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Sensitive Subject: Reacting to Same-Sex Harassment Complaints

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You may think your managers know how to respond to harassment claims. But what if those complaints are about male-on-male or female-on-female harassment? That’s not what harassment looked like in the training video! Would your managers shrug it off--as in the following case--by saying, “Don’t be so sensitive. Go back to work!” If so, get ready to write a big check—and don’t be so “sensitive” about how many zeros your company might have to put at the end.

Case In Point: Paul Reed worked as a salesman at Dillard's department store in Florida. One day, his male supervisor asked Reed to come into the stockroom. When Reed arrived, the supervisor began to masturbate in front of him. Reed immediately reported the incident to the store manager.

The manager’s response? He told Reed that the supervisor had worked for Dillard’s for 14 years, “So get back to work.”

Several months later, Reed reported to the store manager that the mal...(register to read more)

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

JackieJ June 18, 2009 at 3:04 pm

John A has other issues. What I don’t understand is why Paul Reed
did not punch that supervisor right in the face when he was grabbed
from behind. At least this way there would be immediate attention
to the issue (it).


Robbie May 22, 2009 at 1:04 pm

I’m with John A. I think those details were completely unnecessary. Why couldn’t the author simply say “one employee grabbed another” or “performed a vulgar act”? It’s one thing to read those details as part of an investigation, but it’s completely different to read that in a newsletter that gives no warning of such content. But from the sound of many of the replies, you think that just because we would come across that type of lanuage in a investigation, we shouldn’t be offended by it when reading about it in an email.


Michelle May 21, 2009 at 6:25 pm

John A. – your post has me scratching my head. You are so completely off base on every single point. I don’t understand how you go so sideways on this. The author of this article is a well respected expert on employment law and for those of us that actually deal with situations like the one she professionally described, appreciate very much her expertise, candor and advice. Sorry John, but you just don’t get “it” on this one.


John May 21, 2009 at 2:47 pm

John A. are you even in HR? if you get the white papers from the courts they outline verbatim what had happened in these situations. When you conduct an investigaiton on Harassment all that info has to be in the reports nothing gets left out nor does it get sugar coated. If this type of thing bothers you I would suggest that you get out of the field of HR.


Michelle Bishop May 21, 2009 at 2:25 pm



Anissa May 21, 2009 at 2:11 pm

I agree with Donna, Marie, and Tabby. John, I’m sure the term “it” is there because “it” could be anything that is against policy. A little sensative about the word “it”? So was Bill Clinton….


Mary May 21, 2009 at 1:58 pm

John A. – Your reaction to this article is just bizarre. The details used by the author are exactly the kind that would be used in a well documented investigation. The details are necessary to adequately portray the nature and severity of the situation. None of the language is inappropriate and I didn’t get any sense of homophobia from the author or any implication that the manager was homophobic either. Rather it seemed that he was hesitant to discipline a long term employee since he likely knew the consequences would be quite severe.

I think YOU are the one who needs to ‘free your mind’ and reread this article with a fresh perspective.


Tabby May 21, 2009 at 1:56 pm

There was nothing homophobic about this article (or the author). This article was written for adults in a business setting. If you do not understand the message of this article (or you find it offensive), perhaps you should choose an alternative (kid-friendly) web site.

Great article, Ms. Chapman. Thank you for keeping us informed.


MarieB May 21, 2009 at 1:28 pm

Purely conjecture on your part!


Donna May 21, 2009 at 1:23 pm

John A, get over yourself! The article happened to deal with two males. Would it have been less offensive if it were between and male and female? I think not. As far as the “graphic” nature of the article, I feel the terms used were appropriate to describe what happened. So…you are not a homophobe, but you are a prude?


John A. May 21, 2009 at 1:16 pm

This post has me scratching my head. Of course, the supervisor’s conduct was out of line, and it doesn’t take a genius to see that Dilliard’s didn’t enforce their own policies.

However, is it necessary to include the graphic details of the sexual harassment in order to say that it occurred? And what’s with all of the quotated references to “it” at the bottom?

Sounds to me like the lack of response or willingness to deal with the harassment on the part of Dilliard’s, and the manner in which this entire article was constructed, all stem from deeply internalized homophobia on the part of the organization and the author of this post.

Solution? Free your mind and the rest will follow.


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