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I looked at this sign and just laughed. Not a ha ha, funny laugh. No. A disgusted, you’ve got to be kidding me laugh. Of course, this establishment is looking to hire.
Now, this is mostly my daughter’s story, but it is also mine. This is our experience dealing with an establishment in Huron, Ohio that did everything wrong when it came to dealing with harassment in the workplace. At the end of reading this, you can evaluate my actions as a parent. I should have done this. I should have done that. You can even try to justify the actions of the establishment’s owner. Quite simply, what it comes down to is the complex nature of humans and how an equal rights and respect movement for women can be happening all around us, but it doesn’t mean that those who you cherish the most will always benefit from that movement.
My daughter had been hired at this establishment at the age of 15. She wanted a phone, and I require my children to pay for those extras. So, after putting applications in around town, my daughter landed a job here. This was convenient because it is right down the street from us, within walking distance. In her work time at this establishment, my daughter wasn’t a perfect worker. She made mistakes here and there, but she was friendly, hardworking, on time, and willing to learn.
After several months of work, my daughter began to complain about another worker “bothering her”. Initially, she did not give many details. She just said that she was getting tired of it. In my attempt to support her, but also get her to face her problems, I recommended that she talk to the owner, her boss. She did that. When I asked her how it went, she let me know that the owner had gathered all the guys together that worked there and had “a talk” with them.
Problem solved. I thought.
My daughter didn’t talk about the problem for awhile. She did get really sensitive about my poking around at her, though. Playfully, at home, I would poke her in her back, side, or butt. This would mainly be when we were in the kitchen and goofing around. My daughter would get frustrated and pretty aggressively tell me to “Stop it”! It was really out of character for her, and I didn’t understand where it was coming from.
Awhile later, after work, my daughter came home very upset. She said that she worked with “idiots” that “didn’t know how to keep their hands to themselves” and didn’t know when to stop joking around. I asked her more about it, and she said that a particular employee wouldn’t stop touching her. She asked him to stop. She told him to back off. When I asked if the boss had said anything, she said that he told him to stop.
At this point, my daughter didn’t give too many details on the level of touching, and foolish me...I didn’t ask for more details. I just didn’t. Now...ugh. So disappointed in myself. I really thought this was just maybe a teenage girl being a little over sensitive.
I did tell my daughter to do the following:
Tell your boss again about the problem.
Walk away from the guy.
This is one of my ultimate fails. She had already complained to the boss, and the activity did not stop. Honestly, if you have been back in a restaurant kitchen, you know walking away isn’t an easy task in such a small place. At the time, I just didn’t think and act quick enough.
Fast forward a couple months ago, and one night my daughter came home really upset from work. She complained about inappropriate contact and said that she was done working. She was looking for a new job. This really caught my attention because my daughter doesn’t have many options for jobs in a small town at the age of 15. She also knows that no job means no phone. Knowing that my daughter worked the next night, I told her that if her boss wasn’t going to step in and solve the problem that I would. She needed to call me right away if something happened. Sure enough, I received the phone call the next night.
I quickly walked up to the restaurant and asked to speak to the owner.
In our conversation, the owner explained:
He knew that there had been some concerns with inappropriate behavior. He had gathered all the male employees and let them "have it".
He followed that by saying that sometimes, it was the girls with the foul mouths and behavior. When I asked him if my daughter had done anything, shown any behavior that would prompt any of this unwanted attention, he assured me NO. My daughter did not do anything wrong.
The next statements made me so upset and in awe of this man’s ignorance that it’s hard to even write them. This is the owner’s response to my concerns for my daughter. He is pretty sure that the guy harassing my daughter is gay. So, I shouldn’t be concerned with the touching. It was coming from a gay man. Secondly, this kid comes from a good family. I should even know the man. I had him in class. I didn’t see anything bad from him, right?
Yes… Let that sink in.
In the owner's mind, my concerns could be dismissed because he believed that a gay man coming from a good family was doing this, and it didn't mean anything...THIS is the owner’s justification for no immediate action.
Needless to say, I was really upset.
I countered his claims with I didn’t care the sexual orientation of the man. He was harassing my daughter in a physical way, and it was ending now. I reminded him that my daughter comes from a good family and that she was a good worker. I explained that my daughter would not be working with this man. I informed the owner that if he needed to drop my daughter down to working only one day a week to keep the man harassing her away, that would be fine with me. He needed to figure out what he was going to do long term. Allowing this to happen was unacceptable. I said that my daughter was leaving right at that moment with me, and he could have some time to figure out this problem.
At this point, I was reassured that my daughter would not be scheduled with the man and that the owner was going to resolve the problem.
A week goes by… My daughter is not scheduled to work. Not even one day.
Another week goes by… My daughter is still not scheduled to work. Not even one day.
After not being on the schedule at all, my daughter called and asks to talk to the owner.
In the conversation, not only is there no mention of how the owner is handling the situation or his concern for her, but he also gives her the worst option. She is offered a position at his other restaurant in another city. In his words, if she wants any hours, she needs to change locations.
Now, let that settle in.
My daughter, who did nothing wrong, is being told that if she wants to keep her job that she needs to change the location of work. The 15-year girl that complained about being touched inappropriately is being told that SHE is the one who has to work elsewhere.
Time for both mom and dad to get involved.
My husband and I set up a meeting with the owner the next week.
My husband very plainly asked, “Well, what is going on?”
The owner proceeded to answer our questions this way.
Why is nothing being done about the harassment?- He said that he went around to the other female employees and asked them about the man in question. He said that the girls said that they didn’t have a problem with him. The owner also said that the last action this man had done before my daughter had called me was only touching her up on her shoulder.
Why didn’t you review the video of the night in question?- To do that, he would have had to call someone to come help him. He doesn’t really know how to review that video footage.
Why is our daughter being asked to move locations and not the man doing the harassing?- The owner’s response was that he couldn’t get someone from his other restaurant to switch places with the man. He would lose a driver by trying to move him. He could at least give my daughter hours at his other location. “This is a business decision.”
In trying to understand the answers that I was being given, I reminded him of our conversation a couple of weeks ago. He again assured me that my daughter didn’t do anything wrong.
However, when my husband questioned him on how he thought we as parents were supposed to deal with this situation, the owner’s answer set me over the edge. He told us that if it were his daughter, he would tell her to not be so friendly.
That’s it, everyone. If you want harassment to stop, you just have to be a bitch. You can’t be friendly. And, regardless of how small of a space you are working, you just have to be a bitch, and that will send the message.
At this point, I realized that the conversation wasn’t going anywhere.
Especially after the owner made the comment, “Don’t get me wrong, I like the gays.”
Yes. Exact quote.
We. Are. Done.
My husband shared with the owner that it wasn’t just a tap on the shoulder that was the concern. This man had touched her on her lower back, sides, hips, butt, under the armpits, around the arms and neck. After repeatedly telling him to stop, he wouldn’t. Regardless of whether she tried to act friendly, angry, avoidance, his actions didn't stop.
When the owner asked us what we wanted to be done, because he wasn’t firing or moving this individual, I informed him that my daughter wouldn’t be working for him anymore. I didn’t trust his judgment as owner. I said that I understood that my daughter’s welfare would always come second to his business. So, the job was ended. I also said that I felt that she was basically pushed out of a job. Now that she had to look for another job, I wanted him to pay for the days she missed due to being removed from the schedule, for being harassed. I demanded 4 days of pay which he agreed to, but still hasn’t paid her. (This is well over a month after this final conversation. I guess that's another business decision.)
My daughter has since found employment elsewhere, and she continues to move forward.
However, my heart is stuck in this place.
I tried to do what was right to show her that we would always face the world with her and for her. But, I know my actions were late. I know that I didn’t ask enough questions about the touching. I minimized the actions. Had I asked more questions, I would have understood that my daughter was trying to be the adult, the bitch, the friendly employee. She was trying to inform her boss.
She was trying everything. Everything. She did what was right.
The adults around her failed.
A movement isn’t a true movement until it settles into all places, even the small towns of America. It isn’t a movement until all voices are heard.
I laughed when I saw this sign. This establishment needs more help than one might think.
The list could go on...