update from the reader whose disgusting boss was fixated on her weight

Remember the reader whose disgusting boss was fixated on her (perfectly normal) weight, constantly making jokes about anorexia? Here’s her (even more disturbing) update:

I can’t believe how many people responded to that post. I was actually reading through the comments again today! The reader comments really gave me the strength I needed to pull through the past few months. I was relieved to hear that other people think he is in the wrong and I’m not just being a “sensitive girl.”

My story is pretty much the same. My boss is still a major jerk and my log of inappropriate remarks continues to grow. As a matter of fact he just reminded me again today that I’m “only a girl and he doesn’t expect much out of me.”

And instead calling me by my name or a shorter version, he now calls me “Teen Angel.” He just blurted it out one day and has called me it ever since. I don’t even know what it means! He seems to have a real tough time dealing with being middle-aged and holds a grudge towards younger people. He often reminds me that I am just a young girl with no clue. I am thinking that is where the “teen” part of the nickname came from. As far as “angel,” I have no idea. It actually makes me uncomfortable because I think he is a borderline pervert.

A few weeks ago, I was told that I am not to go to lunch with my male coworkers because he “knows what it looks like to other people.” What? I admit it, I am sort of a tom boy. I choose to use profanity quite a bit and the only other female co-worker is a drama queen who just wants to talk about her broken marriage. So yeah, I hang with the guys more, even outside of work. My boss said, “I know what I would be thinking if I were out to lunch with a 20-something-year-old girl.” Gross! Plus he always mentions that him and I can’t go out to job sites together because “he knows what others are thinking when they see an middle aged man in a Mercedes with a young girl.” I am 100% ok with that. I would rather not go anywhere with him.

The crazy thing about my boss is that he knows he is completely inappropriate and always says something along the lines of “you can add that to your formal complaint.” I am thinking that our company’s HR lady tipped him off after I broke down in her office a few months ago. She empathized with me and shared some horrific things that have been said to her about her weight (she is a heavier set woman). She also mentioned that one of the four business owners, who all happen to be brothers, was looking into offering free counseling for their employees because they know how difficult it is to work for them.

Finding a new job has become a part time job for me. I am planning to move out west, but I am convinced finding a job in a different city is almost impossible! I just reached my personal goal of keeping my head up until I received my Christmas bonus…I think I earned it! Now I feel like I can walk away at anytime and be fine with that decision. I plan to leave respectfully with proper notice. As much as I want to tell my boss what a nut job he is, I will keep it to myself.

Me again. I’ve generally been printing these updates without comment, but I can’t let this one go without saying: You need to lay down the law with this guy. The next time he makes one of these remarks, directly and firmly say to him, “You need to stop speaking to me like that.”  When he calls you an inappropriate nickname, say, “That’s inappropriate and I don’t want to be called that ever again. Please call me by my name.”  When he comments on “what people will be thinking” when you have lunch with men, say, “Who I spend time with is my business. I don’t want to hear any further comments related to my gender.” You want to say all of this in a serious, assertive tone — no toning it down with smiles or friendliness. When he tries to joke it off and tell you that you’re just “a young girl,” say, “My gender is absolutely irrelevant in the workplace,” and suggest he read up on the EEOC.

You need to send him a message that you’re going to stand up for yourself and that his wildly inappropriate behavior will need to find another target. This guy sounds like a bully who will back down if you refuse to accept his comments.

{ 58 comments… read them below }

  1. Katy O*

    I think I would consider a heart to heart with the owners, since HR appears to be no help, and let them know the details of this potential lawsuit that they have on their hands. They may not care since they are willing to offer counseling to employees but I would make it very clear that you’ve addressed it, spoken with HR & nothing has been done.

    You might even consult an attorney & see what sort of case you would have, if any. It’s better to know all your options and how much leverage you have.

    I would be willing to bet your boss has “dirt” one one or more of the owners so he feels comfortable behaving badly. Good luck!

    1. Samantha*

      I agree with what Katy O and AAM say. I would definitely start taking a stance with the manager as difficult as it would be and I would definitely start tracking the comments. And I would also go to a lawyer. It’s ridiculous. and I also would not be alone in any office or in any situation with him.

    2. Meredith*

      Well, he *is* one of the owners, and the owners are all brothers! Of course he feels comfortable behaving badly–they’ve made it clear that they’re perfectly willing to let him do whatever the hell he wants to do.

      1. Jen M.*

        Yeah. Skip the owners and go straight to EEOC or to a lawyer.

        This is BS. No one deserves to be treated like this, and no one deserves to get away with treating others like this!

  2. uncle*

    Every HR person I’ve ever met is useless… they are simply there to protect the company from the “little people”… don’t ever think HR is on YOUR side…

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      HR is there to serve the employer. Sometimes that intersects with the interests of the employee and sometimes it doesn’t. In a case where a manager is skirting the law, HR (if they’re competent) will put a stop to the manager’s behavior, because part of their job is to ensure the employer avoids legal risk.

      1. Long Time Admin*

        When the offender is one of the owners, no HR person who wants to keep his job will say or do anything to that person, legal risk notwithstanding. It’s a tough time to be out of work and if they are in a smaller community, the jerk could make it even tougher for the HR person to find another job.

        I do like the idea of the OP laying down the law, however. Keeping a log is also a good idea, but unless she gets a lawyer, it’s just to make her feel better.

        The happiest day of her life will be her first day on her new job with a new company. That should really be her goal.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          A really good HR person can do this, by framing it all in terms of the potential impact on the company / the manager and appealing to their self-interest.

        2. Grace*

          If this is taking place in the U.S., then the 4-business owners/brothers would be held strictly liable for the supervisor’s conduct and the company has strict liability for him (meaning that they don’t have a way out) and the supervisor can be held individually legally liable.
          Post an employment law question to avvo dot com for
          an employment attorney in your area to advise you.

  3. Anonymous*

    Teen Angel is a song…and not a happy song at that.

    This is disturbing. I encourage you to keep job hunting. This guy is a bully and a jerk. He seriously has something wrong with him, and you do not need to subject yourself to it.

    1. Anonymous*

      There are several things “Tenn Angel” could refer to actually. It would be fairly innocuous if it were any kind of reference to the character in Grease made famous by Frankie Avalon. It would be a little odd if its the 1959 Mark Dinning song about a teenager’s death.

      It is pretty creepy, especially in the context of what is happening to the OP, if you are familiar with “Teen Angel” by Donovan, which includes the lyric “All the boys in the neighborhood would love you if they could.” I hope I’m just reading too much into this, especially for the OP’s sake!

      1. Anonymous*

        I was referring to the Mark Dinning song, but yes, that one by Donovan would be especially creepy. I would not have associated it with “Beauty School Dropout.”

      2. Long Time Admin*

        “Teen Angel” also means under-age sexual partner, willing or unwilling.

        It *is* something to be concerned about.

        1. Anonymous*

          Yes, “teen angel” is a slang phrase describing an underage sex partner to an older man. It’s along the same line of a “sugar baby” only a “teen angel” is usually coerced or raped. It’s VERY disturbing if you know this terminology.

  4. Anonymous*

    I don’t normally advocate for this, but in this case I just have to say lawsuit time! I would be calling every employment lawyer in town!

  5. Anonymous*

    Agree w anon above. You have well documented information, I would also look into filing a legal case (you can probably do this on a contingency). Unfortunately men like this will not stop until there are real consequences

  6. Elizabeth*

    I agree with all the people telling you to stand up to this jerk. If you’re having trouble getting the courage to do so (I know I would!) then think of it as potentially doing a favor to any younger female employees that he might have in the future. One can always hope that if he experiences someone refusing to take this kind of talk that he’ll be less likely to start it up with someone else… that might be a slim hope, but I think it’s worth a shot.

    1. Sue*

      Especially if you’re planning to leave, you’d be doing everyone else a favor by standing up to him and trying to set some ground rules. It may give the others strength to do the same, and pave a (little?) smoother path for whomever follows in your shoes. Good luck and I hope you get that other job very soon!

  7. Nethwen*

    OP, I know your situation is way worse than this, but maybe my experience will encourage you to stand up for yourself.

    When I was in my mid-20s, I worked a job where the male owner called all the female workers “girly.” I don’t think he meant it any differently than some people will call everyone “honey,” but I didn’t like it. After the first few times it happened, I followed him out of the room and into the hall so that we were private but still in public. I looked him directly in the eye and said, “I would appreciate it if you stop calling me ‘girly’.” He looked surprised, then agreed, and that was that. He still called other women “girly,” but never me.

    This incident was way out of character for me at the time. I dislike conflict and do whatever I can to avoid it. This encounter was even more difficult because I’m under 5-feet tall and he was over 6-feet tall. Being that much shorter makes it hard to look someone in the eye and not feel foolish. I focused on the task and kept a firm tone and made no apologies or explanations. Yeah, I was nervous about what I would do if he fought back and I worried the incident would damage my livelihood, but it was important to me that he stop, so I said something.

    Telling other people that their behavior towards you is inappropriate is not rude. You have the right to defend yourself, even with your words.

  8. Anonymous*

    When you wrote:

    “Plus he always mentions that him and I can’t go out to job sites together because “he knows what others are thinking when they see an middle aged man in a Mercedes with a young girl.”

    Does your manager really drive a Mercedes? It sounds like your manager is insecure about himself if he is worrying over this. I know an older male manager who took his intern out to lunch to celebrate the end of her intership. Nothing wrong with that right? Who cares what other people think. Business is business.

  9. Dawn*

    Definitely get out of there, OP. Keep up the job hunt, but in the meantime stand up for yourself; do it loudly and do it often. Hopefully your boss will get sick of hearing a “broken record.”

    They looked into offering free counseling for employees because they know how difficult it is to work for them? Unreal.

  10. Beth Anne*

    Family owned businesses are the WORST! I worked for a small company the owner and her 2 daughters worked there and she had 2 other employees (I was one of them). The daughters would get away with MURDER! One girl would always come in late, talked on the phone for hours about personal issues, and always had an issue with her kid and her ex husband. Nothing ever happened to her! It was so frustrating. The mother would tell her not to do things and she’d do it anyway! I finally left that job but it was really frustrating to deal with when you got in trouble for doing things they were doing.

    I hope things get better for you :)

  11. Laurie*

    Isn’t this bordering on sexual harassment? OP, this is so crazy and I wish you the best with your job search. It sounds like there has been an escalation in his comments from last time, so I would be very careful about being alone around him. Creepy!

    Just to give you a hopeful picture, not everyone is like this – my 65 year old boss has been a complete gentleman, has never referred to his three direct reports (all between 28 – 34) as kids, has never made me feel undervalued or singled me out for being a girl, and still manages to be humorous and light-hearted and a great guy overall. Probably the fact that he has two strong, career-minded daughters my age has helped, but there are good bosses out there that will recognize and encourage your talent.

  12. OP*

    Good news! Since I emailed my situation update to askamanager.org I was offered a position at a new company! I accepted in a heartbeat and will put my 2 weeks in tomorrow. I’ll let you know how that goes. I’m sure my boss will be really mature about the whole situation. The job will be a much better position for my career goals and the big bonus is that I even got a huge raise plus better health insurance than what I have currently. Yay!!

    1. JT*

      Was just about to post that the bonus you got is a sign that they value your work, and you probably would do well in the job search!

    2. Becky*

      It’s like a holiday miracle! Except one you earned through hard work and skills! Best of luck with the new job.

    3. Anonymous*

      It’s a Christmas, Chanukah, Whatever-Holiday-You-Celebrate Miracle!


      So, would all of this borderline if it’s not already illegal behavior be a good thing to mention in the exit interview?

      1. Anonymous*

        A place that let’s this cad get away with such egregious behavior probably won’t have an exit interview…

        1. Laura*

          I agree — and the company has proven, it seems, that they are perfectly okay with his behavior and aren’t going to do anything about it. I would hope the OP requests an exit interview despite knowing it isn’t likely to do much, though.

    4. ChristineH*

      I’ve been following this since AAM posted the update – congrats on the new job!! I was just thinking that I was hoping you’d update us on your job search; I am SO glad you are finally out of there. This guy’s behavior is inappropriate on so many levels. A Christmas miracle indeed :)]

      Good luck!!

  13. Tech Chic(k)*

    “She also mentioned that one of the four business owners, who all happen to be brothers, was looking into offering free counseling for their employees because they know how difficult it is to work for them.”

    This is not normal. Some companies offer counseling as part of their general health benefits. Offering it because they know it’s hard to work for them? This is utter WTFery, and I’d love to see it come up in a lawsuit.

    Huzzah for the new job! Now, go tell off your boss without fear. :-D

  14. Angela*

    Congrats on the new job!

    I know how the current situation can feel so hopeless. And even though I’ve a very strong woman, I still dislike confrontation. But the thing is, if you won’t stand up for yourself now, when will you?

    Good luck to you!

  15. Trisha Pena*

    What a great Christmas miracle! Congrats to you for surviving intact and getting out of there in probably the best circumstances you could hope for. Blessings!

  16. JessB*

    Wow, OP, you sound so strong. You’re actually an inspiration to me, for sticking it out and holding your head up. I hope you get the miracle you deserve and get to walk out really, really soon.

    Also, “You need to send him a message that you’re going to stand up for yourself and that his wildly inappropriate behavior will need to find another target. This guy sounds like a bully who will back down if you refuse to accept his comments.” I second this. Take a stand, and good luck. I’ll be keeping you in my prayers.

  17. Wayne Schofield*

    Good to see you are moving on and congratulations on the new job! My gut says this guy was flirting with you and thought he could get away with inappropriate comments because he is an owner. Bringing up what a nice car he has and trying to keep you from other guys. Yikes…sounds like a future disaster!!! As far as HR being worthless. The HR person probably brought this up to the owner, but couldn’t make any headway with him. She tried but didn’t want to push for fear of losing her job. As a former HR Manager I got involved in a lot of conflict resolution, but it was usually more of a gripe session…nothing this serious. Best for a prosperous 2012 to you and everyone out there in AAM land!

  18. Chris*

    OMG. This sounds like my last boss. So I can totally sympathize with what you are going through. I eventually left my position due to this garbage. It seems you are doing the same. Good for you. Hang tough!

  19. OP*

    Thanks everyone! I gave my 2 week notice today. He didn’t seem to mind, but a few hours later he threw his car keys at me and told me to go wash his car. Getting out of the office for a few minutes isn’t bad. It is bad when I come back and have to talk about the smooth ride and great features of his car for the next 30 minutes of my life. Then somehow the conversation shifts to his amazing new iphone and how it can crop photos. Wow, my free Verizon phone crops photos, oh and I’m just a 23 year old girl so I kind of had a feeling that you might be able to crop photos on the iphone. Soooooo glad to be done!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Please don’t wash this guy’s car again unless it’s somehow related to the job you were hired to do, which I’m assuming it isn’t. Boundaries! Set them for the next person and you will be doing a good deed!

  20. Anonymous*

    Since it sounds like you’ve adressed it with him and HR already, and your owners are aware there is an issue, i suggest you actually go to the EEOC or your local Human Relations Comission. There are others who work there and someone should take action to stop this guy. In addition, if there was some sort of adverse employment action – like failure to promote you b/c of your gender, you may be entitled to some sort of compensation for that. That’s what these agencies are for, you should use them. Please go to their website and find more information. http://www.eeoc.gov.

    1. OP*

      Wow thanks! I did contact our local Human Rights Commission. The director didn’t offer much help, but she did know my boss by name and mentioned that I wasn’t the only who had contacted them about him. I told her that I would continue to keep my log and update her if anything severe happened. What was really weird is that after I talked to her my boss would say I should “put a call in to the humane rights commission” after he said something inappropriate. It wouldn’t surprise me that he found out I called them since he goes to lunch with one of the board members every week and he donates money to them. He has another young (very attractive) woman on standby for the position I am leaving. I want to shake her and warn her to run away, but I won’t. She is a distant relative to him through marriage. Maybe she will have better luck. I wish her the best. I couldn’t be happier with my future now!

  21. OP*

    Quick question.. is it legal for your boss to bring up his religious (atheist) beliefs and condemn you for being a Christian? That is another thing that drove me nuts. Keep it to yourself, we are here to work. Years ago he said “I am the only god in this business” and put his cigar out on a picture of Jesus. Yep, he is pretty classy. You have no idea how excited I am to be leaving!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Religion is a protected class (like race, sex, etc.), but for this kind of behavior to be illegal, it would have to be part of a larger “severe and pervasive” pattern.

  22. Lynda*

    OP, congratulations on the great new job. Enjoy every minute.

    To anyone who’s in a situation like this, please trust your instincts. If it FEELS creepy, it IS creepy.

    Get out. Bring somebody large with you to work one day. Never allow yourself to be alone in any enclosed space with the creep.

    People like this are predators, and their behavior is the method they use to identify the weaker employees – the ones who are vulnerable to attack. The more the inappropriate attention increases, the closer they are to choosing you as their next target.

    No job is worth your safety.

    Lecture over.

  23. Amina*

    All of this is hostile workplace and coveted under state and federal sexual harassment & discrimination laws. The owners are liable and so is ths boss. I agree that he probably has some dirt on one of the owners because there’s no way he’s irreplaceable.

    What you do is, file an eeoc and state employment commission claim. Then, when they retaliate, which it sounds like they’ll probably do, such as withholding or cutting back your bonus, you sue for retaliation. If by some miracle they don’t retaliate (unlikely from your psychopathic boss and ineffective HR), you pursue your claim. The state commission should give you redress within a few months. eEOC can drag on painfully long, but the point is to protect your position by filing the claim. And the state commission is what’s most helpful foraging a private employer.

    I’ve learnt the hard way over the past year that neither management nor hr are to be trusted in a situation like this. You just have to act to protect yourself, while setting the personal boundaries already advised.

    1. Amina*

      Correction (damn you autocorrect!): “covered” not “coveted.”. An employment lawyer might covet your potential retaliation claim though! Lol.

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