A reader writes:
I had a mutual relationship with my coworker for a few months. We kept this relationship on a low profile.
Recently, we got in a fight, when I found out that he had lied to me and had a girlfriend. He sent me a text calling me names and showed some nude pictures of me to other coworkers. Now at the store I work for, everyone knows about the pictures. Yesterday, three people came up to me and asked if what they were hearing was true.
I am afraid I might get fired for these pictures. What can I do? We have an HR department, but I’m afraid to talk to them about it because I’m afraid I may lose my job.
First, what he did is not only despicable on a human level, but it also probably qualifies as sexual harassment, which is illegal. If it comes to your company’s attention, they’d be obligated to act on it — and that should result in consequences for him, not you.
The only way you should get in any trouble here is if you sent him the pictures through company email or on work time. Otherwise, this was a consensual relationship between adults that took place in your own time, outside of work, and it’s none of your company’s business if you chose to send him photos of yourself. (I’m obligated to say here that it’s not a great idea to send anyone nude photos of yourself, particularly someone you’ve only been involved with for a few months, but I realize I’m fighting a losing battle on that one.)
It is, however, your company’s business that he shared the photos at work, and it should trigger a sexual harassment investigation by your company, which should result in consequences for him, not you. It’s not okay for an employee (him) to create this type of sexually hostile environment for another employee (you), and the law makes that pretty clear.
Now, obviously not every company handles this type of thing perfectly, and so there’s no guarantee that yours will. But he’s so obviously in the wrong here — not you, him — that I really hope you won’t let fear of getting in trouble for something you did outside of work prevent you from taking action and reporting his behavior. Any responsible employer would want to shut this down immediately and take action to prevent it from happening again.
And I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. This guy is an ass.