My Experiences of Sexual Harassment: A Case Study
After years at home, Joyce Foyle, aged 52, wanted to return to work following the death of her husband. Joyce saw a job advertised in a supermarket, so she decided to apply.
The Interview“Just one man interviewed me – I’ll refer to him as Mr Andrews, although that wasn’t his real name. At the time, I didn’t really think about Mr Andrews’ attitude to me – I was too keen on getting the job. But when I think back, I realise he was being too familiar.
“I mean, he wasn’t very professional. The way he stared at me during the interview, and talked about his recent divorce, was inappropriate."
The First Week“Anyway, I needed a job, and Mr Andrews offered it to me on the spot. So I took it.
"The following Monday, I started work at the supermarket, stacking shelves to begin with. The other workers seemed all right but they were fairly quiet on the whole. And when Mr Andrews, the supermarket manager, appeared, they kept themselves busy.
“Mr Andrews ignored the other workers, and kept chatting to me. He didn’t say anything about work, though. He just talked about this and that, and then started comparing me favourably to his ex-wife. I just smiled and nodded.
“After a few days of this, however, I began to feel really uncomfortable. Every time Mr Andrews came out to the shop from his office, he’d head straight for me and no one else. Then on the fourth day, he grabbed my arm and led me to the staff kitchen.
“We can have a better chat in here,’ he said, but we were on our own, and I didn’t like it. So I made an excuse that I had to use the Ladies, and after this went straight back to stacking the shelves.
Depression“The following day, one of the other workers who was about the same age as me, took me to one side. She told me to be wary of Mr Andrews because he had a way of pestering any new female member of staff. ‘Tell him where to get off!’ was her advice.
“Having recently lost my husband, however, I didn’t have the confidence to confront Mr Andrews. When he called me into his office, and told me how disappointed he was that I hadn’t wanted to talk to him in the staff kitchen the day before, I didn’t know what to reply.
“He sensed my anxiety. The next thing I knew, he came round the desk, put both hands on my shoulders, and told me not to be miserable because it spoiled my good looks. He then suggested we go to lunch together at a local pub.
“I managed to shrug off his hands, and rush out of the office. I then spent the rest of the day keeping an eye out for him, but he didn’t show up."
Seeking Help“That evening, not knowing what else to do, I rang my daughter. It was difficult telling her what had happened, but I wanted to get it off my chest. I felt miserable after just a few days of what I’d hoped would be a new start for me after the loss of my husband.
“My daughter, Emily, was great. I was off work the next day, so she came round, and she drove me to the Citizens Advice Bureau.
“The lady there – a lawyer – told me I was clearly experiencing Sexual Harassment, but that I didn’t need to put up with it. She said she would write a letter to Mr Andrews, threatening him with an Employment Tribunal if he didn’t stop pestering me.
“I was grateful for the advice, but I couldn’t return to work – not now that things had gone this far. So Emily phoned the supermarket, spoke to Mr Andrews, and said I wouldn’t be returning.
“That seemed to be that. But four weeks later, I got a call from the lawyer at the Citizens Advice Bureau. She said that she’d sent a letter to Mr Andrews and to his regional manager. As a result, She had a letter from Mr Andrews apologising for his behaviour and asking me to return.
“By now, Emily had found me work in the canteen where she worked, so I’m glad to say I didn’t need to return to the supermarket. Nonetheless, it was an unpleasant experience, and I’m grateful for the help I received. Hopefully, Mr Andrews will think twice before engaging in sexual harassment again.”