I keep finding my coworker in a compromising position … with himself

A reader writes:

I am a customer service manager for a fairly small company in the southeast. I’ve worked here for about three years now, and I really love my job (most of the time). Our office has always been very laid back, and quite honestly, not always very professional. Unfortunately, we have one male coworker who doesn’t seem to understand physical boundaries. Many times, multiple women have asked him not to smack their behind, tickle them, or hug on them. He still continues to do all three. This behavior has become expected by most of us, but I’ve been completely caught off guard by what I’ve seen recently.

My office is on the opposite end of a somewhat long hallway from his. When I’m walking toward his office I can see him sitting at his desk (he is facing the door when sitting at his desk). One day, I needed to ask him a question and decided to walk to his office instead of calling. I got about five feet from his door and could see him holding his phone in one hand, but the other was missing. That’s when I noticed it was in his pants! To avoid an awkward situation, I quickly walked into another office. I explained to my coworker there what I saw, and she told me I was crazy. When I walked out of said office, his door (which was wide open before) was now barely cracked open. When I came out of my office again less than five minutes later, his door was completely closed. All of this was happening when our boss was on vacation. This same thing happened twice in a week, and nothing was ever said because I cannot say for sure what I saw.

Fast forward to about a month later… I’m walking down the hall, headed toward his office, and I see the same thing! Only this time, his hand was so far down his pants, his pant line was at his elbow! I wish I were exaggerating here, but I’m not. I had the same reaction, and ducked into the same office as before. Only problem was, she was gone for the day. He must’ve noticed movement in the hallway, because he yelled out “Whatcha doing?!” when I ducked into the empty office. I covered by saying I was needing a past order, but it was kind of obvious to me that he was worried I’d seen something.

I’m not one to run to my boss about every little thing I see. I also don’t want to make a serious accusation without knowing exactly what I saw. I don’t feel like I can approach this coworker and blatantly ask, because obviously that’s an awkward and incredibly embarrassing topic. Luckily, this guy is not in my department, but I also don’t want to see these types of things while at work (or at all). Obviously, in an office full of women this makes not only me, but everyone uncomfortable (I’m not the only one to see his hands disappearing while he thinks no one is looking). Many of us would like to report his behavior and what we’ve seen, but we are afraid of what may come of it.

What would you do in this situation? Should I bring this to my boss’s attention? I really need some advice.

Talk to your boss or HR.

I mean, best case scenario here, he isn’t masturbating at work but has his hand waaaayyyy down his pants with some frequency.

That’s still inappropriate.

Ideally, all of you who have seen this should talk to your boss or HR (probably HR if you have them; they’re trained in how to handle this stuff, whereas a lot of managers would be shellshocked by this).

But if no one else is willing to do speak up, you can do it on your own. You don’t need to know exactly what was happening or prove it in a court of law; you can just report what you saw. For example: “On three occasions when I’ve walked toward Fergus’s office, his hand was down his pants — in one case, quite far down his pants. Each time, I left quickly and noticed he closed the door right afterwards. It makes me really uncomfortable to say this, but it really looked like he was touching himself inappropriately. I can’t say for sure, but I’d like to be able to walk by his office without worrying about seeing this. And I’ve since learned that other women here have seen the same thing.”

You also should report the unwelcome touching of you and others. It’s outrageous that he’s smacking women on the behinds, and it’s outrageous that people have told him to stop touching them and he’s continued anyway. That’s the kind of thing that most companies would put an immediate stop to if they heard about it — but they have to hear about it in order to know they need to intervene.

This guy sounds like a menace in your office, and he’s taking advantage of people’s unwillingness to speak up to get away with it.

Your employer is almost certainly going to agree with you that none of what he’s doing is okay. You just need to speak up about what’s happening.

{ 483 comments… read them below }

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Seriously—this is horrifying. The story about repeated unwanted touching of others is reason enough to talk to HR. I’m disturbed that folks are treating him like a missing stair. Smacking behinds and hugging people when you’ve repeatedly been told not to is, in my opinion, grounds for firing by itself.

      But on top of it he might be masturbating at work? Or if not masturbating, have his hand down his pants (why would anyone need to do this?? But if they were going to do it, wouldn’t they use the restroom or another private place?), is really not ok.

      OP, I’m worried you’ve become numb to the egregiousness of his behavior because folks have let other insane behavior pass and are now nervous. Report him, file a complaint, do something! He’s pushing boundaries and trying to figure out how much he can get away with.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        YES!! I agree 100% with the princess. He is totally a missing stair and it’s ridiculous. This kind of behavior should not be tolerated or ignored. (I had a coworker who kept touching me whenever he was talking to me and after the third time of my ducking away from his hand, I finally told him I’d report him if he didn’t stop touching me. It worked and I didn’t have to report him, but I think it helped that I had several witnesses when this occurred. And you’d better *believe* I would have reported him.)

        1. Hills to Die on*

          You’d better believe I’d have told him that if he ever touches me again, he’s gonna lose that hand.

          *disclaimer: I do not condone violence in the workplace and do not recommend that the OP or her coworkers engage in such behavior or language. I’m just saying, I’d probably have punched him and it would be a whole other post.

          1. FiveWheels*

            I’ve got no problem in physical self defence. Someone slaps me on the ass without good reason to believe it’s wanted? That merits an immediate physical consequence.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I actually kind of hope OP and her coworkers say, loudly and with the intent to startle Fergus and others, “I TOLD YOU TO STOP TOUCHING ME!” And then go back to normal and walk away.

      2. RVA Cat*

        Totally a missing stair. Note that the lewd behavior in the office is way past fireable offense and into sex-crime territory. This guy is a creep and a menace, and he is waaay out of control. Please complain because the way this is escalating I worry he will assault somebody. (With the butt-groping he already is, but I would not put it past him to try to rape someone.)

        1. Gadfly*

          My thought too. He’s escalating. He’s going to do whatever he feels comfortable doing. So far, no consequences. Next step (if he isn’t already there) is probably going to involve choosing whoever seems most vulnerable, unable or unwilling to protest and escalate the behavior focused on them. Good reason right there to be one of the people going to HR

        2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          I’m really scared we’re going to find out he has. I truly hope he hasn’t, it’s only that my first thought on reading the post was that OP has only seen some of his vile behaviour. Someone like this has been a predator for a long time and they learned early on how to do it and how to get away with it.

      3. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        Or just close the door. He has an office. He closes the door when he thinks he has been seen, so why not just close the freaking door? I’m wondering if part of the fun is maybe getting seen by coworkers?

        1. Garrett*

          Yeah I wonder if he likes the thrill of getting possibly seen. Because I can’t imagine the urge overtakes him so much he can’t get up and close his door before commencing with the self pleasure (not that he should be doing that at work!).

            1. FiveWheels*

              If he enjoys an embarrassed reaction from colleagues, it could be fun to respond with a very loud “FERGUS ARE YOU MASTURBATING AGAIN? DO YOU WANT ME TO CLOSE THE DOOR?”

            2. Falling Diphthong*

              Yup. If there wasn’t the risk of someone walking by and catching him, it wouldn’t be as fun.

              OP, eventually this phase of the game will become routine and boring and he will need to escalate it further to get the same thrill. Do something now.

          1. Middle Name Jane*

            This! I think he wants someone to see him doing this. Otherwise, why not close the door all the way?

            Regardless, he’s a pervert who needs to be fired.

    2. Database Developer Dude*

      As a straight, cisgender male, I have a firm belief that if I can’t control my actions around a beautiful woman, that should be MY problem, NOT hers.

      This is a workplace, and none of these women ever expressed any interest in him in that way. They’ve asked NOT to be touched, and he does this anyway. He needs to be fired.

      I don’t care if it was a woman who welcomed the attentions, the behavior is still not appropriate for the workplace. If I had an office instead of a cubicle, and invited my love to my office so we could get it on during my lunch break, would that be okay? Hell no!

      This ‘bama needs to go, on TWO levels. The unwanted attentions that don’t cease even when he’s called out, and the continual inappropriate behavior. Why does this manager not have firing authority??

        1. This Might Be It?*

          I’m not sure this is correct, but I was curious and googled. This definition from Urban Dictionary could be it (if not then I have no clue):

          Originated from Black youth in Washington DC.
          1. Original meaning was “can’t dress well” or “fashion misfit”
          2. Now the word has a more general use meaning “person”, as how Whites use “Dude”

      1. Tobias Funke*

        I appreciate and feel your comment. I also wanted to add that if one cannot control oneself around an ugly woman it is also that person’s problem and not the ugly woman’s! This has nothing to do with beauty or being attracted to someone. This has to do with getting off on seeing your coworkers seeing you jerking it.

      2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        I do get what you mean, just wanted to add that looks have nothing to do with predatory behaviour. Abusers and predators target anyone they think they can get away with harming.

      3. Ego Chamber*

        “Why does this manager not have firing authority??”

        What manager? OP is a peer, and even if she was a manager, she works in a different department, and it’s fairly atypical for any manager to have the authority to fire anyone in the company.

    3. Artemesia*

      He should have been on probation or fired the second time he smacked someone’s bottom or tickled them after being asked not to. This has all the earmarks of someone who has gotten away with outrageous behavior and escalates because he can.

      He has an office door he can close and he has been seen doing this three times by the OP? and seen by others. That has to be designed to be seen. If she had opened the door without knocking, there would be some question, but he clearly wants to be seen since it has happened several times and he has the power to shut the door. I once knew a distinguished doctor in our community who would sit on the edge of his swimming pool with his genitals ‘accidentally’ outside the net of his swim trunks and clearly visible to people in the pool up the leg of his shorts (I was like 10 when I first saw this) . Once is happenstance; benefit of the doubt; repeatedly is calculated exposure. Same applies here.

      1. Yorick*

        I’d say the first time he smacked someone’s bottom. There’s no reasonable claim that he thought it was appropriate to do that at work.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Escalates because he can.

        And because he needs escalation as the thrill for each new level wears off.

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          That’s unfortunately right. I hope he falls into a volcano or is trampled by clowns asap.

    4. Shrimpn'grits*

      I could barely get past the “touching woman’s bottoms” portion of this letter. My jaw is on the floor…

        1. Annonymouse*

          Also I’m super disturbed by the tickling.

          Hugging you *might* excuse if it is in a big celebration and everyone is losing it with excitement. I.e just named best sales team in region/state/country and you all get huge bonuses.

          Ass slapping I could only see being ok in a casual workplace where everyone is friends, it’s part of the culture, you’re ok with it and generally the same gender. I.e sports teams.

          Tickling is never ok outside of close family members doing it to a small child or you and your partner both decide to do tickle play.

          That alone should have been enough to go to HR.

          1. difft*

            I have a pretty casual workplace and we’re all friendly – ass slapping would be really not okay whatever the gender of people involved. I don’t think it’s ever okay at work.

            1. Annonymouse*

              Again I gave very specific circumstances that lead to sports team. That’s the only workplace I think it might even be possible to not get immediately fired for an ass smack to a co-worker.

        1. Allison*

          That he’s a predator. That’s a really serious accusation and we don’t know all the facts. I agree that his alleged behavior isn’t okay, but to call him a predator assumes malicious intent and we just don’t really know what’s driving him to act the way he’s acting.

          1. NotThatGardner*

            if multiple people have repeatedly asked you not to do [invasive unwanted physical touching thing] and you continue to do that thing, knowing they don’t want you to, that is predatory and malicious intent. period.

            1. Artemesia*

              Absolutely. And being seen with his hand in his pants is not accidental either but clearly intended. This guy should be fired and should have been long before this.

            2. Annonymouse*


              What’s driving him doesn’t matter. He is repeatedly touching women in a sexual manner without their consent after being told to stop.

              There is no way you accidentally tickle someone or smack someone on the ass.

              Those are deliberate acts and the fact he has been told to stop and won’t says that yes, these acts should be classified as malicious.

              If he was just clueless about boundaries he would stop pretty shortly after being told not to and correct himself.

              (Whoops Sally! I forgot I’m not supposed to hug you even if we are named top team in the country. My bad!)

          2. upinalather*

            This kind of rationalization is what fuels rape culture. We do have the facts. He’s assaulting women repeatedly. Period.

            1. Annonymouse*

              Also it has the subtle hint of victim blaming.

              Things that *could* be driving him:

              1) Has severe problems recognising boundaries or a diagnosed defiance disorder.

              2) he hasn’t been told “no” or doesn’t realise how uncomfortable he makes people or how inappropriate it is (not true in this case)

              3) He finds the women irresistible and can’t keep his hands to himself

              4) he is grooming/testing the women for later.

              But guess what? NONE of these are the women’s fault. He’s been told no and he keeps doing it.

              They don’t care why, they don’t need to. He needs to stop.

            2. XtinaS*

              Agreed. We don’t need to know the Deep and Mysterious Inner Workings of This Dude; we can see through his repeated actions.

            1. Ramona Flowers*

              Exactly. I found this letter so upsetting I had to stop reading. You’ve come to expect this? No. Nobody should have to.

          3. chocolate lover*

            What’s “driving him” isn’t really relevant – he inappropriately touches coworkers who have repeatedly told him to stop. Not acceptable.

          4. NotThatGardner*

            a predator is literally someone who preys on or exploits others – that is exactly what is happening here. we don’t know enough about his alleged behavior? we know his hand/arm is down his pants, with an open door. we know that he is touching women in the office expressly against their consent & wishes. what more do you need to know here?

            1. Shrimpn'grits*

              Being within walking distance of someone pleasuring themselves at work is highly offensive to me. If this isn’t predatory what is? What would this coworker need to do in order to be considered predatory? Full on sexual assault?

              1. Frozen Ginger*

                It already sounds like he’s committing sexual assault.

                Honestly, I would say masturbating at work isn’t NEARLY as bad as continuing to hug , tickle, or smack the butt of coworker after you’ve been asked to REPEATEDLY.

                1. Shrimpn'grits*

                  Having to continually walk in on said coworker with hands down his pants is pretty upsetting for me, although not to the level of physical assault but up there.

          5. Lunchy*

            When predators prey on children, many say that they “love” them and “would never hurt them.” Intent barely matters. If you keep doing sexually harassing (preying on) people after you’ve been told to stop, I think it’s safe to assume you’re a predator.

            1. Jesca*

              Ya know, as I signed into yahoo today (yeah i have no logical answer as to why I still use yahoo for my email, but whatevs), I saw one of their headlines was a question posed to Ask Amy about a man who literally groomed his girlfriend’s daughter from about 13 on and was wondering if now it was finally OK to sleep with her. You can tell by his letter that he never *got* how absolutely damaging his behavior was. It was all justified in his mind.

              So yeah, intent as far as sexual harassment/assault goes means nothing. Even the laws surrounding sexual harassment in the work place reflect intent as a non-consideration when companies are sued for allowing it to continue. What the OP’s job is doing here is allowing illegal practice to continue that is putting them in A MASSIVELY detrimental situation. To further add to this, the entire culture at the company is clearly reflective of them doing nothing as people are looking over clear and classic sexual harassment. As a matter of fact, what is more cliche when it comes to sexual harassment training videos than slapping some woman’s ass? If I were at this company and this perve slapped my ass and then I was told not only would he not be fired but there would be no repercussions at all for it and then he continued? I would sue so hard their heads would spin. They have been lucky thus far due to what sounds like ignorance over work place rights, but the hammer will likely eventually fall if they continue to employ predators.

              1. LNZ*

                I have a family friend who is a campus police officer on a large public university and the number of stalkers who think they are the adorkable star of a romcom is staggering. I’ve had friends escape horrifically abuse significant others or family and the abuser was convinced it would be the perfect relationship if the person would just stop making them angry and so everything they say. Predators and bad people in general very rarely think the are bad people or even doing anything wrong.

                1. SusanIvanova*

                  Over the weekend a story went viral about a man who thought it would be totally romantic to set up his piano in a park and play until his ex-girlfriend – of a whole 4 months – “gave him another chance”. The response was totally not what he expected: it was overwhelmingly “ew, stalker!”

                  He went home, claiming it was because of the reaction, but I’m not entirely sure he really understood it.


                2. Oranges*


                  Just read that. Made my skin crawl. His luv was true and pure and we all just don’t understand him! Hopefully that’s only his defense mechanism protecting his ego after everyone else said “STOP” to him and when he can think clearly he’ll be more rational.

                  Not holding my breath though since there’s a victim mentality, hints of control issues and “she’s the ONLY one” illusion running through his entire response. This doesn’t bode well for his chances.

                  How to have girls/boys/bipeds like you: Find ones that mesh with your personality. Treat them like humans who have control over their time/energy. DONE!

                3. One of the Sarahs*

                  @SusanIvanova The weirdest thing about that story was they’d only been dating for FOUR MONTHS! and it was pretty obvious “my Repunzel” had cut off contact with him. His excuse was “I’m not doing it where she lives, so it’s fine”, but the whole thing was so much all about him it was excruciating – especially when he was surprised at the public reaction.

                4. RVA Cat*

                  “The abuser was convinced it would be the perfect relationship if the person would just stop making them angry and so everything they say.”
                  That didn’t even work with the android Hosts in Westworld….

                5. Allison*

                  Oh god, I heard about that guy too, what a manipulative jerk! Seemed like he was either trying to guilt her into taking him back or he was trying to get lots of people on his side so everyone could collectively guilt her into taking him back.

                  Been there, in college I decided I didn’t wanna keep dating someone and a bunch of our mutual friends were like “awwww, give him a chance, he’s a nice guy and he deserves to be happy!” as if his “right” to happiness meant I had to give it to him.

                  Anyway, this piano guy, I sincerely hope that eventually everyone gets so annoyed they stop supporting him and start feeling sorry for him. I hope this is the “playing piano in the park” version of being stood up for a date.

          6. LBK*

            I’m very curious what motivation you would find acceptable for repeatedly inappropriately touching other people. I almost feel like you’re trying to make some ironic point about how people are willing to give racists or sexists the benefit of the doubt on their behavior?

          7. Camellia*

            If you step on my foot, you need to get off my foot.

            If you step on my foot without meaning to, you need to get off my foot.

            If you step on my foot without realizing it, you need to get off my foot.

            If everyone in your culture steps on feet, your culture is horrible, and you need to get off my foot.

            If you have foot-stepping disease, and it makes you unaware you’re stepping on feet, you need to get off my foot.

            If an event has rules designed to keep people from stepping on feet, you need to follow them. If you think that even with the rules, you won’t be able to avoid stepping on people’s feet, absent yourself from the event until you work something out.

            If you’re a serial foot-stepper, and you feel you’re entitled to step on people’s feet because you’re just that awesome and they’re not really people anyway, you’re a bad person and you don’t get to use any of those excuses, limited as they are. And moreover, you need to get off my foot.

              1. Gadfly*

                Perhaps when it is no longer useful–you know, when people stop making these excuses for people standing on feet?

                1. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant*

                  I’m not Bette, but I see it misused a lot (people can have *very* broad criteria for what counts as standing on feet — not in this specific case, obviously, but it’s something you see around the Internet), which has the effect of simply souring me on the piece itself (not a perfectly fair or rational response, I know).

                2. Indoor Cat*

                  I get where the metaphor is coming from, but I get Bette’s point in the sense of, it’s been out there long enough that people have begun to use it to justify controlling / manipulative behaviors.

                  If “stepping on my foot” means touching people in ways they don’t want to be touched, exhibitionism, initiating or escalating verbal or physical aggression (as opposed to self-defense), using slurs, insults, and belittling someone, not taking care of your own responsibilities, chronically lying, stealing, or other things that are harmful in and of themselves: absolutely. Don’t step on my foot.

                  Which is to say, identifying and working on improving one’s own harmful behaviors takes time, and everyone has to do it, even me. But your behaviors don’t have to take *my* time.

                  The problem is, I’ve heard “stepping on my foot” refer to: not stroking my fragile ego, refusing to do literally all household chores, refusing to set up a daily routine according to my particular schedule in which you get no say, having a sexual fantasy life that doesn’t include me when I’m not around [note: I mean, literally fantasizing, not actually sleeping with other people], listening to music in the middle of the afternoon that I can hear because we have thin walls and I’m trying to nap, getting tattoos…etc.

                  Which is the problem with the metaphor. “Stepping on my foot” implies that whether someone else perceives an action as painful or embarrassing should be the chief concern when I consider whether or not I do that thing. And, it’s just not.

                  Like, I’m not sorry that listening to music at a normal volume ruins your nap. I’m not sorry that tattoos are against your religion and you feel I’m being disrespectful to you by getting one. I’m not sorry that you’re jealous of the objects of my sexual fantasies. I’m not sorry that choosing between doing half the chores or having a half-messy house makes you feel emasculated.

                  Your feelings of tiredness, offense, jealousy, and emasculation are both real and not my problem. For that matter, *my* feelings of offense, fear, betrayal or anger at the previous foot-stepping actions are not the real problems either.

                  The question needs to be about the action itself. Is the action emotionally, psychologically, or physically harmful? (as opposed to merely painful). Is it viable to feel threatened by the actions? That should be the measure of, “should I do this action?”

                1. Pomona Sprout*

                  My first time, too, Floundering Mander! Judging from the replies I’ve read so far, it definitely is a thing, but still new to some of us.

                2. Lissa*

                  yeeees, it’s been floating around for a few years now. I think it’s used appropriately here but I admit to having the same reaction as Bette, largely because I’ve also seen it used in situations where it’s really stretching the metaphor, as people above say.

          8. upinalather*

            “Rationalization” of this behavior is what fuels r*pe culture. We do have the facts. He’s assaulting women repeatedly.

          9. Sally Sparrow*

            I don’t think you need to have malicious intent to be a predator.

            Either way I would wager to say this guy knows what he is doing wrong – that’s why he asked what the OP was doing, and then closed his door. That is why he doesn’t stop when he’s been asked to stop touching other coworkers.

          10. Sarah*

            Um, touching others in their private parts (which your butt is your private parts) without their consent is sexual assault, sexual harassment, and predatory. Period. There’s no innocent explanation for that!

          11. Bend & Snap*

            Ehhh? Touching people with out their permissions is malicious, especially after being told to stop. Jerking off (or appearing to) at work where people can see you is malicious.
            I’m shocked that anyone would think this is defensible behavior.

          12. Jessie the First (or second)*

            1. He touches women against their will in egregious ways, including smacking women in the butt, and refuses to stop even after being told to stop.
            2. He regularly has his hands down his pants.

            When someone acts in a predatory way towards people, we can call that out. And if he is physically violating multiple women out of love or affection, it is STILL predatory behavior.

            The victims of his behavior are already walking on eggshells around him and clearly working hard to try to normalize his behavior. No need to jump on that bandwagon, it is already full up of people. How about we validate how AWFUL his actions are? How about for one second, there is one place online where egregious sexual harassment is actually recognized, without people jumping in to give harassers the benefit of the doubt?

            1. SQL Coder Cat*

              How about for one second, there is one place online where egregious sexual harassment is actually recognized, without people jumping in to give harassers the benefit of the doubt?

              I just had to reply to give you a “Bravo!”

            1. Database Developer Dude*

              I’d call him “Weaver”. Because that’s his name…and I’m a guy too. It happened when I was deployed to Afghanistan, and not to be a stereotype, I’m Army (Reserve) and this guy was Navy.

          13. Liane*

            It doesn’t matter WHY he’s touching himself, or hugging women (or anyone really) who’ve told him to stop, or touching any part of anyone who’s told him to stop, or…

            But okay…How about we call him–bless his boundaryless heart–
            Someone with no sense of dignity or decency?
            Someone who is a front-runner for Creep of the Year?
            Someone who treats his coworkers like objects?
            Someone who is opening up their employer to a lawsuit?
            Someone who doesn’t care if their professional reputation is “Ewwww Gross!”?
            Someone who needs to be told to “Cut it out NOW! Or you’re outta here with Fired for Cause/Not Eligible for Rehire stamped all over the termination paperwork”?

          14. Observer*

            When someone smacks someone, even if it’s “just” their backside, that’s aggression right there. When someone continues to smack, hug and tickle people after he has been told to stop, there is no plausible way to claim lack of malice. Even if he claims he is “just joking” (I want to vomit just writing that) it is MALICIOUS joking.

            The attempt to minimize outrageous behavior is NOT ok!

            1. Jesca*

              Dude, I teach my kids that their butt is a private part. No touch area. It is a PRIVATE PART!!!! There is no ambiguity here at all!

              1. LNZ*

                When i was little we called it the bathing suit area (cause we had those cute little kid 2 piece swim suits). And no one was supposed to touch you there unless you were at a doctors office and they had to cause you were sick there.

                1. JessaB*

                  This, and the Doctor explained why and asked if it was okay and did not just go on because “adult with power.”

            2. LavaLamp*

              I’m sorry but if someone smacked my behind they’d be in for a SCENE! I’d probably go very pale, and cry and make no promises as to not attempting to kick that person in the testicles. I have severe chronic pain involving my hips which are arthritic and like an old persons even though I’m in my 20’s.

              This isn’t okay. Touching people’s butts in the workplace is not okay unless you happen to be a proctologist.

          15. Lilo*

            In what context is it ever ever okay to touch someone’s butt without their permission. At work? No. Never. No way. How us this even a conversation?

              1. Mookie*

                When it comes to bodily autonomy, the personal is political. If people don’t like making this a partisan issue, they can get on the righteous side of this issue and make rape culture obsolete.

          16. Infinity Anon*

            He smacks women on the ass even after being told to stop. I can’ think of any explanation that would not include malicious intent.

          17. Sfigato*

            I’m all for not jumping on people before we have facts, but we have facts in this case. Dude smacks women on the butt, which is not A Thing You Do, and touches himself in his office. Calling someone a predator is a serious accusation, but he’s done some serious ish.

            1. Jadelyn*

              Not only does he smack women on the butt, but he does it AFTER BEING TOLD TO STOP. That right there moves it from “just doesn’t get appropriate workplace boundaries” to “this is being done deliberately and is predatory behavior.”

          18. The OG Anonsie*

            The facts are that we know, for a fact, that he does predatory things. End scene, roll credits.

            Let’s not pretend this insistence on signed affidavits stating “I intend to be a predator” is just y’all trying to be reasonable while everyone else plays witch hunt. If I see a guy in a crosswalk with a safety vest and a stop sign directing traffic and say he’s a crossing guard, you’re not gonna come swooping in on about how we don’t know the facts and maybe he is intent is just to wave hello at all the passing cars. You’re gonna go yes, that is what a crossing guard does, so he is being a crossing guard. If you can’t find it in yourself to follow the same train when someone is known to repeatedly sexually touch himself and others despite their protestations that he stop, examine why you feel that way.

            1. Jesca*

              It is literally akin to someone walking into work with a KKK hood on. No ambiguity there. Or if a coworker is telling other coworkers that POC need to be killed or forced into slavery. That is clear cut racism. Slapping a woman’s ass is so damn cliche its not even funny. When it is clear, it is clear. No analogy should even be needed!

              1. asdf*

                Whoa. What this guy is doing is completely wrong, but not all behavior is equally bad, and I wouldn’t describing wanking as being anything remotely bad as being a neo-Nazi or KKK member.

                1. Someone else*

                  But it’s equally obvious. That’s the point. There is no ambiguity to wearing the hood. There is no ambiguity to slapping someone’s behind. The analogy isn’t of severity, it’s of how clear both actions are.

                2. Jesca*

                  Thank you.
                  1st: I really don’t always like to explain logical analogies. It is an analogy describing the obviousness of behavior.
                  2nd: And also, have you ever been sexually assaulted in the work place? Totally demeaned and humiliated in front of others. Physically assaulted? Yeah. The severity is there and playing it down like its not is why it is a lot more common than we all pretend it is. This isn’t about him thinking are attractive, its about control, its about demeaning, and its about objectifying other humans to make them feel weak and helpless. Lol so lets not down play that …

            2. Oranges*

              I am now thinking how living like that would be hilariously exhausting. You’d never get anything done since you need a statement of intent before labeling people by situational cues.

              Like in the retail store you go up and ask random people if they’re the cashier since you don’t know the person behind the cash register is there to ring you out. You’d have real issues with police when they pull you over (scary amounts of trouble if you actually have melanin).

              1. The OG Anonsie*

                Seriously. When folks try to play “we don’t know for sure to my specific standards of proof that blah blah” I’m like, nuh uh. You don’t litigate everything else like this. Don’t pretend.

            3. OhNo*

              Bingo. To relate it to the old adage: if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, why do you keep claiming it’s a goose?

          19. Lady Phoenix*

            He keeps touching women innappropriately when told not to, he masturbates with the door open, and he does this when the boss is out of sight.

            That sounds malicoous to me.

          20. PB*

            What facts could possibly come to light that *wouldn’t* make him a predator? I agree that was shouldn’t jump to conclusions, but this case is clear.

          21. NEW YEAR, NEW ME*

            He’s definitely a groper. I would worry if I was a woman working late at that office and he was there too.

          22. Alexandra Hamilton*

            I really don’t give a **** what’s driving a person who repeatedly slaps coworkers on the behind, grabs them, and otherwise inappropriately touches them. I don’t care if they had a hard childhood or can’t get a date or a mean wife or sad feelings about last week’s football game or [insert other excuse here]. He’s deliberately touching women who don’t want it, with full knowledge that they don’t want it. PREDATOR.

          23. Ross*

            Yes because there are soooo many innocent reasons to sexually assault women!

            What he has done is a crime under US law. If the OP wanted to call the police he could easily end up convicted and serving time.

          24. Tuxedo Cat*

            Continuing to smack people’s asses and hug them when you’re told to quit that behavior is predatory IMO.

          25. Yet Even Another Alison*

            What is driving him is immaterial. He is touching people that do not want to be touched. I know this is counter to some cultures, but here in the US, a woman has the final jurisdiction over her body. If he was touching men, after being asked to stop nicely, he would have most likely been beat up by now. One thing is for sure, he does not respect women – he continues to touch after being told to stop.

          26. Temperance*

            This is not a situation where the “why” matters so much. He’s no doubt aware that his hand is on his dong. The reason isn’t important.

          27. Ego Chamber*

            “but to call him a predator assumes malicious intent”

            No. When a shark eats a seal, that’s predatory and not malicious. When a company hires interns to do the same work as regular employees because the company “can’t afford” to pay people a living wage, that’s predatory and not malicious. Predatory isn’t about malice, it’s about putting your wants/needs over the wants/needs of others with a fundamental disregard for how that will affect them.

            A lot of men seem to commit violence against women because of a lack of empathy to the point that they don’t even see women as people the same way the see other men as people—but that doesn’t make it better (it makes it a lot worse imo), and this rabbit hole gets uncomfortably close to rape apologist nonsense, which is not my intent.

            He’s displaying the traits of a predator, that makes him a predator. I don’t care what his motivation is. Malice is not a necessary aspect of predation, but I know it counts for fuckall that the shark didn’t mean anything by it to the seal in his teeth.

      1. k8*

        ” Many times, multiple women have asked him not to smack their behind, tickle them, or hug on them. He still continues to do all three. ”

        Do you consider that to be normal, everyday behavior, then?

        1. Antilles*

          Yeah, that sentence alone stunned me, never mind the rest of the letter. In a typical American office, the amount of times you should need to tell someone “don’t touch my butt” or “don’t tickle me” is … zero. Even needing to mention it once is one time too many.

          1. Sarah*

            EXACTLY. I mean, the OP should go to HR for sure. But this isn’t really even in “you should need to say something territory” — it should be assumed that these behaviors are completely unacceptable for the office. Hugging is fine IF both people are comfortable, but if asked to stop, clearly you must….stop.

            1. Jesca*

              You are right. The first time he did it, it should have been so scandalous that people would always talk about how “that guy” got fired. Instead it is normalized as though he is like whistling annoying while he works and it is just some quirk people need to move around. The disconnect is incredible!

            2. Infinity Anon*

              Yep, hugging can be a simple mistake, once. When it happens after being told to stop, there is absolutely no benign explanation, and the tickling and butt smacking were horrifying even the first time.

              1. Artemesia*

                And even if the first time you decided he was clueless, it would only apply to the first time. He should have been on the coals the first time and fired the second time.

            3. oranges & lemons*

              Also, in the context of this letter I read the phrasing of “hugging on” to mean he’s coming up behind people and hugging them, or hugging them in other unwanted ways, so it’s possible even the hugging is more unpleasant than it sounds here.

              1. OhNo*

                Yeah, I’ve generally understood “hugging on” to have more sexual intent that just hugging. That could just be differences in vernacular, but in my experience “hugging on” (and “kissing on”) someone means you’re trying to get some sexy times started.

          2. Infinity Anon*

            The horrifying part is that they have already accepted that and moved on. The OP is asking what to do about the hand in the pants. To me, the unwanted touching is already far past the “take this to HR right now” stage. I don’t even care what he is doing in his pants because he should be fired regardless.

          3. EddieSherbert*

            Seriously. My shoulders were so far up against my ears before we even to go the hands in the pants….

          4. Lissa*

            Hmm, yeah, I was actually somewhat sympathetic to the tickler in the letter we just had an update to, but all plausible deniability is gone once the person tells you to stop. This is not an ambiguous situation. When I first read the title of the letter and started it I thought maybe it would just be a hand-in-pants which umm yeah still no, but I have actually known people who thoughtlessly put a hand down there especially if wearing sweats or something, and are not umm..compromising anything. :) I have no idea WHY they do this, but it’s a thing. This very quickly became not that…

      2. Jesca*

        Oh, the broken stair mentality.

        Just everyone do me, a victim of some pretty egregious sexual harassment that has impacted me for the rest of my life, and please fire fire fire at the first ass slap! There are very few (none) appropriate answers to the questions of why in these situations. Generally, they are testing their boundaries to escalate later.

      3. Mike C.*

        “Oh his hand was in his pants, but who really knows what he was doing, also incidentally he constantly sexually harasses women, I’m sure the two aren’t connected.”

        Come on now.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say he’s just scratching himself. Given his other behavior, he’s still a predator.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            This is so far the only thing that makes sense to me to explain “arm down his pants with elbow in his waistband.”

            The only time I’ve seen something like that was when my little sister was a kid (like 4) and Mom told her to stop dropping her pants to pull her socks up (because pulling the legs up, then pulling the socks up, then pulling the legs back down scrunched the socks down again). So next time her socks slipped, she just went for it and crammed her arms down her pants to her ankles.

        2. Jaydee*

          I know there are a fair number of lawyers around here, so I’m gonna bust out the Latin for y’all: res ispsa loquiter. Some things just speak for themselves.

      4. Eva*

        Okay, “This guy has many of the major red flags used to mark sexual predatory behavior, which frequently involves a steady escalation of actions and he needs to be stopped before he crosses from frequent unwanted sexual behaviors/touching of coworkers to more aggravated sexual assault and battery.” There, no assumptions, just following what the letter said and the mounds of data involving sexual predators and their behavior patterns in order to indicate an action that should be taken to protect the women in the office.

        Everything that is written here is practically a textbook description of the escalation patterns of a sexual predator. The women in the office don’t deserve to be skating on the thin chance that this is where he stops, and they should be protected by their bosses well before this man has his hand up their skirts instead of in his own pants.

      5. Middle Name Jane*

        Unfair assumptions? He’s touching women after they’ve asked him to stop. He’s been seen more than once with his hand down his pants. Both are completely inappropriate for the workplace and should be grounds for termination. It’s not a difficult leap to make to think of him as a sexual predator.

      6. seejay*

        Please tell us at what point is it a fair assumption to make the conclusion that he’s a sexual predator then? When he actual staples the big red neon sign to his forehead that says “I AM A SEXUAL PREDATOR”?

        Or are you going to keep discounting victim experience and thousands upon thousands of hours of research into actual sexual assault crimes and sexual predators and their methodologies?

      7. Dust Bunny*

        No. No, we’re not making unfair assumptions.

        Repeated requests to stop touching and butt-smacking? WAY, WAY, over the line into Predatorsville. This is not something that should have to be explained to anyone over the age of 13.

    1. kittymommy*

      I may be a little testy today as u still can’t get to my house because of the hurricane and am living with friends who knows how long, but if a co-worker kept touching me inappropriately, smacking my butt, even after I told him to stop several times, someone is going to the f****** hospital. And then masturbating while at work??? Nope, just nope. Dude is a predator.

      1. Lady Phoenix*

        I’m glad you are ok and I hope you can go bome soon!

        And yup, dude would lose a finger every time he touched me and HR would get a big complaint and a lawsuit.

  1. Justme*

    TALK TO HR! Ideally it would have been done already when he was smacking women’s behinds (and maybe it was) but this is so very much NOT OKAY that people in charge need to stop it.

      1. Kai the Admin*

        EXACTLY. I doubt this guys continues his physical and sexual harassment when it puts him at risk: when it’s the boss or someone the boss cares about protecting. I bet he can keep his hands to himself when he’s talking to authority figures, just as I’m sure he preys on those he sees as below him or below preptection (women in retail and food services who have to play “nice” for the protection of their employment).

        So far he’s learned that he can get away with touching his colleagues even after the complain, and he’s gotten away with touching himself at least three times without consequences. This is a guy who’s going t keep pushing boundaries until he runs against one that doesn’t move.

        1. Jesca*

          In my experience, if someone is comfortable crossing huge boundaries like this openly, they are doing much much worse when no one is looking. IF the company decides to finally take action against this, their investigation may find some stuff has occurred that was worse than this!

            1. RVA Cat*

              Mine too. It would not surprise me to find out this creep is a rapist and/or child molester. What if he was on his phone sexting a teenager?

              1. Shrimpn'grits*

                Yeah, I had a previous coworker like this, he ended up getting caught with child pornography on his work laptop.

          1. Kai the Admin*

            It’s really scary to think about what he does when he isn’t being watched. We know he’ll touch women against their objections, I can’t imagine he didn’t first test the boundaries with inappropriate comments.

            Maybe he only gets a thrill from interactions, like being caught, but maybe not. Maybe he’s the type to install cameras in toilets and change rooms, maybe he trolls the company directory or client lists for women to harass, maybe he’s got a history at every workplace, but no one ever felt safe reporting him, or reported him and saw no consequences. This guy is not safe and I think you’re right that any investigation has a lot to turn up.

        2. OhNo*

          It’s worth noting that the OP first noticed this behavior when the boss was out of the office. Even if that wasn’t the first time he’d done it, the fact that he waited until the boss was gone to be so brazen about it tells me he knows exactly what he’s doing. He knows where the boundaries are and steps over them only when he’s sure there will be no consequences.

  2. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I’m confused. You don’t want to make a serious accusation without knowing exactly what you saw? But you do know exactly what you saw! You described it in detail here.

    So run, don’t walk, to HR.

    1. myswtghst*

      Yes, this! You aren’t accusing him of anything, just stating facts. Go to HR / his boss / your boss and make it very clear (just like you did in your letter!) that he’s doing things which are inappropriate and making people uncomfortable.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Strong second! OP, just report the facts the way you described it in your letter. You don’t have to say you have run into him masturbating. Just say what you told us about his positioning and his hand being down his pants (and the varying “depths” of below-the-pants-ness).

    3. designbot*

      Right–she can say exactly what she saw without speculating on the purpose of him having his hand down his pants. Just saying that is plenty to communicate that he’s not behaving professionally.

    4. Elizabeth H.*

      I think maybe the issue is that even though he obviously had his hand down his pants there are some explanations for that without its being that he was masturbating. They are a little far out but possible. Some people REALLY like to adjust a lot. I’m not saying that you are supposed to have your hand down your pants in your office anyway because of the optics but I think the reluctance is that she doesn’t want to say “I saw Fergus masturbating” bc she isn’t sure that he was. I also think that there is a pretty big difference between sexual harassment at work (butt smacking, tickling – good grief) and being the kind of creep who masturbates at work during the work day with his office door open. That suggests a truly bizarre level of disregard for boundaries/someone who explicitly gets off on exhibitionism whereas the other is more of a public communication of disrespect thing? Maybe I’m overthinking it though.

      In any case, the other stuff is so incredibly messed up anyway that I would even say lead with that, or if you’re not comfortable talking about the hands in pants thing start with reporting the unwanted physical contact (!!!)

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think they’re actually totally related and on a spectrum of violative behavior. But again, OP can say they saw him with his hands down his pants and skirt any conclusions about why they’ve been down his pants.

        1. Elizabeth H.*

          Yes I pretty much agree – when I said “problem” I meant more like an explanation of why someone might be hesitating about reporting this, rather than like I think she shouldn’t mention the hands down pants

        2. Alli525*

          I don’t know – I think you can say to HR something like “These hands-in-pants incidents are part of a pattern of behavior that, when paired with the persistent unwanted touching he keeps engaging in, have created a hostile work environment for many of the women here.”

            1. One of the Sarahs*

              Yeah, it doesn’t matter if it actually had a sexual motivation or not, the optics are terrible, and are pretty normally construed as sexual.

      2. Observer*

        The point is that she doesn’t need to say that he’s masturbating. All she needs to do is describe what she saw! That is a problem all by itself regardless of what he was actually doing.

        And, as this is not a court of law, it’s ok to not have 100% certainty. The “preponderance of the evidence” is plenty.

      3. VioletEMT*

        Right. The repeated hands-down-pants coupled with the persistent unwanted touching is a way different scenario than someone who likes to adjust a lot.

        You don’t have to say he was masturbating, just that he had his hand down his pants, and he’s a toucher/grabber (with specifics of the instances and that you’ve asked him to stop). That’ll paint a clear enough picture for HR.

      4. Ainomiaka*

        I think there could be a case for that IF the hands down the pants was the only thing. IF you already see him mostly be appropriate, sure, start with “you may not realize how not private that office is, please adjust in the bathroom.” But that’s not what is happening here. The guy already blatantly disregards women telling him not to touch them. You already have enough reason not to give him benefit of the doubt.

        1. Myrin*

          I agree, it’s really the combination of things that is doing the trick here (although in this case, the butt-smacking alone is actually doing the trick quite well already).

          And honestly, I’m only saying that because I’m a woman with the extremely weird habit of putting her hand down her trousers when she sits. I have no idea why I do this! It’s not a conscious decision and I’ve been doing it all my life! My mum does it too! I’m just sitting there minding my own business and suddenly BAM, hand on my lower belly or upper thigh! It’s very frustrating and I’m constantly on the lookout for my wandering hand; it’s a very strange phenomenon indeed.

          But really, what’s going on in this letter doesn’t sound like my case at all – combined with all the other inappropriate nonsense that’s coming from this guy I think it’s safe to say that he enjoys making others uncomfortable sexually (although I do wonder why he always closes the door in the end – does he have some residual shame left? Is it for plausible deniability? Who knows?).

          1. OhNo*

            (Total aside re: hands down your pants – it might be a warmth thing. Women tend to have colder hands than men due to circulation differences. I know a lot of women who automatically put their hands in weird and potentially embarrassing places without realizing it, because their fingers are cold, and they’re so used to their fingers being cold that the sensation doesn’t even register anymore.)

      5. Mary*

        Like, the FIRST time that you are adjusting your pants with your office door open and someone nearly walks in? That could be a genuine mistake. Every subsequent time, you make sure the door is shut and the blind closed, or you go to the loo. This is someone who likes the risk that someone could walk in on him, and it’s absolutely not OK to make your co-workers partners in your sexual fetish.

        And that’s without getting into the other completely inappropriate behaviour.

        1. Competent Commenter*

          Agreed. It doesn’t really matter if he has some legitimate reason other than masturbating to have his hand down his pants. Sure, we could really spin it out there and come up with some medical issues. Maybe the guy had a really uncomfortable bandaid on his leg from a chronic wound that won’t heal. I could come up with a million ideas. But it’s all irrelevant. We’ve all had to make wardrobe or other physical adjustments while at work. We do so in the bathroom, or behind our office door really quickly (thong underwear riding WAY up can be adjusted real quick), or with the door fully closed and locked…we don’t do it with the door open. There are zero excuses for him having his hand down his pants with the door open in full sight of anyone walking down the hall.

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            +1. In the times I’ve had the need to adjust my underwear, or, I don’t know, check if my period has started or something, I’ve always gone to the bathroom and not put my hands down my clothes in my office.
            The WHY doesn’t matter, it’s something that needs to stop.
            My take is he is counting on it being too uncomfortable to take about with the boss, but honestly, “I’ve caught him three times with his hands down his pants with his office door open” is enough.

        2. LizB*

          Agreed 100%. If I made the misguided decision to adjust my junk in front of an open door and someone spotted me, I would be MORTIFIED. I would then be extra careful about only adjusting in private situations, because OMG terrible embarrassment. That is… not what is happening here. The full picture of this guy’s behavior makes it clear he is a serious problem.

      6. FiveWheels*

        I’d be happier with an office masturbator than an ass-slapper. Neither is wanted, but only one involves physically interfering with colleagues.

        1. Lunchy*

          Okay, but if he washes his hands afterwards (IF!), how many things does he touch before he does that?

          1. FiveWheels*

            I have no confidence that my colleagues ever wash their hands anyway. I kind of expect them to be filthy.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              … same. I don’t even want to think about all the places I’ve seen very small amounts of poop smeared at the call center where they strictly timed the bathroom breaks (and the time it “should” take to go to the bathroom could only be achieved by someone who peed standing up and didn’t wash their hands after).

              1. only acting normal*


                (Aside – when my mother was very pregnant with me, they did a “time and motion” study where she worked. After her umpteenth toilet visit of the day they rolled their eyes and stopped tallying her toilet breaks. She thinks this was funny and the right thing for them to do. I think it is exactly that ignoring real data that leads to stupid workplace targets – like insufficient time accounted for toilet breaks!!)

    5. Lilo*

      People should have gone to HR the second he smacked someone’s butt the first time. That is NOT okay. That is NEVER okay to do to someone.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        I know! Is this office on the other side of the WayBack Machine? Smacking a butt is so, incredibly out of line that I would instinctively punch the smacker in the face and run away screaming. It’s unbelievable that it happened more than once.
        Also, after reading this letter, I’m no longer hungry for my lunch.

      2. The OG Anonsie*

        What I’m wondering is… Have they? She says they’ve all just accepted that this is the way things are, is that because they’ve reported it before and got the brush off from the company?

        1. Jesca*

          Well, and I look at like this too. He is not just slapping one person’s ass. It is numerous women. Even if all the women were ignorant to sexual harassment laws, you seriously mean to tell me that not one hasn’t even brought this up casually to a manager even in passing? Like oh well ya know he’s an ass slapper so … ?!?! Why is everyone not elevating this?

        2. Purplesaurus*

          I don’t know which situation is worse: the one in which these women default to acceptance-mode, or the one where they’ve reported it and nothing happened. Or, more likely, the former resulted in the latter.

  3. Dr. Johnny Fever*

    Talk to HR. This creep gets off on this and the gear and awkwardness is a huge part of it. He has the power if you don’t speak. Take that power from him.

  4. Hermione*

    First, ew.
    Second, this guy is a creep, and a predator, and I hope you and others in your office will speak up to HR. He needs to be disciplined and/or (preferably) fired.

    You and your co-workers deserve a workplace where these things don’t happen.

  5. WellRed*

    “This behavior has become expected by most of us”

    No No No! This alone should have been stopped. Why do you all put up with it?

    1. PB*

      Yes! Unwanted touching is not an “expected” behavior. It is something to report. Immediately. And now he’s escalating.

      1. PB*

        It’s not clear to me that anyone reported him, so management may be unaware of the touching and butt slapping. But if they are aware and did nothing, I agree 100%.

        1. Health Insurance Nerd*

          And, if management IS aware, and this guy puts his hands on someone who isn’t prepared to chalk it up to “expected behavior”, the company has now opened itself up to a sexual harassment lawsuit that they will very likely lose.

        2. Where's the Le-Toose?*

          Management is aware. OP is a manager in customer service for this company. What’s not clear is whether hand-in-the-pants is the OP’s direct report or whether HITP works for some other department, like accounting or teapot design.

          This isn’t a rank and file coworker complaining about a fellow rank and file coworker. This is a manager complaining about a rank and file worker who may or may not be that manager’s direct report.

          1. BenAdminGeek*

            Correct- one of the eye-opening things about management training at OldJob was that I was now “the company” in the eyes of the law. If I went out for drinks with entry-level folks after work, that opened things up for the company being liable if something happened, etc.

            As a manager, you have to take action in these situations.

      2. Mary*

        Eh, maybe you would, but a lot of people can’t just quit. People have to put up with all sorts of terrible shit because they have to pay rent.

        This guy’s behaviour is way out of line, but it’s really important not to suggest that OP and her colleagues have screwed up by not reporting him earlier or getting out of the company. It would be great if everyone was empowered enough to report egregious behaviour immediately, but the world doesn’t work like that.

        1. Lissa*

          Thanks for this. I see a lot of “I would have” but we often don’t actually react the way we would think we did (same for all the “I would’ve hit him” – yeah, I thought I would’ve too, if that ever happened. Turns out freezing up a thing, even if it’s not something that happens to protagonists)

    2. EddieSherbert*

      Seriously! I would be the one hollering and making a scene. “Did you just SLAP my BUTT? What is WRONG with you? DO NOT TOUCH ME.” And it’d be incredibly awkward, but I still wouldn’t be the rude one in the situation.

      So if you can get yourself to “make a scene” (he’s the one making a scene, really) – I think you SHOULD start making a bigger deal of the creepy AF touching (of you and other women) in the moment… along with taking all of this to HR!

      1. K.*

        When I get groped on public transportation, I always raise my voice about it. A friend asked if I was afraid of “it turning into a bad scene” because of me raising my voice, and I said “It’s already a bad scene. Some dude I don’t know [fill in the blank with an act of groping, grabbing, squeezing].”

        1. Lora*

          “Sir, please remove your penis from my buttocks” shouted at top volume is my preferred phrase.

          Hey, I’m being polite.

  6. Taco Salad*

    “Many times, multiple women have asked him not to smack their behind, tickle them, or hug on them. He still continues to do all three. This behavior has become expected by most of us…”

    I’m having trouble even finishing the letter. What the hell?! NO NO NO. If he’s allowed to get away with crap like this, it’s no wonder he’s progressing to even worse behavior. I’m not blaming the women in the office. I’m just saying that this behavior needs to be reported ASAP and if nothing is done, the OP needs to get job hunting. Good lord.

    1. Iris Eyes*

      True, even if you don’t want to jump to conclusions (that seem pretty well founded) about what he’s doing in his office, the sexual harassment is glaringly obvious and unable to be challenged. It sounds like any one of your coworkers can provide witness if asked that the pinching and slapping and tickling is occurring.

      If nothing is done the week you report this I think it would be appropriate to get law enforcement and legal council involved. What he is doing, even independent of the masturbation, is illegal in most countries as far as I know.


      1. GermanGirl*

        The stuff in his office could also be a wardrobe malfunction and him not having the common sense to fix that in the privacy of a bathroom stall.
        But all the other things are enough to fire him anyway.

    2. A Rose By Any Other Name*

      That’s exactly where I stopped too! That sentence alone screamed, “fire him for sexual harassment,” with klaxons and bells going off. The LW needs to report this immediately with what she;’s seen and encourage others who’ve experienced his harassment to speak up to managers and HR.

  7. designbot*

    As Tim Gunn would say, you have been living in the monkey house. An outsider who hasn’t experienced the ramp-up in these actions immediately looks at it and all our alarm bells go off, but you’ve become conditioned to it over time. This is not normal! He shouldn’t be touching women at the office in the first place, he certainly shouldn’t be continuing after they’ve told him to stop(!), and he shouldn’t have his hands down his pants at the office, at all. No part of it is okay. Do not pass go, go directly to HR.

    1. Jesca*

      YESSSSS I quote Tim Gun on this all the time! I am glad I am not the only one!!!

      Definitely in the monkey house too long.

  8. AdAgencyChick*


    Talk to your boss. Tell her you’re going to HR so she has a heads up, but this is definitely an HR issue. I would both go to HR in person and send an email with a subject line like “Formal complaint of harassment” to follow up.

    Even if you hadn’t seen the hands down pants, the touching is MORE than enough to nail this guy to the wall. The more coworkers you can get to report what’s happened to them as well, the better.

  9. Emmie*

    Please say something today. He is so gross. I am sorry you’ve seen this, and that he put you in this awful position. It is not right AT ALL.

  10. upinalather*

    “Many times, multiple women have asked him not to smack their behind, tickle them, or hug on them. He still continues to do all three. This behavior has become expected by most of us…’

    This is assault, full stop. The public masturbation continues to be assault and is not only predatory, but illegal at the very least. Report him immediately. Management/HR needs to address the victims’ needs, as well (counseling, for example).

  11. Amber Rose*

    I’m guessing, if you’re small enough, you don’t have HR. If so, talk to your boss, and go in expecting her to do something, but also go in maybe with the understanding that if nothing is done, you should seriously consider a job hunt.

    Hand in pants aside (that I even have to SAY that, ugh), touching and smacking women on the butt is sexual harassment. Don’t minimize this. It’s not something you should get used to, it’s not someone misunderstanding boundaries, it’s sexual harassment plain and simple. It’s disgusting and wrong and he should face termination for it. If he doesn’t, then no matter how good you think your job is, it’s not. It’s a job where you can’t trust your employer to have your back even in cases of clear cut abuse.

    Look up missing stair theory. Don’t enable it, don’t put up with it. You can do more, or you can get out.

    1. livingtheneweconomy*

      a person in a small office is still protected with EEOC. This is sexual harassment and if the employer doesn’t address it, file an EEOC complaint.

      1. Natalie*

        Unfortunately, no, they may not be. Most of the laws that the EEOC enforces only apply to organizations with more than 15 employees. Some states may have stricters laws, but federally there is such thing as an office small enough to not be able to go to the EEOC.

  12. Jubilance*

    I think my head exploded when I read that he’s been smacking women on the behind and he’s still employed.


    Please say something immediately and maybe also look for a new workplace? I can’t believe a company is letting this type of behavior go.

  13. lbiz*

    Even before the hand-down-the-pants stuff, this guy’s behavior is beyond inappropriate for the workplace and this needs to be escalated immediately. Repeatedly touching women in the office on the butt?!?! Absolutely unacceptable. You and all the other women in your office need to speak up ASAP. This guy needs to be fired.

  14. madge*

    Everything everyone else said and also, the women in your office need to hit him back the next time they’re assaulted. Because that is exactly what smacking someone’s behind is, and telling him “no” clearly is not working.

    1. ArtK*

      Tempting as it may be, I guarantee that if some woman were to strike him, she would be the one facing discipline. They’d dismiss his behavior as “just being friendly” and she would be the one guilty of assalt.

      1. nonymous*

        My normal reaction to being goosed is to yelp and jump/startle. In a workplace this may lead to the instigator being covered in whatever drink I was carrying at the time. Completely involuntary response, no assault necessary.

      2. The OG Anonsie*

        Oh yeah. I was just listening to the episode of Bad With Money with Lexi Alexander (which I want to say is called “Difficult Bitch”) where she talks about how it’s not just that she is treated in xyz way but that she’s not allowed to respond. The second she actually responds in an angry way, even if she’s not physical with the person, her career is over because then she’s the crazy one who took it too far. Even if the exact same response is totally accepted by her male peers, we’re not allowed to do that.

        Emma Lindsay talks about this general phenomenon in a way that really resonated with me in the out-freakin-standing article What I Learned From Dating Women Who Have Been Raped, where she talks about (among other things) how you’re not allowed to react to someone having this kind of inappropriate contact with you. You’re supposed to not only absorb those actions, but then handle everyone else’s feelings to make sure no one is uncomfortable with the fact that someone else did something they shouldn’t have to you. And included in “everyone else” is the person who actually touched you, who you aren’t allowed to upset when you react to what they did.

        Which is exactly what’s happening here! The LW is afraid of telling anyone what she saw because then she becomes The Problem, not the guy who is actually doing the insanely inappropriate and awful things here.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Yes, this! This is why, while some commenters are saying they can’t believe nobody has reported this yet, I can totally believe it.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            I can also totally believe it. It’s shocking behavior, and it’s so shocking that bringing it to light will somehow affect your reputation too. And none of us want to “make a scene” or be “the bitch.”

            I used to work at a company in a department that had the task of going to employee’s desks and answering questions so they could do their jobs correctly. There was this one man who like to, um, “adjust himself”—repeatedly—while having these conversations. We’d be answering a question and he would be sitting there staring at work documents on his computer screen and rubbing his junk. There’s nothing sexy about banking regulations so I have literally no idea what his deal was. It was really awkward, and somehow embarrassing, and it took several weeks for all the women (the department was mostly women) to figure out he was doing this all the time. Then one day he submitted a question and the 3 women at work that day told the only man in the department that we weren’t answering “Eric’s” questions anymore because he was a creep.

            Our colleague went over to Eric’s desk, answered his question, then walked back towards our office but went to our manager’s office next door instead, and said “Casey, Eric keeps jerking it through his pants. Make it stop.” He apparently interrupted a meeting our manager was having with her boss, but he still handled it better than any of us had.

      3. Turtle Candle*

        There’s also the fact that many people who say “I woulda punched him in the face!” or “He’d best be ready for an ass-kicking!” or equivalent are sort of Monday-morning-quarterbacking. Or esprit de l’escalier–it’s a lot easier to come up with the ‘perfect’ response or devastating comment when you aren’t the one there in the moment. But it’s very normal to be worried what might happen if you punch your coworker (he escalates further, you’re the one who gets fired, you’re the one who gets arrested, whatever), and it’s also very normal to freeze in situations like this, especially if you’re not sure if you’ll get backup. (See: “she told me I was crazy.”)

        I mention this because that kind of response–“If it was me, he would have lost a finger!”–can be extremely disempowering. It’s easy to say from a safe remove, but it’s hard to actually do. And hearing a chorus of “I certainly wouldn’t let anyone treat me like that” can make people feel like there’s something really wrong with them, or like they’re asking for it by being a wimp or something. It’s an understandable reaction–heck, I’d like to believe that I’d react in a decisive and effective manner when smacked on the butt too! and the fantasy of “as soon as he touched me I’d break his finger” has a satisfying appeal–but it’s not realistic, and it can lead to greater danger to the person in question (punching someone at work rarely ends well for the puncher, even if their reason is fully justifiable), and it’s often the opposite of helpful to the person asking the question.

        1. Lora*

          True. It helps a lot to have practiced responses to this, once you anticipate it, because then it becomes automatic – otherwise you tend to freeze and wonder, is this really happening? Is this some kind of nightmare, am I going to look down and find I’m back in grade school and there’s a test I didn’t study for? What is anything even?

          Public transportation is an excellent training ground for responding to sexual harassment. You can get a lot of practice being rude to the jerks who use a crowded bus/subway as an excuse to grab at you, and then it becomes more of a habit to at least yell HEY! WHADDAYA THINK YA DOIN??

        2. Emmie*

          It’s very common for rape victims to freeze as a response to assault. There was a great article / study picked up by several publications (WaPost, Huff Post…) about it. Obviously, this isn’t rape, but perhaps the article can shed some light to the readers why freezing is a common reaction to crime.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Is that the study about how women in a confrontation tend to freeze and/or try to form a bond with their assailants, and the theory is that it’s because we’re statistically outclassed by men when it comes to fight and flight?

        3. oranges & lemons*

          Thanks for saying this. This does seem like a very common response when anyone talks about being sexually harrassed. I think it’s a little like people who respond to stories of abuse by saying “I wouldn’t let anyone get away with treating me that way!” It doesn’t really take into account how fraught and complicated these situations are, and often feels a little to me like chastising the letter writer for not having a “better” reaction.

      4. Student*

        Seconding the “hit him”. Be a “bad victim”, someone who makes it painful and unpleasant for the attacker to bother. Yell at him is a better first response – the objective being to publicly draw attention to his behavior and publicly shame him. But, we’re past first response. Hit him, twist his arm, something like that (while also verbally objecting) – just not hard enough to draw blood or break something.

        If he hurts you bad enough to bruise, or gropes you, though, go ahead and get more violent.

        First, this is physical self-defense. It’s legal in many states to do far, far worse than a typical casual hit to him (know your local self-defense laws first!). It’s not aggression to hit someone in these circumstances; it is defending your body from somebody who just attacked you. As long as you don’t get disproportionately gruesome, the boss and the cops will side with the woman under most circumstances.

        Further – lots of men, especially the kind of men who serially touch women inappropriately at work, cannot bear to admit a women hurt them. They lose face. They don’t think women are real, full people anyway, so admitting one hurt them is not something they’re willing to do, even under pretty extreme circumstances. If they do report it, other men (including cops) will generally ridicule them for it and take it less seriously than male violence. Further, if they report it, the inevitable question they face will be “why did she hit you?” – at which point you will get a chance to discuss the ass-grabbing. Use this aspect of sexism, dismissing women’s attacks against men as less “serious”, to your advantage in this circumstance to protect yourself.

        The fact that a woman found the incident “serious” enough to merit hitting him will also, paradoxically, sometimes make bosses or cops take you more seriously. If you didn’t hit him, it couldn’t have been that bad or that scary, they think – if you hit him, they think, you must’ve been truly upset (because that’s what they do when they’re threatened). Women freeze when they’re scared because they’re trained not to hit people – they’re trained that violence is never okay. Men are more often trained to fight back and expect it’s a possible consequence of initiating violence.

        Attacking people who attack you is extremely effective. It’s the basic advice you give somebody who’s experiencing sexual violence for a reason. Even if you aren’t strong or experienced at it, the fact that you did anything will make the attacker think twice about bothering you – they much prefer to bother people who just passively accept it instead.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          This isn’t good advice for the workplace though.

          If you scream at coworkers who are harassing you, you look unstable (ask me how I know) and even though it’s not illegal to hit someone in self defense, it’s also not illegal for your employer to fire you for striking a coworker, even if it was self defense (I don’t have a firsthand personal experience for this one, but I did work somewhere where Coworker A was attacked by Coworker B in the parking lot and they were both fired—the company said Coworker A shouldn’t have hit back, even though A had a broken nose, broken cheek and a concussion from having his head slammed against the pavement, while B walked away with a black eye and left A bleeding and unconscious).

    2. EddieSherbert*

      I mentioned it above, but I totally vote for escalating it in the moment. Yell, be horrified and offended and shocked. “Did you just SLAP me? What is WRONG with you? DO NOT TOUCH ME.” Make a scene. He’s rude and creepy and deserves whatever awkwardness this brings.

      What’s he going to do, report you for being less than professional to him when he assaulted you in the workplace?

        1. FiveWheels*

          If you’re concerned about retaliation for an appropriate physical response, then driving your heel into his shin or reverse headbutting could work.

          Instinctive reaction :-p

    3. Lady Bug*

      I agree, you slap my ass without permission, I slap your face and you should consider yourself lucky that’s all I do. I’ll immediately report the harrasser and myself to HR. If I get fired, I didn’t want to work there anyway.

  15. Construction Safety*

    “Your employer is almost certainly going to agree with you that none of what he’s doing is okay.”
    Yeah, I have 20 bucks that says that ain’t going to happen.

    1. neverjaunty*

      Then if the employer doesn’t, OP is going to make some employment lawyer very, very happy just before she finds a better job elsewhere.

      1. Jesmlet*

        The fact that they aren’t doing anything about this would fall under hostile work environment, no? Or is that just wishful thinking on my part?

          1. Jesmlet*

            Then how the hell does he still have a job?? It’s unfortunate that people have to cite laws to back up their claims. I’m wondering if anyone has ever said anything about the other behavior before. If it’s a small company, I’d assume that the superiors are at least semi-aware of the other stuff and you’d think that even without a proper HR person, they’d understand what a mess this could turn into

              1. Liane*

                “… he probably doesn’t do it around senior level managers.”
                Yes, the OP even says the “hands in pants” incidents happened while their boss was away.

            1. Gadfly*

              Because at the end of the day, we still are in rape culture land where behavior like his tends to be minimized and dismissed and doing anything about it often means a victim spends a lot of time and money to ruin her life and reputation so he and/or the company can get a legal slap on the hand?

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It’s definitely both, as currently described. But OP (or someone) needs to report it, because it’s unclear if the higher ups are aware or on notice.

      2. Yet Even Another Alison*

        The law is pretty clear – once the company is made aware of sexual harassment and does nothing, they become part of the problem and the consequences can be significant. Every place I have every worked, opens an investigation in these types of situations – and the process, steps and findings of the investigation become the protection that company has from being held liable if the victims should sue. It does not protect completely – I remember is 2001, a company I worked for did an investigation for a secretary that alleged sexual harassment, but they were slow to do so because the alleged harasser was very high in the food chain. The company lived to very much regret this.

    2. Kai the Admin*

      Yup. My employer agreed that the sexual harassment I received was inappropriate, but per our discipline policy I would never know what, if any, punishment my harasser received. It was at the discretion of his supervisor, who had a reputation as a misogynist in the office. I was told that the harasser “was apologetic” but never received a direct apology.
      The process was meant to be confidential, but I noticed that colleagues close to him shunned me. I would never encourage anyone to report harassment unless they are prepared for disappointment, and possibly to find a new job.

      OP – what you are experiencing, the unwanted touching, the no doubt present inappropriate comments, the jerking off in his office, none of this is normal or your fault. He is in the wrong, and you deserve and are owed proctetion by your employer. You may not now or ever get what you deserve, so protect yourself and do what you need to be safe and away from this abusive jerk.

      1. anono-pop*

        I think your last paragraph needs to be emphasized, based on the way the LW seems to be downplaying her coworker’s frankly horrifying behavior: LW, this is Not Normal. And it is Not Your Fault. You may not get the response you (legally, ethically) deserve for doing so, but you need to know that you are firmly in the right for speaking up and refusing to condone this kind of behavior.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Eh. Lots and lots of employers deal with sexual harassment appropriately. Some don’t (and it gets especially murky the more powerful the perpetrator is). But it’s hardly “you can bet that they won’t deal with it” territory.

      1. Dee*

        Because of course you’re more likely to hear about the bad examples than the good examples. That’s human nature.

        1. Gadfly*

          Well, and also probably because the good places tend take care of it pretty early (and usually have a culture where people are likely to feel ok reporting ‘minor’ things) and the bad places let it fester to something worse. And if it somewhere where you have to get the law in to deal with it or even have to threaten legal steps, it probably wasn’t a good place.

      2. Anonymous Pterodactyl*

        I have an example of a workplace dealing with it appropriately! It’s actually along the same lines as this one, but nowhere near as severe (thankfully).

        I have a job that involves talking to members of the public in an office. Sometimes, if I don’t know the answer to something, or if I don’t have the appropriate certification to discuss something in the level of detail they want, or whatever, I’ll step out to talk to one of my coworkers or sometimes ask them to come into my office to talk to the person directly.

        On one of these occasions, I was talking to Fergus, who had a somewhat tricky question with no good answers. I went to go ask Percival (the most senior person here) to come by, and when we got back to my office, I saw that Fergus’ fly was down. I wasn’t sure if it had been down when I was talking to him alone, but I pretended it wasn’t a thing because hey, sometimes people forget to zip.

        Once Percival finished explaining the situation to Fergus, he left, and I sat back down and asked Fergus if there was anything else he needed help with. At that point he… stuck his hand down his pants, through the open fly.

        I had no idea what to do or say! My internal reaction was “WTF!”, but externally… well, I’m a little ashamed to admit that I ignored it. I didn’t say anything, just continued answering his remaining questions, while every so often he would stick his hand further and further down there. Eventually (well, it FELT like eventually but was probably only a few minutes at most) I was able to wrap things up, and I got him out of there without shaking his hand, or letting him touch anything in my office.

        While it was happening I didn’t feel personally threatened, and he wasn’t MOVING his hand while it was down there, so it wasn’t like… obvious masturbation. But I guess I didn’t want to have the confrontation of “you need to stop that” in case he decided that no, he didn’t need to stop, and then I’m stuck in a small office and an escalating situation.

        Anyway, a couple days later I was meeting with my supervisor for a check-in, and he asked if there was anything else that I wanted to bring up. I hadn’t been planning to mention it (WHY NOT, SELF!?) but I did – I explained the whole thing to him. He sat there in utter shock for a second, and then we talked about strategies for if that kind of thing (heaven forbid!) ever happens again. A few minutes after we finished up, he came by and said that he really thought it was a serious enough incident that we needed to talk to the Big Boss and make him aware right away.

        So we did, and Big Boss had the same utterly shocked reaction, and emphasized that in the future reporting something like this sooner is better than waiting several days. They also both checked to make sure I was doing okay, reiterated that what happened was NOT okay and I shouldn’t have to deal with it, and then Big Boss actually CALLED Fergus and informed him that they were aware of what had happened, and if they had any more complaints about his behavior he would be barred from the premises.

        I really do regret waiting to report it. I think of myself as pretty progressive and broadly aware of deep-seated issues of sexism, harassment, etc… and even so, I subconsciously minimized what happened to pretend it wasn’t a big deal. It was a one-off! I probably wasn’t ever going to see Fergus again! Why make a fuss? Just let it go!

        This stuff is really hard! But the positive that came out of it is that I now feel totally confident that my supervisor and our boss have my back against this kind of thing.

        1. LavaLamp*

          Maybe we should have an open thread or something someday of positive resolution stories. It might help people feel better about speaking up seeing good examples of outcomes.

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            I would love this, BUT it would need to be framed with rules so people who shared their stories didn’t have “Oh but maybe you misunderstood him/you should have explored his motives/maybe it was an accident” etc etc when sharing their stories.

        2. Amadeo*

          I worked as an associate for the retail corp with a small denomination coin as part of its name. The one incident I was aware of was handled appropriately too. I was much older than several of the other young women whom I worked with (I was well into my late 20s, they hasn’t even graduated from high school yet) and a couple of them came to me and confided in me that another high school aged male associate had repeatedly tried to coerce them into the stockroom for sex. I told them I was going to let a manager know and they were all right with that.

          To his credit, my manager took it very seriously, spoked to the young ladies about what had happened and then to the young man. It wasn’t long before the young man was summarily bounced out the door. He had a lot of other problems too as far as job performance, so by then I suspect that there wasn’t even a ‘stop that or else’ it was ‘Bye!’

        3. KR*

          My own story: a contractor we were considering hiring was sending me strange emails. To me it seemed like he was trying to flirt with me but I felt a) presumptuous assuming he was flirting and b)like it would be such a word thing to bring up or not hire him because of. I told my co-workers in the vein of, wow look at these strange messages, and they agreed they were wierd. So I finally told my manager and showed him the emails and right away he was like no, this is creepy. We need to either not hire him or make sure your co-workers are there whenever he’s in the office. It turned out he stopped replying to our emails as soon as my manager emailed him but I’m grateful I said something and my co-workers were behind me.

          1. Ruh Roh, Raggy!*

            I don’t understand why hiring him was even on the table at that point. People should be on their *best* behavior when they’re hoping to be hired. So if that’s his best …

      3. KR*

        Yeah, and I think to say that they won’t do anything right away almost makes it seem like we’re saying it’s not worth it to even go to HR/management which is how these types of behaviors are allowed to continue because women just assume nothing will be done if they say anything.

  16. Rebecca*

    As a woman in an office environment, I can safely say that if this guy touched me more than once there would be more severe consequences for him than me thinking his behavior was expected. Once grab at any body part, he’d be told to never, ever do that again, and I’d report him to his manager. The second time I’d defend myself. Sexual assault is never, ever OK in the workplace.

  17. Allison*

    Hasn’t this man ever heard of closing the GD door?

    Seriously, why would he put his hand down his pants with the door open? I don’t care what his hand is doing in there – whether he has itchy balls or he’s looking for lost treasure – you close the door first.

    It sounds like this guy doesn’t understand current workplace norms and boundaries, someone needs to talk to him.

    1. Risha*

      Once is (lol maybe) an accident. More than that is sexual harassment – he wants to “get caught,” only with the added shield of plausible deniability.

        1. The OG Anonsie*

          Oh yeah. And then when he saw that she had gone by and maybe seen, he actually engaged with her to try and see if she’d noticed. This is not an accident.

    2. Jessie the First (or second)*

      “It sounds like this guy doesn’t understand current workplace norms and boundaries”

      Well, talk about trivializing and minimizing sexual harassment.

      1. FiveWheels*

        From the information we have, it sounds like he understands appropriate behaviour perfectly well, and chooses not to follow it.

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          Good lord, yes. This has nothing to do with “Gosh, I just don’t understand today’s complicated and nuanced workplace norms.” It’s so tricky, women not wanting to be assaulted at work, nowadays, that how can we expect every man to KNOW not to repeatedly touch women’s asses, just because the women say stop, amirite? /s

          It’s really obnoxious, frankly, to see someone trying to chalk this up to “not understanding workplace norms.”

    3. Liz2*

      As noted, he wants to be caught. It could also be a slide into deeper grooming. He already has them totally accepting of physical assault, now he can push to make them implicit of his own direct pleasure.

    4. Creag an Tuire*

      Hasn’t this man ever heard of closing the GD door?

      No, it’s much better to face these kinds of things with a sense of poise and rationality.

      Which in this case means reporting him to HR.

    5. Gaia*

      It really is not okay, even with a closed door. You have repeatedly tried to minimize his behavior and I am really not sure why. Nothing he is doing is okay.

      1. Ana Eats Everything*

        This, so much this. Your workplace is not the correct place to touch yourself OR others. That includes in a closed office which belongs to your EMPLOYER and in which you are presumably supposed to be doing your job, not watching pornography. I am really confused by how defensive you’re being of this pervert, Allison?

    6. Amber Rose*

      Oh, he understands. “No” has nothing to do with workplace boundaries, it is universal, and he’s ignoring it because he can. Explaining things to people who already understand but choose not to care will accomplish nothing.

    7. Lady Phoenix*

      No, he needs to be fired. Not a talking to. I mean “SERIOUS REPRECUSIONS” because he touches women and makes them uncomfortable.

      Don’t minimizing what he is doing. He is a predator.

    8. Starbuck*

      Thanks for giving me the only chuckle I am likely to get while reading this thread. Now at least I’ve got that song in my head to distract me from how DISGUSTING this dude’s behavior is.

  18. Chameleon*


    Honestly, OP, if REPEATEDLY SMACKING WOMEN ON THE ASS isn’t enough to have gotten him fired retroactively a million years ago, I’m not certain openly mastrubating at work is going to get him disciplined. Your company is terrible and you should look for another job.

  19. ArtK*

    Report now! If you need to explain it to HR in “corporate” terms, not only is he creating a bad environment, he’s a lawsuit waiting to happen! All too often management will dismiss this kind of thing because it really doesn’t affect them directly (and because of gender bias, etc.) Showing how it can affect the company is often your best bet.

  20. Foreign Octopus*

    Oh my.

    I just have to repeat everything said above. Please talk to someone in the position of authority to get him to stop. Although, in this case, I’d say you also have a strong case to get him to stop on your own.

    Leaving aside the highly likely though not confirmed masturbation at work, the inappropriate touching can be absolutely, 100% shutdown by you. Next time he does it to you, immediately tell him that’s not appropriate. Say it loudly and clearly and no room for error. I’ve found that holding eye contact works perfectly for a situation when you need to show you’re not joking. It unnerves people and throws them onto the wrong foot. It will also encourage other women to speak up. So much abuse happens because people don’t speak up out of fear of rocking the boat.

    Rock the damn boat.

    He clearly thinks he can get away with more egregious actions (masturbation at the office) because he hasn’t been called on the inappropriate touching.*

    Please talk to HR now. Don’t wait until tomorrow. Push away from your desk now and go talk to them.

    *Not to say that the touching isn’t egregious but it is more common than public masturbation.

  21. Jesmlet*

    He’s clearly gross aside from this and even without assuming the worst, what he’s doing is inappropriate.

    Imagine being that HR person. Even under the best circumstances, it’s just so awkward: If you have to readjust something, please go to the bathroom… If your hands are cold and you need a space heater, feel free to bring one in…

    Like, no. This guy should’ve been fired already for the unwanted touching. If a coworker smacked my behind, I’d demand he be sent packing. Please speak directly to HR.

  22. Katie the Fed*

    In a dysfunctional workplace, things that are completely abnormal/unacceptable start to seem normal. That seems to be what’s happening here – by the way people excuse his butt-slapping, by the way your coworker told you that you hadn’t seen what you’ve seen. You think it’s “laid back” – it’s actually just really effed up.

    Trust what you saw and trust your instincts that this isn’t right, and report him to HR. If HR doesn’t handle it, you have my blessing to explore the EEO route because that is nothing if not a hostile work environment on the basis of sex.

  23. LBK*

    Jesus. Even the first paragraph is enough that you should be sprinting to HR and then to whatever the appropriate oversight authority would be if they’re not helpful (EEOC?). Do not pass go, do not collect $200 and most certainly do not touch yourself in the office.

  24. neverjaunty*

    OP, I’m a little perplexed that you are treating all of this guy’s behavior as a “little thing” that isn’t worth bringing up to the boss – as if slapping women on the rear was no more serious than forgetting to wash out a coffee cup.

    Even a mediocre boss wants you to “run to them” with important matters, especially things that affect the business.

    I’d be incredibly upset, as a manager, if I found out I had a guy in the office like this and my direct reports said nothing because they thought it was tattling.

    1. Liane*

      I think Katie the Fed above has the right of it–“In a dysfunctional workplace, things that are completely abnormal/unacceptable start to seem normal.”

      But please, OP, please take the word of Alison and nearly everyone here that his behavior IS abnormal and totally unacceptable and involve HR, your boss, even a grandboss if they won’t take it seriously.

  25. Katie the Fed*

    Somewhat related (but not quite) – I have a male employee who adjusts himself constantly. Several times a day. He sits right by me so it’s often when he stands up but we’ll be talking and he just reaches on down and shifts things around with a full grab. It makes me really uncomfortable. A few weeks ago I finally worked up the nerve to say something about it and when he was in the middle of an extended readjustment while talking to me I looked at his hand and said “um, do you need a minute to yourself?” He seemed to suddenly realize what he was doing. It’s gotten a little better but not completely.

        1. RVA Cat*

          Of course. I have to say, the OP’s story brings back memories of middle-school me getting flashed under the desk – and the principal not believing me (it was the 80s).

          1. Katie the Fed*

            Ughhhh. And I just remembered something that someone did on a public bus once in Chicago. What is wrong with people?!

    1. OOF*

      Ooh this is so tough Katie. I would be at a loss for how to handle (or perhaps I would know what I *should* say, just have a hard time getting up the nerve). Your approach as a first attempt was really good! Too bad he didn’t fully take the message to heart and stop the behavior completely.

    2. Observer*


      I know it’s easier said than done, but I think you need to tell him explicitly that he needs to cut it out. And then start enforcing this. Even if you could live with it, what happens when he does this around other staff? Also, does he meet in person with outside people? Think about what would happen if he pulled this in a meeting.

      Either he is conscious of what he’s doing, which is gross and a lawsuit waiting to happen, or he doesn’t really think about it, which is gross, a lawsuit waiting to happen and huge embarrassment for your department waiting to happen.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Hm, I don’t know if I’d consider it a lawsuit waiting to happen. I think of it more like a weird personal hygiene quirk that people don’t really notice they’re doing. I’m REALLY uncomfortable bringing it up to him directly though.

        1. Observer*

          Well, yes it is. Because what you describe is incredibly inappropriate and disrespectful. And you are not the only woman who is going to be made uncomfortable by the behavior. And if one of your staff comes to you and says “Katie, this is gross and makes me uncomfortable” to which you respond “Oh, that’s just Feergus being Fergus”, what do you think is going to happen? Not every woman is going to sue or go to the EEOC, but some will.

          Also, if it turns out that someone is doing something more clear cut, and someone else goes the the EEOC or sues, don’t you think that this will be used to show a pattern of turning a blind eye to inappropriate behavior? Because, really, I would think that anyone else who sees this is likely to assume that sexist behavior gets a pass around you.

          Oh, and if anyone knows that you are aware of this and won’t address it, it’s also going to have a negative effect on how they look at you.

          So, either address it or go to HR and have them address it.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            Hmm. I think we might have to agree to disagree on it being sexist behavior. I think it’s gross and weird, and I don’t want to see it, but I don’t see it as threatening or harassing behavior. That being said, I’ll think on it and maybe have a more direct conversation about it.

            1. The OG Anonsie*

              This is one of those frustrating things where it could be that, and it also could not be. I have done a bunch of weird stupid gross stuff in view of other people at work in a lapse moment of… Sort of forgetting they could see me? As insane as that sounds. Being distracted and doing one thing while thinking about another and not really considering what it looks like. Like stretching while talking to someone, seeing that my sweater is pilling up in the armpit area, and pulling the pilled fuzz off with my nails while still talking to them. I didn’t really process why their face took on the shape that it did until later when I thought about it with an unoccupied mind.

              And also there are people that will do things like you’re describing entirely on purpose as a way to be subtly intimidating. They know, they claim they don’t know because ignorance is the blanket they throw over you to make you look unreasonable if you keep pressing the issue, and they keep doing it.

            2. Starbuck*

              Keep in mind, the effect of the behavior matters more than his intent. If it bothered you, I guarantee it’s bothering other people too. It’s never appropriate to fondle your genitals in front of coworkers and needs to stop 100%!

              1. Observer*

                Exactly. He may not mean to be sexist, but his behavior is gross (and disrespectful). It’s definitely going to make others uncomfortable, and a lot of people will see it as sexual whether he means it or not. And it HAS to stop.

              2. GreyjoyGardens*

                It is gross – and who would want to touch someone’s hand if they’d been “adjusting” and not washed their hands afterwards?! Ew ew EWWW!

            3. FiveWheels*

              Yeah, I wouldn’t find it any more threatening than a woman enthusiastically adjusting her bra straps. I don’t want to see it, it’s sorta weird to do in public, but it’s neither sexual nor aggressive.

              1. Gadfly*

                It goes beyond bra straps. It is more like adjusting your cups. And that is more of a grey area which still would probably be called out if it was happening frequently. And would be interpreted as sexual (although likely not aggressive in the same sense.)

            4. TootsNYC*

              I agree with you that it’s weird hygiene. But it’s also a sexual harassment problem (remember the whole “intent doesn’t matter”?)

              So steel yourself and say, “I’ve noticed that you adjust your crotchal area sometimes right in front of people. You can’t do that. Please go talk to your doctor, or a gym coach, or someone, to figure out what you can do so that you are comfortable and do not need to adjust your private parts in front of other people.”

              I get that it’s touchy–but think of it as a clinical thing. It’s NOT sexual, so maybe that will make it easier, actually. It’s logistical, but it creates great discomfort for other people.

          2. Gaia*

            I know many men who would also be very uncomfortable with this behavior. I don’t think it is explicitly gendered. As a woman I don’t want to see men or women touching their private parts, in any way, at work.

            1. Observer*

              I’m sure you are right. And I agree that the behavior may not be explicitly gendered. It still doesn’t belong in the workplace.

              But, the risk to the agency is real anyway. Not stopping it is not a good look for the people who manage him. If he does this in view of outsiders, that’s a huge level of embarrassment. If he does this only around women, then even if that wasn’t on purpose, it puts the agency at legal risk. Even if the agency wins, it’s still a cost, and is going to create problems because anyone who knows about this is going to wonder who on earth is running the asylum.

            2. GreyjoyGardens*

              Especially if they’re going to be shaking hands with people or handling food or, indeed, phones or doorknobs, afterwards. O_o EEWWW.

        2. Gaia*

          He is touching his genitals in view of his coworkers. That is not a weird personal hygiene quirk like picking one’s teeth or chewing one’s nails.

          1. LBK*

            Well, wait. Maybe hygiene isn’t the right word but the purpose of “adjusting” is pragmatic, not pleasurable. It would be like saying adjusting your bra strap is sexual. That doesn’t make it appropriate to do in front of everyone, but it’s not nearly as egregious as the OP’s situation.

            1. Gadfly*

              Except it also isn’t a bra strap. It is more like adjusting your cups. Which is a whole ‘nother level of off. And one that would probably get called out.

            2. Gaia*

              No, I disagree. It would be closer to me reaching into my bra and adjusting my breast in front of a coworker. If he was shifting his slacks that would be fine, but he is touching his genitals.

              1. Gadfly*

                What I meant by adjusting your cups. With the whole question of if it was just to get the girls to fit right in the bra or if you were flicking a nipple.

                1. Gadfly*

                  No worries–I just realized I wasn’t expliciet enough and figured being a bit more graphic might also help make the connection. It is nothing like adjusting straps (wooooo–she touched her SHOULDER!)

              2. LBK*

                Whoa, okay, we’re talking about different things. If someone is actually sticking their hand down their pants, that is not just adjusting. Not to be too graphic but that can be/is usually done over the pants by just shifting things around a little. It sounded to me like that’s what Katie’s colleague is doing as well. If he’s actually sticking his hand down his pants in front her then that’s a different story.

            3. Gaia*

              I do agree, however, that it isn’t as egregious as the OP’s situation. It is just gross and inappropriate.

        3. The Other Dawn*

          I agree. This doesn’t seem like a lawsuit waiting to happen. I think the guy is just adjusting himself and doesn’t realize he’s doing it. All the men I know adjust themselves once in awhile (though I haven’t seen it at work yet), some more than others, but it seems to be mostly an unconscious thing.

        4. Natalie*

          Sure, but if he picked his nose unconsciously you’d probably tell him to cut it out, right? This isn’t much different – it may well be a unconscious habit, but it’s generally considered unacceptable at work so he really needs the opportunity to retrain himself.

          1. Lora*

            This is exactly where my mind went – the co-worker who doesn’t just brush his nose and try to be inconspicuous or is absent-minded and can’t find a tissue is one thing, the dude who is staring right at you and rooting around digging for gold and eating what he finds is quite another.

  26. 2 Cents*

    Unless you work in Major League Baseball and you all are players on a team that just scored a home run, I see no reason for anyone to be slapping another person on the rear. That’s not a “laid back” office. It’s a highly dysfunctional one that conditioning workers to think inappropriate / unwelcome touching is “normal” and something to put up with.

  27. Kelly L.*

    Even if he just has a terrible case of ball-itch, he should be fired yesterday for the other conduct. Ewwww!

  28. Kathlynn*

    I think it would be fair to say that he wants someone to “Catch him” in the same way people who flash or expose themselves to others want the other people to see them in a sexual act. Otherwise? he would shut the door to his office before someone walked by, not afterwards.

    1. RVA Cat*

      This. Does the OP’s building have security? If there is a next time, call them and have the security guard catch him.

  29. Anonimouse*

    A woman at my office (not my floor but some friends that worked with her filled me in) was recently caught and fired for loudly “knowing herself” in the restroom. Another woman was using the facilities and starting hearing shifting and moaning. She initially thought it was toilet trouble but could see what was going on through the door crack as she glanced behind her in the mirror while washing up.
    She was understandably freaked out and told a female director, who caught the culprit in the act. Apparently the self-diddler claimed she had a disorder that caused her “excess excitement.” I’m not sure about that, but the thing that blows my mind is that we have multiple private individual bathrooms! She chose to go in the one where other people would be forced to hear her!

    1. KellyK*

      Wow. Just…wow.

      I mean, first off, the employee’s behavior was super inappropriate in a restroom with other people. But secondly, someone has made a serious design error if you can see into the stall behind you while checking the mirror.

      1. Anonimouse*

        Yeah, our bathrooms are not the greatest. It’s probably about a 3/4 inch crack between door and stall edge. If you know what your coworker wore that day, it’s pretty common to say “hey Fergusina!” if you spot them in there. We also had one stall that got stuck closed and maintenance didn’t fix it until a bigwig visitor became trapped.

    2. GreyjoyGardens*

      That is really really inappropriate. Like, the textbook definition of “things that are inappropriate at work.” It sounds like maybe she had some sort of kink – exhibitionism or wanting to get caught or just aroused at the thought of office restrooms, who knows? But you don’t inflict your kink on non-consenting bystanders! Nonono!

  30. Christmas Carol*

    because he yelled out “Whatcha doing?!” when I ducked into the empty office

    ….Oh, nuthin’, How ’bout u?

    1. Poohbear McGriddles*

      That’s what tells me he wants to be seen. “Whatcha doing?” means let’s have a conversation because this wasn’t awkward at all. Soon, instead of being elbow deep in his pants, he’ll be whipping out the little guy so that someone gets an eye-full. After all, he didn’t get in trouble for the previous stuff.

    2. RVA Cat*

      All this mention of ducking makes me think of Duck Club. But this so much worse, because at least the Duck Club members had consent.

    3. I prefer tea*

      His yelling out really bothered me for some reason. It’s as though he’s inviting confrontation and wants to put the person who may have seen him on the defensive. He will escalate.

      1. Oranges*

        I think it’s because the power play of what he’s doing is blatant at that point. He’s using social norms/plausable deniability to violate these women (jerking off in a manner that creates a non-consensual sexual tableau is violation) and then uses the same social norms to tell them “I just did that and there’s nothing you can do about it”. He is telling them that he has the power and they are helpless to get him to stop. It’s uber gross.

  31. RVA Cat*

    My shoulders are up at my ears for the OP and her co-workers! Please, please report this creep immediately.
    Also, what about their cleaning staff, who may be exposed to…biohazards…?

  32. AlexandrinaVictoria*

    The first time I got my behind slapped after telling him not to he would have gotten a swift kick to the goolies. Please escalate this!

  33. Lady Phoenix*

    I was already on Team “Talk to His Manager and HR YESTERDAY” when the letter starts with him hugging (!), tickling (!!!), and SMACKING THEIR BUTTS (!!!!!!!!) That is text book definition of sexual harassment.

    The masturbation at work in his office is the rotting, bug-infested cherry on top of this shit cake. Go now and report it.

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      Ans for the love of god, NOTHING he should be doing should be “expected” at work unless this was the sex industry (and I’m sure ven THEY have rules about unwanted versus wanted touching).

      He shouldn’t be touching anyone and he shouldn’t be masturbating. It is “expected” that he DOESN’T do any of this because it is work, creepy, and hostile.

      If this shit is “expected” then gtfo. No, seriously. You are not safe their and chances are you or your coworkers will be raped by this pig.

  34. LSP*

    OP – All of the behavior you described is illegal, and your company is at risk every day they do nothing about it. Maybe no one in a position to do something even knows about the behavior, but I would doubt that anyone could be oblivious to that kind of blatant sexual harassment (and assault, which is what some of what you described is).

    If your boss or HR doesn’t immediately jump all over dealing with this guy, you need to seriously consider finding another place to work, because this is the reddest of red flags. Eventually, this guy is going to touch someone who isn’t going to just let it go, or be caught touching himself in front of the wrong person, and your company is going to get the pants sued off them! This is going to put your job at risk anyway, if your small firm isn’t able to deal with the legal issues.

    There is so much that can go wrong here. So say something to someone, and ideally, talk to some of your coworkers about going in together.

  35. HR, But Not for THAT*

    “probably HR if you have them; they’re trained in how to handle this stuff…”

    I had to howl at this one. Where do you get trained to handle THIS?!

    1. Hrovitnir*

      Haha, your handle made me laugh. Surely this would just fit under “your behaviour is a incredibly not OK” in terms of training though? That + compartmentalising any awkwardness or anger.

  36. Observer*

    OP – WHY is his behavior “expected”? I seriously don’t understand. This is absolutely and totally unacceptable.

    If you have not talked to HR (if you have HR) or your boss, that needs to be step one. Preferably a few of you together. This absolutely needs to stop. Please do NOT let anyone blow smoke at you about “he’s on the spectrum” (no, people on the spectrum do NOT do this); “he doesn’t mean any harm” (even if true, which is unlikely, it’s not relevant.), “he has a condition that we need to accommodate” (no, the ADA explicitly carves out things that impact employee safety as items that are NOT considered “reasonable accommodation”) or any other excuse whatsoever.

    If this does not stop, you need to do two things. Start looking, HARD, for a new job. Go to the EEOC. Document incidents, and what happened with HR / Your boss.

    1. FiveWheels*

      He might be on the spectrum, he might not. It’s irrelevant though. Even if something can explain an unwanted behaviour, it doesn’t make it acceptable.

  37. Jaguar*

    OP, leaving aside the bizarre pants thing, is there a reason the sexual assault which he’s been told to stop doing and hasn’t wasn’t already escalated to HR or his manager?

    1. Grey*

      Right. Go to HR today and don’t lead with the “hands in the pants” thing. It’s not biggest problem here.

  38. MuseumChick*

    OP, this classing Missing Stair, defined by Wikipedia as “a sexual predator who many people know cannot be trusted, but who, rather than shunning, they work around”

    Speak up. Loudly. This guy is a creep. If he every touch you again be clear, and firm “Do not touch me. I have said this before but you continue. If this happens again I will consider it assault.”

    1. TootsNYC*

      Actually, the very original person who wrote about the Missing Stair referred mainly to a sexual predator but also extended it to be anybody whose behavior causes problems and other people just work around it instead of addressing it and “fixing” it.

      Every now and then someone on a message board will use the term to describe some mooching relative or a really bad colleague, and someone jumps down their throat about how it only applies to sexual predators. But the author and coiner of the term very specifically included other examples–an entire paragraph of them.

      But yes, the most dramatic and infuriating version is the sexual predator.

  39. KG, Ph.D.*

    I think that the LW may be in a situation where the workplace is SO unprofessional and toxic that no one knows which direction is up anymore. I don’t mean this to excuse the individual committing sexual assault; rather, I think this explains why no one has bothered to report ongoing sexual assault by their coworker. This is absolutely beyond the pale. LW, I am very, very concerned that you and your coworkers are more worried about upsetting your screamingly inappropriate coworker than you are about stopping his behavior. I don’t mean that as a condemnation of you personally – I’ve been in a similar workplace before, and when you’re swimming in it, it’s hard to see how bad things are. It was only after I left that situation that I understood how bad it was.

    Please, please take Alison’s advice and escalate this. I’m worried that you spent a bit of your letter equivocating and trying to excuse away his behavior. I totally get why you did, but when you speak to your boss and HR, please try to stick to the facts and resist the (totally understandable!) urge to come up with alternate/innocent explanations for your coworker’s behavior. I worry that doing so will give HR and your boss room to excuse his behavior. His behavior is inexcusable. These are the facts: he has continued to inappropriately touch his coworkers after being asked *repeatedly* to stop. He has been caught with his hand literally down his pants on a number of occasions. These behaviors are making his coworkers extremely nervous and uncomfortable. None of this is okay, and it needs to stop yesterday.

  40. Laura Bot*

    I wanted to add my voice to this because I don’t see enough outrage being expressed. My work atmosphere is also relaxed and this would NEVER happen in my office. EVER. It is repulsive and borders on criminal. This creep should have been fired by now. Get yourself to HR stat. And if they don’t do anything, go talk to a police officer about what can be done to make sure the women in your workplace don’t have to come into work everyday in fear their butts will be smacked by a coworker. This is outrageous.

  41. Lunchy*

    OP, let me say this as someone who reported a manager’s sexual harassment while working retail: When you go to HR, don’t downplay what’s happening. When I reported it, I was afraid, so I said things like “I don’t want him fired,” and “I know he didn’t mean it, I just don’t want it to happen again.” You know what? After that case was “closed” the guy tried to get me fired for things like people returning old light sockets in new boxes ($6 each). HR said the case was closed, so they wouldn’t call it retaliation.
    Treat this as what it is – illegal, an invasion of privacy, harassment, and Not Okay At All. Practice what you’re going to say so you’re ready.
    Good Luck, OP. You got this!

    1. TootsNYC*

      I might suggest you also say, “And I don’t want to get any retaliation for complaining about this. Not from him, and not from other people. That’s not cool.”

  42. Where's the Le-Toose?*

    OP, there are two issues going on. The first is the obvious one that everyone is commenting about and that’s how this employee needs to go and what he’s doing is so beyond the pale that it should be obvious he needs to go.

    The second is that as a manager, regardless of whether you supervise this employee, you are the eyes and ears of the company. And it’s your obligation to report these things immediately so your employer can do a proper investigation and do the right thing to limit the employer’s liability. You are now part of the management team. The butt slapping, etc., should have been reported the second you knew about it, even if you didn’t witness it. That’s what HR is for–to investigate and if found true, help the company remedy these types of issues, such as by firing this employee. And for the hands down the pants in front of you, I get you were embarrassed, but that’s an easy conversation for a manager to have: “Hey you, hands out of the pants NOW!!” and then go to HR.

    I’m not trying to be mean here, but if I were you, I would think deeply about whether you are suited for a management position. If one of your company’s employee’s sues for sexual harassment, the fact that you knew and did nothing will be a field day for the plaintiff’s attorney, and this not only exposes your employer to liability, but could result in you getting fired too.

    If you really want to be a manager, then after you report your scummy employee to HR and your boss, I strongly suggest you take a basic level management class. Take training on sexual harassment prevention, and become aware of resources in your state and community to stop harassment in the workplace. I’m about to begin my 5th year as a manager, with 3 years as a supervisor before that, and what this employee did is so wrong that I can’t wrap my head around the idea that going to HR was not your first thought.

    Best of luck to you.

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      I didn’t realize the OP was a manager. That makes me angry that despite having authority, they are doing NOTHINg about a textbook case of sexual harassment and brushing it off as “expected”.

      OP you need to really get on the game with this. If you told me that being sexual assaulted evertime I work is “expected”, I would be going to a lawyer so fast that you wouldn’t have time to blink.

    2. TootsNYC*

      “it’s your obligation to report these things immediately so your employer can do a proper investigation and do the right thing to limit the employer’s liability. You are now part of the management team.”

      I agree.

  43. stitchinthyme*

    In a normal office job, there are two acceptable reasons for touching a coworker: 1) you’re handing them something and your hand brushes theirs briefly and accidentally; or 2) they’ve just fallen and you’re helping them up or rendering medical aid. That’s it. And there are zero acceptable reasons for touching someone after they’ve told you not to touch them. Period.

    I think the OP should get as many other women who’ve seen this guy with his hand in his pants or been touched by him — especially the ones who’ve told him to stop — and go to HR or management as a group. Complaints made by multiple people are harder to dismiss.

      1. TootsNYC*

        though, don’t tap me. Touch my shoulder lightly with your fingertip, but don’t tap me.

        Had some colleague literally tap me three times because he wanted my attention while I was talking with other colleagues. It hurt, actually, and it was pretty demeaning.
        I was surprised at myself–I actually let him have it for the technique. Right then and there, in front of them all.

        And nobody did or said anything. And he never did it again.

  44. anon for now*

    OP- Couldn’t he be itching something? I don’t think men typically do *what you think you saw* with their pants on, and if his elbow is past his pants line, it sounds like he’s reaching down to his leg (presumably to scratch an itch)? Al Bundy from “Married with Children” used to do something similar with his hands. Also…with his office door open? And no repetitive movements with his arm? Doesn’t sound like much to me…
    But his other behavior is disturbing however…especially touching a female on her lower back. That is way too unprofessional, have others complained to HR? I would certainty cite spanking a female coworker as sexual harassment and could make your company liable if no one is complaining or having those incidents documented.

      1. blackcat*

        If this *is* the case, it’s quite remarkable his medical condition only manifests itself when the boss isn’t in the office.

    1. Poohbear McGriddles*

      I don’t care if you’re hung like a horse, there’s never a need to go elbow deep. And I can’t see how it would be useful for any other “adjustments” either. But the OP doesn’t need to accuse him of choking the chicken, just describe what she saw.

      1. Stop That Goat*

        Eh…you might need to reach past your junk to adjust the bottom of your underwear like boxers or boxer briefs. Personally, I’d still do this in private like a bathroom to avoid the appearance of anything improper.

    2. Jaguar*

      Yeah, the arm-past-the-elbow thing is bizarre and is difficult fit for masturbation on just a logistical level (although, this guy hasn’t earned the benefit of a doubt given he’s already sexually harassing people). I remember a high school teacher that would regularly reach into his button-up shirt and grope his armpit while teaching the class. It was weird, and everyone commented that it was weird (and made fun of him behind his back), but it’s hard to make the case that it’s sexualized.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        To be honest, it doesn’t matter if it was sexual or not sexual touching of himself below his clothes – it’s inappropriate for the office. If he needs to put his hands in his trousers, he should be doing it in the bathroom, or with the door shut at the very least.

    3. MashaKasha*

      That did cross my mind. I had, not one, but two coworkers in the past, one male and one female, who would stick their hand deep inside their pants from the behind and spend a good five minutes scratching their butt, or picking it, or whatever, while talking with other coworkers. Then they’d pull the hand out of their pants and go about their merry way, type on coworkers’ keyboards, point something out on a coworker’s monitor, go into the breakroom and help themselves to the shared lunch. (And this is how I got into the habit of bringing my own silverware to work, instead of using the communal plastic forks.) Ridiculously disgusting, but not predatory. MAYBE this guy was doing something of the same nature. But, like you said, this other sentence, not only makes it unlikely, but is grounds for termination in itself: “Many times, multiple women have asked him not to smack their behind, tickle them, or hug on them. He still continues to do all three.”

      1. GreyjoyGardens*

        Ew, gross! I can’t blame you for bringing your own silverware. I about lost my appetite just reading that.

        Even if “Fergus” is merely adjusting himself or scratching an itch, it’s still gross, because you don’t touch yourself and then go around touching other people’s keyboards and food and whatnot with unwashed hands. That’s just nasty.

    4. Observer*

      It doesn’t matter, though! She knows what she saw, and no matter WHY he is doing it, or WHAT he is trying to accomplish, it’s WILDLY inappropriate. All she needs to do is describe the behavior, no more no less. And Insist that no matter WHAT THE REASON FOR IT IS, the behavior that people can see stop NOW.

      And, of course, the other behavior!

    5. Panda Bandit*

      Phrasing it as “her lower back” is an attempt to minimize things. He’s touched their butts. Call it what it is.

  45. Isabelle*

    “Many times, multiple women have asked him not to smack their behind, tickle them, or hug on them. He still continues to do all three”
    Never mind the (possible) masturbation, how has this man not been fired or at least disciplined yet O_O
    I know OP mentions she’s in an environment that’s not very professional, but this is a lawsuit waiting to happen!

  46. Colorado*

    This post immediately made my stomach sink. This guy knows exactly what he’s doing, exactly. It is calculated, disgusting, and creepy. This is my own self projection but I am so sick of men who think they can get away with or do get away with being inappropriate because women don’t want to make waves. I am guilty of that. We toss it off as “just men being men or that’s what guys do”, but enough! I just had a co-worker tell me he’s going to “tea bag” my desk when I left for vacation. I was honestly so shocked and in awe I didn’t respond. Didn’t f-ing respond. I froze. At that moment I lost all my power and I felt so weak, almost as if I deserved it.

    Enough about me, go to HR now and shut this a**hole down.

  47. Oryx*

    When I worked at the prison I had habitual masturbators in the library. One I didn’t know about until after one of my workers told him to GTFO and then later explained to me why he quietly but sternly told the guy to leave.

    The other one was sort of like this: I was sitting at my desk and looked up and down in the stacks was a guy staring at me with his hand down his pants. Well, okay, his pants were kind of opened and I saw more than I wanted to see but I still had that moment of not being entirely sure I saw what I saw even though I *knew* I saw what I saw, if that makes sense.

    I think you’re having that same moment because you said you don’t want to make an accusation without knowing exactly what you saw even though you just described to all of us what you saw. At the prison, to key to describing these things is being factual. Present facts, clearly and succinctly. Don’t interject with “I think” or “I feel.” No, “I saw X and he did Y.”

    You know what you saw, but it seems that you’ve all been working in an environment where this stuff has gone on for so long you all have adopted a missing stair mentality. At the very least, he’s doing something totally innocuous like he likes to sit around with his hands down his pants. But that’s still completely inappropriate for someone at work, and still fits in with what you can factually describe as having seen. Even then, though, there are other behaviors that you all seem to have accepted as normal and he should be reported to HR.

  48. Tobias Funke*

    Not gonna lie I screamed out loud before we even got to the masturbation part. This person is a sexual predator and is getting off on all of this, including getting caught and getting away with it. I never post without reading the other comments but get thee to HR.

  49. oranges & lemons*

    Ugh, this is disgusting. I’m sorry you and your coworkers have to deal with this, OP. Please do tell someone in a position to fire this guy as he so richly deserves.

  50. Shrunken Hippo*

    “Many times, multiple women have asked him not to smack their behind, tickle them, or hug on them. He still continues to do all three. This behavior has become expected by most of us”

    Just reading that part makes my skin crawl. It’s so wrong!!! Run to HR and make sure to mention his hands down his pants and the fact that HE KEEPS TOUCHING PEOPLE AFTER THEY ASK HIM TO STOP!!!! Frankly it doesn’t matter where he was touching them, as soon as someone asks you to stop, you stop. No excuses.

    Now excuse me while I go watch cute puppy videos to try and feel less gross about life.

  51. One of the Sarahs*

    If you, like me, are someone who’s frozen when confronted with sexual harassment, or things that are ambiguous, but totally unacceptable at work, and didn’t say anything about it, don’t beat yourself up.
    It’s a really weird sensation, and while I was brought up to understand “fight or flight”, I never realised there was “freeze”, too. And as others have said, there is a ton of stigma towards women speaking up, and we can see on this thread that there are people who will jump to defend the actions of someone they’ve never even met, because they can’t believe a man would do things like this. And it’s utterly humiliating to report something and have no one believe them (or, as when I encountered a flasher on my school grounds, have teachers find it funny).
    BUT! It is important to speak up, if you can. Of course it’s better to say something in the moment, but it’s OK to say it later – and even if it feels like no one has done anything the first time, keep speaking up, to different people. I completely get that it’s hard, and horrible – but this is what these types of people rely on. This arsehole is enjoying the fact he can touch women against their will. He can miraculously resist slapping the boss on the backside, or the men in the office, so of course he can stop with the women.
    I’m so sorry this is happening in your office, OP, but as a manager, you have more power than the other staff, so you need to speak up.

    1. Observer*

      The OP is a manager. Which means that she actually has an obligation to speak out – especially about the slapping, tickling and hugging. Hard or not this is actually her job! And, given that he’s done this to multiple women this is totally not about not being believed.

    2. fposte*

      Yeah, when you’re confronted with thing that you can’t imagine somebody doing, it can take a minute before you accept that he’s doing the thing you can’t believe he’s doing. It’s sort of like what people were saying in the post about the co-worker who keeps asking to borrow money–it’s easier to have defenses against stuff you *are* expecting (“Dude, would you refill the paper tray?”) than the unimaginable.

      1. RVA Cat*

        This. It reminds me of the Penn State employee who caught Jerry Sandusky *in the act* – because who expects to walk in on something beyond horrible?

  52. Stop That Goat*

    The hands down the pants stuff I can almost give the benefit of the doubt that he was just adjusting or scratching himself.

    The rest of it is way inappropriate and much more blatantly so. Report it.

      1. Biff*

        Just to be clear, I was the coworker who went to the bathroom and overheard. I didn’t report it because I was mere weeks from leaving that place.

  53. Government Worker*

    Can we stop with the “I’d have done X to him the first time he tried any of that with me” responses? It’s pervasive in this comment thread, and I think it’s really unhelpful. Yes, maybe you would have that reaction, but lots of women freeze, or don’t quite trust their own eyes, or are scared to say anything, or really need to keep their jobs and choose to tolerate it rather than rocking the boat. This guy is probably an expert at harassing women who have less power within the organization than he does, or who are younger, or shyer, or less confident, or who have been sucked in by the dysfunction of the office. He doesn’t get in trouble because he targets people who are unable or unwilling to speak up. Saying “I’d have screamed at him and run to HR” kind of sounds like you’re blaming these women for not having done that yet and for being complacent in their own harassment, and that’s kind of sucky.

    So, OP, you do need to speak up and tell HR or your manager. It may well suck, both in terms of being scary and awkward in the moment and by generating some long-term repercussions that you totally don’t deserve (and that shouldn’t happen if the company is a decent one). But speaking up is the only way to get this to stop. You can be the one who’s brave enough to take it on, and that will help all the women who have had to put up with this guy’s crap.

    1. Observer*

      I mostly agree with you. What is useful about these responses, though, is that it hopefully helps the OP see just how out of line this behavior is, and the risk to the company he presents, as well.

    2. SarahTheEntwife*

      Yes, thank you! I know how I react in unexpected situations, and I would either freeze or I would yell from being startled and then apologize for yelling.

  54. NaoNao*

    A lot of people in the comments are saying that they would punch someone, someone would “lose a finger” etc etc if they were slapped on the butt or otherwised touched without their consent.

    I don’t disagree with the sentiment, but I have to ask, politely, if that’s *really* true, and if it really helps the LW. I personally have *never in my life* struck someone in anger and as angry as I get seeing it happen or being the victim of unwanted touching, it’s a firm boundary I am almost incapable of crossing. I’m like a previous commentor: I freeze and ask myself “did that just happen?” and by the time I’m mad, it’s over.

    I’ve had people “trap” me on the bus and borderline harass me, men yell insults or crude come-on’s at me, grope me, or otherwise unwanted touch me, I’ve had male coworkers tell racist, sexist, gross jokes, or tell stories that were too blue to be printed here. And I sat through it with a frozen, agonized smile on my face because I was *afraid*. Afraid to make a scene, afraid to be thought of as the perp, the crazy one, or “over-reacting.” And I was afraid of worse consequences than being touched or suffering through a crude joke, like, I dunno, getting shot or getting acid thrown at me, as has happened to women who say “no” to angry, predatory, unstable men. Or in a less extreme circumstance, getting iced out at work to the point of losing my job.

    It’s easy to *say* that you would scream, make a scene, or kick someone in the groin. But I feel like that’s sort of…hurtful or not helpful to the thousands or millions of women who freeze and are socially conditioned *on pain of death* to suffer through it.

    1. fposte*

      I think it’s often a way people express their rage and horror and state what he deserves to have happen to him. However, I agree that it can end up sounding like “Well, I wouldn’t have stood for that,” and dreams of internet righteousness generally do exceed what we’d do in the moment.

      1. Mookie*

        I also think that in this instance it’s a reminder to the OP that this behavior is so wrong it warrants a physical reaction. I agree with the sentiment, though, that playing Internet Tough Victim is not helpful.

    2. Beckie*

      “And I was afraid of worse consequences than being touched or suffering through a crude joke, like, I dunno, getting shot or getting acid thrown at me, as has happened to women who say “no” to angry, predatory, unstable men. Or in a less extreme circumstance, getting iced out at work to the point of losing my job.

      It’s easy to *say* that you would scream, make a scene, or kick someone in the groin. But I feel like that’s sort of…hurtful or not helpful to the thousands or millions of women who freeze and are socially conditioned *on pain of death* to suffer through it.”

      This is a terrific point and worth highlighting. Many people freeze in the moment, and are too shocked to immediately respond. (And then, of course, when you DO speak up and say something, you hear, “Well, why didn’t you say anything when it happened?”)

    3. KR*

      Someone in this commenting section pointed out something similar to me after I said something like that once, and it really resonated with me. I don’t think the people saying this mean any I’ll intent, but it’s a good point either way.

    4. Blue Anne*

      The first and only time someone tried to grab my ass without my consent, yes, I actually did punch him. He ran away, off into the darkness off the park, away from my well-lit sidewalk. I was walking aback to my dorm after getting some milk from the corner shop, and he had started by asking if he could hire me for sex. That was the day I stopped being a pacifist.

      There are definitely a ton of people who react by freezing up, and I wish more people would recognize that so women aren’t blamed for “not fighting back”. But a lot of us mean it when we say we’d throw a punch.

    5. MashaKasha*

      Agree. I highly doubt a lot of us would actually physically punch a coworker in the face the first time he’d try that. Maybe half of us would come up with a firm “NO.” Personally, if it’s the first time and it’s not something I’m expecting, I wouldn’t even do that. I’d just freeze, because I’d be shocked.

    6. Knitting Cat Lady*

      My startle response is rather extreme. And I’m extremely touch averse.

      It doesn’t matter how and where you touch me, if I’m not expecting it I will push you away.

      And if I’m touched somewhere near my boobs or my ass? All bets are off.

      So, yeah, someone groping me would be in for a bad time.

    7. Student*

      Yes, I have actually hurt men who have sexually harassed me. Sometimes mildly, like a scolding slap – sometimes much worse. And I have found it to be very effective at stopping the unwanted behavior. They steer clear of me and bother someone else – someone who freezes up instead.

      No man I’ve injured for sexual harassment has ever dared to try to report me, either to a manager or to the police.

      And I recognize that many women are deeply uncomfortable with personally being violent, socialized out of it at a very early age, and nearly incapable of it on a practical level. That is exactly the kind of behavior these sexual assaulters are counting on.

      I encourage other women out there to learn to be violent when needed. That line you learned when growing up, “Violence never solved anything” is a lie to keep you in line socially. Violence shouldn’t be a daily go-to, but it is an effective solution, most especially to violence toward you. It is broadly socially acceptable to meet violence with violence, to the point of being broadly codified in self-defense law, that responding to violence with proportionate violence is sensible and effective and should be expected – for men. Police are trained to have violent responses to violent aggression for a reason – it’s effective and it keeps them safe. Violence is a spectrum – there’s a big different between causing a mild, painful, and temporary injury (slap, punch lacking full force) to somebody who grabbed your butt, and cutting off the guy’s finger. You don’t have to be ready and capable of killing somebody to use violence as an effective deterrent in these situations. You don’t have to be big nor strong. You just have to not be a good, compliant victim.

      Women are the ones socialized that violence is never okay. Go ask men how they have actually responded to other men being violent toward them. As a woman, you aren’t socialized out of violence because that’s actually a great idea – you’re socialized out of violence because it makes you easier for men (who are more willing, encouraged, and taught about effective uses of violence) to control.

  55. NaoNao*

    A lot of people in the comments are saying that they would punch someone, someone would “lose a finger” etc etc if they were slapped on the butt or otherwised touched without their consent.

    I don’t disagree with the sentiment, but I have to ask, politely, if that’s *really* true, and if it really helps the LW. I personally have *never in my life* struck someone in anger and as angry as I get seeing it happen or being the victim of unwanted touching, it’s a firm boundary I am almost incapable of crossing. I’m like a previous commentor: I freeze and ask myself “did that just happen?” and by the time I’m mad, it’s over.

    I’ve had people “trap” me on the bus and borderline harass me, men yell insults or crude come-on’s at me, grope me, or otherwise unwanted touch me, I’ve had male coworkers tell racist, sexist, gross jokes, or tell stories that were too blue to be printed here. And I sat through it with a frozen, agonized smile on my face because I was *afraid*. Afraid to make a scene, afraid to be thought of as the perp, the crazy one, or “over-reacting.” And I was afraid of worse consequences than being touched or suffering through a crude joke, like, I dunno, getting shot or getting acid thrown at me, as has happened to women who say “no” to angry, predatory, unstable men. Or in a less extreme circumstance, getting iced out at work to the point of losing my job.

    It’s easy to *say* that you would scream, make a scene, or kick someone in the groin. But I feel like that’s sort of…hurtful or not helpful to the thousands or millions of women who freeze and are socially conditioned *on pain of death* to suffer through it.

      1. Master Bean Counter*

        I would do it, and I have.
        I always ask politely the first time for them not to touch me, block the doorway, or to put their junk back in their pants.
        I’ve actually loudly asked a guy in public what was wrong with him that made him think he could grope me. I’ve told a coworker that I did not want to see his junk at work ever again. And I have grabbed and twisted the wondering hand of another coworker who couldn’t keep it to himself.

      2. Anonimouse*

        I have, and I would. Not in every situation (there have been situations where the safest thing to do was to get away, quickly), but in situations where it seemed safe enough I have yelled and/or quickly moved towards the person and/or slapped them. (I live in a country with strict gun laws, though.)

    1. Tobias Funke*

      I have fought back against violence and have frozen and taken violence. I have said something and not said something. I have hit people “unprovoked” but the provocation was years of bullying (as a kid). Now I’m in my 30s and haven’t been in a fight since high school but I would again in the right situation.

      It’s impossible to know how you’re going to react in this situation until you’re in it. And thank you for not doing this in your comment but the comment section here is often tinged with “violence is always the wrong answer and is never appropriate and I am too civilized and evolved to ever consider such a thing!”. It’s easy to say that when violence has never been a survival skill.

      1. Amber Rose*

        More or less what I would have said. There’s a reason military and police training is so brutal, it’s to try and get that “lash out” instinct to override the “freeze” one. Otherwise it’s shared, maybe 50/50, maybe 30/70, kinda depends on your personality and upbringing and stuff.

    2. seejay*

      Yep, it’s genuinely difficult to know how you’re going to react. I’d like to think I’d know… but you don’t. Some people *can* react appropriately and kudos to those who do respond well. Giving advice on what to do is all well and good but unless someone can execute it, it’s not going to help. I’ve been groped by a stranger and literally froze up because I was so *shocked* it happened, I couldn’t respond at the time. When the outrage came in, it was too late to respond. A lot of predators rely on that shock to get away with their behaviour, which is what this dude is doing.

      Empowering the women in the office and the OP is what’s needed. The comment section here will hopefully help her figure out how to approach the whole thing and get the rest of the women together in order to get this guy the hell out of there. I tried to take the incident I went through and learn from it and if I get groped by a random stranger again, I hope I can react appropriately next time instead of freezing in shock.

  56. Manager Mary*

    OP… who is tolerating the sexual assault? Are your coworkers not reporting any of it, or is your employer refusing to address it? Either way, it needs to stop IMMEDIATELY and your entire office needs to attend sexual harassment prevention training.

  57. Noah*

    Assuming he’s not masturbating (and I think he isn’t), the “hands-in-the-pants” is probably the least problematic behavior OP describes.

      1. Stop That Goat*

        I think the argument could be made that he’s adjusting himself or his underwear, etc. I wouldn’t go straight to touching himself. In all fairness though, I am a guy so I can see the sudden need to adjust those parts when things get uncomfortable. That also means I can be blind to some forms of sexism and harassment though so I can’t deny that it’s wholly possible this is just additional predatory behavior.

        Of course, he should adjust himself in private if that’s the case. No question there.

        1. Gaia*

          I mean… is it possible he wasn’t getting his jollies? Sure. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say “I don’t think he was.”

  58. Master Bean Counter*

    OP how you have not said in a very loud voice, “What is wrong with you? remove your hand from your pants.” or “What is wrong with you, why do you keep touching women after they’ve said don’t do that?” is beyond me.
    The awkward is on him. Honestly the guy is a walking sexual harassment suit. If he didn’t want to be caught fondling himself he’d close the door before he starts. He’s living for the surprise and the shocked reaction.
    Please call him out on it, to anybody that will listen.

    1. fposte*

      “How have you not” is exactly the kind of approach people are concerned about upthread, though. She hasn’t because it’s more complicated than you’re implying, and that’s also not the issue, so I think there are better ways to frame it.

      1. Master Bean Counter*

        I forgot to include that I admire her for not saying that. Because it would require all of my restraint and some I’ve borrowed to not do that.

  59. ella*

    Recently, a friend of mine had a co-worker who likes to give hugs (Friend and friend’s CW are different genders, not that that matters, Friend doesn’t like hugs). After CW realized that she doesn’t like hugs, he thought it would be funny to ambush-hug her, or act like he was going to hug her and then not, ha ha funny funny look at this joke that I am making about hugging. Just a joke! Everything’s fine!

    One day CW decided to hug Friend from behind. Friend, not realizing what was happening, reacted instinctively and turned and shoved him. Shoved so hard that he hit a table, went over the table, knocked several computers off the table, and hit the wall behind the table. So, then it became A Whole Big Thing.

    Luckily (?), Management was on her side, understood that she had reacted instinctively and that she wasn’t trying to start fistfights in the office, and there were multiple witnesses to Friend telling CW not to hug her, and his continued attempts at hugging. Her response? “If they knew it was inappropriate, why did they wait for it to escalate so far that I HIT HIM to get him to stop? If somebody besides me had told him his joke wasn’t funny, he would have stopped.”

    The situations are different. I think the coworker of the Letter Writer is a predator and my friend’s coworker is the sort of guy who just doesn’t listen. But even so…what does this dude have to do to provoke a reaction? Do you really want to wait until someone loses it and puts him into a wall (or until he corners somebody in the bathroom), before it becomes a Whole Big Thing? It’s already a big thing, you’re just pretending it isn’t.

    1. Gadfly*

      That is why a lot of “the sort of guy who just doesn’t listen” are actually rapists. People make excuses for men who can’t be bothered to care if someone else consented if it gets in the way of their own enjoyment…. so lazy versus active asshole is the main difference I see in that bit of apologetics…

    2. Observer*

      OP, please take this story to heart. I’m not saying that any of the victims are obligated to put this guy through the wall. But understand that if management backed her, there was a reason for it! And that reason was that what he was doing was so out of the pale that strong physical self defense was warranted.

    3. neverjaunty*

      No, this dude isn’t “the sort of person who just doesn’t listen”, since he would apparently have listened TO A SUPERVISOR telling him to knock it off, per your friend. It’d be more accurate to say that he’s the sort of person who refuses to consider other people as human beings unless there are consequences for him not doing so.

  60. SaraV*

    …have asked him not to smack their behind…

    I stopped right after this phrase and mentally rage yelled.

    One conversation from HR or his manager.

    You will NOT hit anyone one on the behind.

    You will NOT tickle anyone.

    You will NOT give anyone unwanted hugs.

    One more instance of unwanted physical contact towards anyone after this conversation, whether it happen next week, next month, next year, or 10 years from now…gone.

    This is probably the strongest and most black & white reaction I’ve had to a letter.

  61. Anonaconda*

    Oh my God. It’s not the 1950s anymore, OP, you don’t have to put up with behavior like ass-slapping.

    Please report this predator ASAP. If not for you, then do it because his behavior is escalating, and who knows where he’ll go from here. I shudder to think of you or one of your female coworkers getting caught alone in an elevator with him.

  62. Rachel Green*

    I can’t believe how many people in the comments are trying to explain or defend this guy’s actions. No matter his reasons for doing what he’s doing, he absolutely needs to be reported. There’s an episode of Brooklyn 99 where Detective Peralta questions a guy arrested for murder, and the suspect explains why he did it (I don’t remember details, it was some sob story that he was using to defend his actions), and Peralta’s response is “Cool story. Still murder, though.”

    If, after being reported, this guy wants to try to explain his actions, then so be it. But, the reply should be, “Cool story. But you still need to stop.”

    Nobody should have to put up with, or get used to, or expect this kind of behavior in the office, at home, on a plane, on a train, in a park, wherever!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I didn’t think she was defending his actions, just questioning if he was definitely a predator — but not saying what he did was okay. (And she was one person and got roundly disagreed with, so I’m still confused about the “how many people” Rachel Green is referring to.)

        2. Observer*

          I’d say she was definitely minimizing. But I agree that it was ONE person, and definitely odd to see it described as “how many people”.

          1. Lissa*

            This happens all the time. One person says something really outlier, they get piled on by about 100 people, and then later someone brings up it like it was a lively 50/50 debate. Maybe because the fact that the conversation keeps on for so long people lose the fact that it’s 1 to 100?

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        There are a couple of “maybe he’s just adjusting himself/got a problem with itching” types, and “don’t jump to thinking it’s sexual, it might not be” – but that’s been met with a ton of “even if that’s true, it’s inappropriate”. And there’s one that’s saying it’s unfair to make assumptions that he’s a predator.
        But it’s pretty clear the vast majority of comments are horrified by his actions.

        1. Observer*

          Actually, except for the person trying to claim that he might not be a predator because “we don’t have all the facts”, no one is trying to explain this guy’s behavior. More like, as one poster put it, “the touching is not the part you want to lead with” because this could be just gross while the other is insane.

          The adjusting bit is a side distraction, and the person who brought it up CLEARLY said that what she is experiencing is NO WAY like what the OP described.

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            I’m not talking about the person who said CLEARLY that what she is experiencing is NO WAY like what the OP described. There are multiple people suggesting the touching himself might not be sexual – there are explanations like the need to adjust underwear, itching, skin disorders etc throughout the the thread. For example:

            “OP- Couldn’t he be itching something? I don’t think men typically do *what you think you saw* with their pants on, and if his elbow is past his pants line, it sounds like he’s reaching down to his leg (presumably to scratch an itch)? Al Bundy from “Married with Children” used to do something similar with his hands. Also…with his office door open? And no repetitive movements with his arm? Doesn’t sound like much to me…”

            And there are more comments like that along the same lines – some, like this one, saying it’s probably not sexual, but going on to say the other stuff is, and others just stopping at suggesting adjustment or medical issues.

            1. Jules the Third*

              All but one of the people saying ‘it could be something besides masturbation’ follow with ‘the sexual assault / harassment is a clear problem. Go to HR on that issue.’ I don’t think they’re downplaying his overall behavior, they’re just saying ‘this one aspect (hand in pants) can be downplayed, but he should be fired for the harassment.’

              (I’m in the ‘he’s an escalating predator’ camp myself, but I do see how ‘hand in pants’ can be ignored if there’s no mention of the other physical assaults. Slapping butts and tickling? No Way!)

  63. The Supreme Troll*

    I think when the OP goes to talk to her manager about the male coworker’s behavior, she should play the classic Divinyls song in the background…(j/k).

    But really, with all of the crap that this guy has pulled so far, it would take a miracle for him not to be fired. OP, as I’m sure many other commenters have mentioned, please report him immediately. You would be doing yourself and all of those who have to interact with this guy a great deal of good in not ignoring this. Best of luck.

  64. MissDisplaced*

    If it were JUST the hand down the pants thing, I might give more benefit of the doubt and say the guy has a jock itch problem (which is still inappropriate to scratch in the office). But the other stuff, the tickling, hugging, smacking on the ass and stuff is beyond the pale and the guy is a lawsuit waiting to happen. My guess here is he’s watching porn on company time. HR should check his computer, and I don’t doubt that is what they will find.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I think that’s the relevance of his holding the phone in one hand while the other is down his pants–he’s watching porn, but has the bare wit to do it on his phone and not his company computer.

      (It’s also evidence that he probably doesn’t just have a fungal infection. Who stops prescratch to load up Candy Crush on their phone and then plays one-handed throughout the scritching session, while claiming that shutting the door would be just too much effort?)

  65. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    OP, think of it this way. You’re not responsible for this guy’s actions. But you are responsible for yours. You are a manager. You know of a serious problem in your company. Members of your staff have been assaulted. Yet you haven’t taken any action. Why?

    This so-called man is a predator. He is dangerous. If he hasn’t already, he will escalate his behaviour. You can count on it. He has learned no one will stop him or speak out against him. This is only going to get worse.

    Follow the advice you’ve been given. Do your job as a manager and report this behaviour. And have all the women in your office band together and speak up as a group. None of you have to face this alone. I understand being scared. We all do. The problem is that this is going to get worse unless he is stopped.

    By the way, you can also count on people outside your workplace already knowing what’s going on. People talk, and word travels far. I guarantee that your employees have friends and family who are very worried about them and would be willing to raise hell if they’re harmed in any way. If the safety of women are meaningless to this company, then perhaps the potential hit to their reputation will force them to take action.

    1. Interviewer*

      OP, this is what I was coming to say. Others have addressed the multiple legal issues involved, including your own obligation to address it as a manager in the company. It may be spur you to take action if you consider the situation this way:

      What if you are not the only one who has witnessed the activity in his office? With everything you do know, what has he done that you have no idea about?

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        Exactly. Chances are very high that he’s done far more than what’s mentioned in the letter. And someone’s seen it or employees have told others about it. Think about how often people complain about their jobs. This is far more serious than the usual griping. This is criminal and serious violation of people’s (yes, women are people) bodily integrity. These women are telling their friends and families, asking them for advice. Sooner or later, someone is going to make an anonymous post or write to head office. When that happens, some very ugly details are going to come to light.

        I only hope I’m wrong because it means I don’t want more people to have been hurt. I truly hope this is the extent of it (which is still pretty bad). But either way, you’re right and there are likely other witnesses.

  66. Pomona Sprout*

    Uhh….. OP, what exactly did you mean when you said you and your coworkers are “afraid of what may cone” if you report this pervert? Because honestly, I felt like my head was going to explode when I read that.

    YOU, my dear have absolutely nothing to fear, and neither do your female colleagues. The person who should be fearful is the pervert/predator/gross ass pos who has been groping you ladies all this time with no consequences, and HE should be shaking in his shoes. Never mind what he’s doing alone in his office; he deserves to be fired for his longstanding patern of sexual abuse and harassment ALONE. The recent “hand in the pants” hijinks are just the frosting on a very large and disgusting cake.

    PLEASE report him asap, and do not put up with his horribly inappropriate behavior for one more minute longer than you have to!

    1. NaoNao*

      Well, the thing is, they do actually have something(s) to fear.

      Glares and sighs from male colleagues who just “don’t get it”
      Alienation from female colleagues who want to draft off the power and acceptance of less-woke male colleagues and appear “cool”
      A failed lawsuit which results in retaliation
      Being known as “troublemakers” and being “managed out”
      The long drawn out crap show that is a trial or investigation
      The retaliation of the offender himself

      I am in no way saying that this guy is somehow excused or that the OP shouldn’t go to a higher power with this. But acting like it’s a “no brainer” is not fair. Women have been punished, both indirectly and directly, for bringing allegations of sexual harassment and hostile workplaces.

  67. Soupspoon McGee*

    Serious question: If a coworker smacks me on the butt and I reflexively defend myself, am I in trouble too? Because if that happens, I will throw an elbow, knee, or fist.

  68. BobaFett69*

    How does anyone think this is appropriate behavior? He obviously has issues he needs to attend to, and not at work! Ladies, never put up with a “man” that acts like this. I had to watch a former manager go through a break up in which he immediately started to try to have sex with every female.that worked with us. After he quit they told me how uncomfortable they were but they played along with him while he worked there because they didn’t want fired. So he went unreported. NEVER LET SOMEONE INTIMIDATE YOU!!!

  69. Kirsty*

    I remember working once and one of the guys came up behind me and started to massage my neck/shoulders, this made me so uncomfortable but it was one of my first ‘grown up jobs’ so I didn’t know how to handle it.
    Later on I was really standoffish and uncomfortable making tea in the break room and one of the other guys asked me what was wrong. I explained to him what had happened.
    I have no idea what he did or said but the touchy/feely guy barely ever spoke to me again and didn’t like to be in a room alone with me! Speaking up can really help :)

    1. DeeDee*

      Report this to your HR in a group. A group is much better than one person reporting a situation like this. Nobody has to accept behavior like he is showing in the workplace. If HR doesnt take this seriously go higher. I would personally bet HR already knows about this guy.

      I am a personel manager with a masters degree in HR. Always report this type of a situation.

  70. KLH*

    Seriously? You need to ask someone if this behavior should be reported? I don’t get it.

Comments are closed.