up to HR after it happens. The more this happens, the more HR will notice this situation repeating and eventually should take action.

She could also try to make some noise when this happens again; try to have other coworkers hear it, saying in a clear loud voice "Stop harassing me Joe" so other can hear, etc.. Perhaps the supervisor did this because he felt secure, so involving other people may discourage him to continue.

Addtionally, I suggest you take a read to this related question to get more insight on alternatives on how to proceed.

  • this sort of actions could eventually fall on himself I strongly agree. In other words, give him more rope. – Möoz May 14 '18 at 22:07
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You'll need to have facts backing up your cause before you go to HR. Poor performance reviews and comments about your wife's work (if they're factual) are not inappropriate in any way and certainly don't constitute a sexual harassment. I'm afraid that to HR your complaint will sound like your wife was getting undeserved good reviews while her boss was expecting some romance, and started getting harsher reviews when those romance expectations ended.

Remember, HR is not your friend. Its role is to protect the company's interests, and escalating this thing without any evidence from your side that would stand in court would be working against that role. Unless you collect some evidence of undeniably inappropriate actions, I advice you not to rush to the HR. If you can't obtain it in a reasonable time frame, I suggest that your wife simply starts looking for another job: sometimes it's better to avoid battles you're not sure to win, even if you feel you're right.

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    Best path seems to get another job and drop a written complaint immediately before leaving. – Rui F Ribeiro May 11 '18 at 8:03
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    "HR is not your friend. Its role is to protect the company's interests" The company's interest is a good working atmosphere and in this situation that is certainly not the case. Escalation is not the only possibility for HR. An alternative is trying to get into another department. And if HR gets more complaints about this guy, they can work on removing the guy. – jos Jun 1 '18 at 9:13
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There are a lot of locations in the US where it is illegal to record unless all parties know about it. If you are sure your location allows it, then that is an option.

A better option is just to go to HR. It's possible that your wife is not the first person to complain about this manager, and will be believed. In any case, HR is there to protect the company. If your wife complains to HR, and then is fired or retaliated against, that looks very suspicious, and most companies won't open themselves to that kind of liability.

HR should be able to give her some legal and reasonable guidelines for how to proceed. If she records him, especially if you're in a jurisdiction where that is illegal, your wife is much more likely to be fired than if she just reports him.

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The strategy I would suggest is to get a lawyer. Now. If he has moved from asking her out to negative comments on her performance, he is likely trying to build a case for dismissal. You need a lawyer ASAP.

You could also, in the US, talk to the EEOC and see what advice they give you. Thanks for the addition @closetnoc.

  • I would add talking to EEOC. They often know how to deal with these matters and may offer legal assistance. – closetnoc May 12 '18 at 3:28
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    This is important. You need a lawyer before you go to HR. This way the Lawyer can draft the letter to HR and you will be more protected and can get the solution you want. You should be asking for this individual to be fired BTW, this in unacceptable behavior and the Lawyer will likely file a claim against the company as well. This individual has put the company in a bind. – Bill Leeper May 14 '18 at 16:39
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Trying to surreptitiously record a conversation is a waste of your time. You're not spies. It might just backfire as, even if it's legal, if you get caught, it's probably a fireable offense.

Instead, make an official complaint to HR and do it in writing so there's a clear paper trail that you control (send it via your personal email so if you get fired, you still have a copy).

Then, find allies. There are probably many people who have had similar experiences with this individual in the past, find them and band together.

Document everything and seek legal advice and representation.

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    Yes, even without any evidence, it is a good idea to get it documented and investigated whether it is perceived or actually happening. Especially with performance reviews... for example can you improve upon the negatives or are others getting as in depth as yours? Won't know since HR doesn't know about it either. – Dan May 11 '18 at 12:53
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    "You're not spies" so true. Do not expect to win a spy game. – Bent May 12 '18 at 15:12

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