(The person I chose to interview has chosen to stay anonymous, and with that, throughout the story I will refer to them as Lina.)
Lina saw it with her own eyes. The two people below her never saw her standing in the doorway. She was caught in the midst of it all, and witnessed the harassment go down. It was seen… it was real.
Sexual harassment in a professional workplace? It happens. More than you may think. This story comes from years ago, in the early 1990s.
The early 1990s was also when the famous Anita Hill hearings took place. These hearings made a significant impact on the rest of society as we know it. Anita Hill is an American attorney and educator who accused a Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, of sexually harassing her during the time of being her supervisor. Through Anita breaking the ice and speaking out, (when people had never really spoken out about this topic before) she went through public humiliation after Clarence got the job. This is sexual harassment in the workplace.
It was a regular day at the Regional Bank of Vermont In Burlington for Lina when she went in, but as the day continued it all shifted. In her early 20s, Lina was a new hire, about a year into her work as a junior bank officer at a regional bank in Vermont. This time was when most places across the board had instituted their first sexual harassment policies. She was walking in the kitchen of her work when she happened to overhear a rather personal conversation going on between two of her co-workers. She heard that one of her co-workers was claiming to have been sexually harassed by a male figure who was also working in the building. The man was an important figure at the bank, he oversaw the workplace in general, and was the former president of the bank.
After hearing this, Lina walked over. The victim was still telling her other co-worker about what had been going on. Lina asked her about it all. Lina was told by the victim of the assault that she didn’t want it going anywhere. She was worried about losing her job, and just wanted to forget it happened in the first place.
Lina respected that as she herself had not seen the assault, and the victim was saying she didn’t want it going anywhere. Lina didn’t tell anyone, and it didn’t come up in conversation again. They all went on and Lina was cautious of the harasser.
A few weeks later all of the ease changed when Lina was caught in the middle of a sexual harassment case. She was going through the stairway at her work when she saw it. Lina was walking around the building and was near the retail area where the victims’ line of work was. She came through a door to a stairway and as she opened the door, she saw the secretary who had complained about being harassed. Not far behind the victim- running up the stairs- the harasser himself. The man quickly ran up the stairs behind her and grabbed the woman’s butt. Lina was shocked; especially to see this in her workplace. He ran up the stairs to get right behind her because he thought they were all alone in that area. The harasser nor victim saw Lina standing in the doorway, but she stayed where she was frozen in shock.
“When I first saw it, I felt like it had been going on for a long time,” she remembers. “It was a very aggressive move.”
Lina saw that the victim was holding papers. “She was mad and the victim slapped at the harasser with them… which I don’t blame her.”
That day was when it was all going to come to an end. Lina had seen it herself, so it made it known, she couldn’t just let it continue without being reported. So that’s what she did. Lina reported it that day to her boss, who was a woman. Lina also reported it to the sexual harassment officer, who was the bank council attorney, and happened to be the victim’s boss as well. “I also told the victim what had happened, what I saw, and that I reported it.” She was worried. The victim told Lina that she shouldn’t have reported it. Lina explained that she had seen it and she was obligated to report the behavior. Lina assured the victim that she wouldn’t get in trouble.
The whole ordeal was brought to attention with the board of directors and the current president of the bank. They addressed it with the harasser; and after that, the harassment had stopped, he had apologized to the victim. Nothing further was said about it. The woman had no repercussions and the man was on ‘thin ice’ for if there was one more complaint regarding him, it could result in him being fired.
Overall, Lina thinks she did the right thing. She claims that she wouldn’t have changed the way she went about it, even if it was someone she was closer with. She also believes that now, sexual harassment or any other kind in that case; in a workplace is more known, talked about, and jobs across the board have more guidelines around things like that. At her current place of work, she is a financial officer. She is cautious and will always remember this workplace moral dilemma.
Would a libertarian and utilitarian disagree on if she did the right thing?
At what point should you tell about something even though a friend tells you not to?
As a bystander in an active work environment, what responsibilities should an employee have when they are a bystander to harassment?