My boss has called me the "f" word multiple times over the course of this past year, along with other inappropriate remarks. I am not personally gay, but I found it offensive. Is this still sexual harrassment? I work in Illinois for a private employer.

Edit: I guess I should add that the other inappropriate remarks include asking if I've ever done certain sexual acts. When I finally told him that he was making me uncomfortable, I was threatened with termination.

  • Is this the owner of the company? Or merely your direct manager? Is there some higher-up you can report the behaviour to? Commented May 14, 2017 at 2:50
  • Can you try to record audio of your interactions with him? It might be useful later
    – DS R
    Commented May 14, 2017 at 10:57
  • @JoeStrazzere Yes, it could be illegal, but I'd say that it might be worth the risk, as it's a much smaller crime than bullying. And it could even serve as a counter to stop the occurrence, with just a mention of the possibility to the bully.
    – DS R
    Commented May 14, 2017 at 11:11
  • @DSR recording someone without their consent can get you hit with felony illegal wiretapping charges.
    – John K.
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 11:44
  • 2
    Whether or not it is sexual harrasment - that is a legal advice question, which you should seek elsewhere than here. Is it Douchebaggery of the Highest Order and a clear case of Showing Unfitness To Be Managing Anything Larger Than A Broomcloset? Yes it is
    – Stian
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 10:46

4 Answers 4


To answer the question in the title: "Does it matter if I'm not gay?"

It depends on what you mean by "Does it matter"

Yes, if you mean "Is it still a problem if I'm not gay?"

It's making you uncomfortable - your boss intentionally doing something to make you uncomfortable is definitely something that matters! Further it matters because without something happening to stop this behaviour by your boss he's just going to continue it with other employees in the future.

It's also worth noting that in Illinois it's illegal to bully someone on the basis of sexual orientation, actual or perceived.

Since June 1, 2006, Illinois has protected LGBT persons from discrimination. The anti-discrimination law adds "sexual orientation" to the state's existing nondiscrimination statute which already bans discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations or credit on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, marital status and military status. The definition of "sexual orientation" explicitly includes "gender identity".[16][17] Illinois Statutes as the Illinois Human Rights Act quoted; ""Sexual orientation" means actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or gender-related identity, whether or not traditionally associated with the person's designated sex at birth. "Sexual orientation" does not include a physical or sexual attraction to a minor by an adult."

The city of Chicago enacted an anti-discrimination law in 1988.

In 2014, Illinois expanded it anti-bullying laws to make them inclusive of LGBT people. Illinois law prohibits bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

You can file a complaint with U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or a State or Local agency.

Possibly, if you mean "Does the situation change if I'm not gay?"

Some laws protecting people from discrimination based on sexuality don't change whether the sexuality is real or perceived. It's entirely possible that the situation won't change based on your sexuality, however it's equally possible that the perception of your sexual orientation isn't protected and that you only benefit from legal protections when you are actually gay.

In that case the situation could change dramatically leaving you with, potentially, little recourse.

Thanks to Anthony Grist for pointing out that there are at least two possible interpretations of your question

To answer the question in the post: "Is this still sexual harassment?"

Possibly, but it's definitely bullying!

IANAL (not the best abbreviation for the subject matter!) however it could potentially be considered sexual harassment but irrespective of whether it is or is not sexual harassment it's bullying in the workplace.

We (society as a whole) shouldn't accept bullying it's a particularly childish power play and thankfully plenty of places have laws making bullying illegal where it's done on the basis of a "protected characteristic". I.e. Sexual Orientation, Age, Gender, Marital Status, Political Views etc.

  • 1
    It's nice to see that some states have made progress. +1
    – apaul
    Commented May 14, 2017 at 1:54
  • 1
    I think we've had completely different interpretations of "Does it matter if I'm not gay?" so I was a bit surprised that your answer starts with "Absolutely, unequivocally yes!". I took it to mean "Does the situation change if I'm not gay?" rather than "Is it still a problem if I'm not gay?", which seems to be your interpretation. Commented May 14, 2017 at 10:42
  • @AnthonyGrist that's a fair point, I'll look into editing the post to address both possible interpretations of "Does it matter..." Commented May 14, 2017 at 10:43
  • @AnthonyGrist I'd appreciate your feedback/suggested edits on the changes I've made. Commented May 14, 2017 at 10:52
  • 1
    @HomoTechsual Looks fine to me since the interpretation you're addressing is now clear. Commented May 14, 2017 at 10:58

I would say that it is harassment based on reading of:

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Harassment

However as per that link

Petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not rise to the level of illegality. To be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.

Based on what you have said it is possible that your boss is creating a hostile work environment through the use of harassment. If this is an ongoing thing you should consult with your HR about it.


I had a similar situation with a former employer.

The shop boss was an "alpha male" type and felt the need to belittle his employees in order to maintain a sense of superiority and dominance​. Often this would take the form of questioning gender and sexual orientation... (Which honestly said a lot about his world view and insecurities if you ask me)

As soon as he took over the shop I started looking for another job. When he made direct comments towards me, I would pretend to play along, but rather than questioning his sexuality, I questioned​ his maturity. More or less "Wow, highschool was a long time ago. I didn't realize people still talked like that."

Obviously returning fire may get you fired, so tread carefully, but in my experience guys like this see it as some sort of deranged male bonding. Hence not participating may make you more of a target.

Most importantly, start planning your exit. This is a toxic and unprofessional environment. Unfortunately sometimes you have to vote with your feet.

To more directly answer the question...

Yes it is harassment, and no it doesn't matter if you're gay. Though unfortunately in a lot of places people aren't protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Your best bet is to get out quickly and consider consulting an attorney after you've secured a new job.


In the USA, the laws for protecting minorities, like gay people, black people, blind black gay people, are not there to protect the individual, but to protect the whole protected class as a whole.

If your boss uses terms towards you that are insulting to gay people, black people, or blind black gay people, that is illegal because it is damaging to the whole class of people, not just to you. Whether you are gay or not doesn't matter at all in this situation.


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