I work in an academic lab in North America. One of the senior members of the lab has a pattern of inappropriate sexualized behavior and sexualized bullying with young women at work (this might be sexual harassment, I'm not sure). Part of his job is to mentor and train students and lab techs, often women. We have similar positions but he's worked in the lab longer than me and is close with our boss. What are my professional responsibilities, and how can I stop his behavior?
I first heard about his behaviour when a student told me he makes her feel uncomfortable. Things like standing too close to her, comments on her clothing, and sexual jokes. About a year after that he said some misogynistic things over drinks. I later invited him to a party and he immediately put his arms around my female friends, talked down to them, and otherwise acted like an ass. They told me afterward how uncomfortable he made them feel. I stopped inviting him out, but otherwise I didn't do anything and we remain friendly at work.
However things escalated last night when I talked to a female coworker over drinks. She told me that she's leaving the lab because of harassment from him (partly sexual, partly personal conflict, I don't know the full story but they do not like each other). She also told me that many students have had similar problems with him, and that multiple women have left the lab feeling very uncomfortable about his behavior. Again things like standing too close, inappropriate touching, sexual comments, belittling comments, misogynistic comments. Other stories came up of just angry, creepy, misogynistic behavior. I now realize it's about half the women in the lab that he's done this to.
The woman who's leaving said she tried to resolve this with our boss. Our boss's solution was to have a group meeting with the two where he took the harasser's side. He then told her to "talk it out" with the harasser. Our boss and the harasser are good friends. This is why she's leaving.
I now think his behavior is a problem at work. I want to do something. Here's what I think I need to do:
- Talk to people in the lab and warn them, tell them they can report it, come to me for support, etc.
- Warn people coming into the lab about his behavior.
I don't think that's enough though, because it doesn't hold him accountable and because it doesn't actually stop the bad behavior. So here's what I think I could do:
- Talk to our boss and tell him how bad it is.
- Talk to the guy doing this and tell him to stop.
- Contact someone in the university administration (not sure who). Our university is very proactive about sexual harassment.
One caveat is that our boss can pick favorites and this guy is definitely one of them. They're friends. So I can imagine repercussions. That said, I've been enabling this guy and I am so sick of that. What should I do to make sure this stops?
I don't know if his behavior constitutes formal sexual harassment. Also, while I've heard about behavior that I would consider harassment I've only seen a few things personally, and those are bad (IMO) but not harassment (misogynistic comments over drinks, creeping out friends at a party). What I know to be true is that he has a pattern of making women feel uncomfortable and someone is quitting her job because of it.