my boss removed me from a work trip because I’m a woman

A reader writes:

I work for a government organization that is a subset of county government. In this organization, very rarely, employees may be sent on trips to pick up items that cannot be mailed. These trips vary from one hour to eight hours round trip.

Last week, my department had one of these trips, and I was told that I might need to accompany the point person to break up the driving. A few days before the trip, I was told that I did not need to go and that a person from another department, who had no involvement in the items being picked up or the project that they are involved in, would be going instead. It is relevant that the point person and the person who ultimately accompanied them are both men and I am a woman.

A few days ago, I was told that my manager removed me from the trip to ensure that there was not a situation where “false accusations might be made.” I am personally offended by this and feel like the manager questions my integrity, but I am also deeply concerned that if I had gone on the trip and the point person had done something inappropriate, my manager would immediately dismiss it as a false accusation. I feel that this has serious implications far beyond my personal feelings.

The person who informed me of this witnessed the discussion that led to the decision. She is horrified and has already informed our HR of the incident, but I don’t know if anything has been done at this point. No one has spoken to me directly except the person who told me, who is a supervisor but not mine.

Is it worth my going to HR as well, even though someone has already informed them? If I feel like nothing has been done, is it appropriate to go to the HR department of the county that oversees us?

Hell yes and hell yes.

Your manager removed you from a work duty (a) because of your gender and (b) because they apparently don’t believe men and women can safely travel in a car together, and they’re willing to make work decisions accordingly. And your manager’s default is to believe that allegations from a woman are false. Each one of these is incredibly problematic and opens the company to legal liability, as well as casting doubt on whether your boss can manage employees impartially at all.

That is more than enough to warrant going to HR, but it also raises questions about how else these biases might play out at work. If your manager is a man, is he willing to have closed-door meetings with men but not women? Does he give men more face time than he gives women because of concerns about allegations or propriety or who knows what? Is he selecting who gets sent on business trips based even slightly on gender? All of this is wildly problematic and would present more legal liability for your company.

So yes, HR and then escalate to the county HR if needed. You’d be doing them a favor by ensuring they hear about it and take it seriously. Even if they’ve heard from the person who witnessed it, a complaint from you — the person who was directly affected — should carry significant weight, and sometimes that’s needed to move things along.

{ 308 comments… read them below }

  1. Reality Check*

    Even if they’ve heard from the person who witnessed it, a complaint from you — the person who was directly affected — should carry significant weight, and sometimes that’s needed to move things along.

    This. I’m afraid if they don’t hear from you, they’ll just let it slide.

      1. PollyQ*

        It only happened last week, so it wouldn’t be surprising that it isn’t necessarily resolved yet.

        1. Lab Boss*

          Agree- small things can be dealt with quickly. Screaming big-deal things can take more time to gather all the ducks in a row before taking action, especially when it’s something like this that’s a big deal but isn’t necessarily an emergency (in the sense nobody’s about to get injured by the problem).

  2. Falling Diphthong*

    Halfway through I thought “Have they had problems with the driver, and hit on never leaving him alone with women as the solution?” So when I got to the part about how the manager is doing this to prevent false allegations being made against the driver…

    Yeah, OP, this is bad for all the reasons Alison gives.

    1. anonymous73*

      Honestly that would be worse. And if nothing is done about this, I’d be polishing off my resume. I wouldn’t want to work for a place that lets this type of thing be brushed under the rug.

    2. Lyudie*

      This was my first thought, driver is a known creeper and missing stair. Gross gross gross from every angle.

      1. Karia*

        And that because there wasn’t cast iron recorded evidence, Management have decided that multiple women must be lying, because Ron Isn’t Like That.

        1. yala*

          That or they’ve decided to decide the women are lying because Ron is Just Too Good At What He Does.

          But yeah, the very first thing that crossed my mind is that this is their idea of trying to prevent a recurring problem

        2. ferrina*

          Or “We don’t want to ruin Ron’s career over something he admits he did and says he knows was wrong. He says he’s very sorry and won’t do it again.” (actual explanation from OldJob’s CEO on why he didn’t fire someone who committed sexual assault.)

    3. Heffalump*

      Inappropriate behavior by the male driver would be fine, but God forbid false accusations should be made. /s

    4. Dog Fan*

      There is absolutely nothing in the letter that suggests the driver has a history of inappropriate behavior.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        He might not. He might be horrified to learn that the manager in question thinks “women will always make false accusations about any dude” is being used by his managers.

        But this is not a surprising company move when they have a missing stair.

      2. Kella*

        It’s certainly not a guarantee that there’s a history of inappropriate behavior behind this decision BUT if OP has been on these trips before and not exclusively traveled with other women in the past, it raises the question of why the manager was concerned about false accusations now but that had never been raised in the past. It’s a lot of if’s that we don’t know enough details to make an accurate guess on so good not to assume one way or the other, but it’s certainly a possible reason.

        1. quill*

          It either says something about the dude OP was scheduled to go with or about the manager if that’s the case.

      3. Ellie*

        Yes, I think the phrasing is very telling. If the driver was the problem, I’d have expected to hear something like, ‘We don’t send Bill on any long trips with female co-workers’ – still awful but probably means that the OP won’t be directly discriminated against because Bill is the problem (one they’ve chosen to tolerate… but at least the women aren’t being blamed for his behaviour). With this wording though he’s putting the blame on women collectively, making false reports. So he is predispositioned to believe that OP is a liar. That’s going to come out in all sorts of ways and I wouldn’t want someone like that managing me.

    5. WillowSunstar*

      I’d love to know why that driver is still employed by this company, if it’s that big of a concern.

      1. Not a cat*

        It’s not a company, it’s a unit of local government and I’ll bet the staff are members of the public employees union. Just these two items make “just get rid of him” much more complex. It can be done with thorough documentation, good management and HR that gives a darn.

        1. Union myth-busting*

          Unions protect their contract, which is legally binding and signed by both parties. There is not a single public employee contract in this country that does not have a process for firing employees due to misconduct. Where unions do step in is when management does not follow the procedures outlined in the contract – and they do this to protect all employees, not the one who has acted wrongly. Unions are not the barrier to firing a bad employee; bad managers are the barrier.

          1. 1LFTW*


            Public sector union worker here. I have *seen* good managers fire bad employees. Sure, there’s a process that has to be followed, but good managers are willing to follow the process in order to protect their other employees from the problem employee. It’s no different than non-union jobs I’ve had where there’s a decent HR structure.

            Unions are a convenient scapegoat for a manager who’s too conflict avoidant or lazy to deal with the problem.

          2. Ash*

            This is blatantly false when it comes to police and corrections officers’ unions. In those cases, the union leadership and the contracts they have negotiated are directly the reason why bad cops/prison guards are kept on the force. Countless investigations have been published reinforcing this fact.

            1. Union myth-busting*

              Yes, thank you for adding that important correction, Ash. I completely agree and I should have framed this better. What I had in mind is public sector unions who represent, say, workers who work for state agencies like welfare/transitional assistance, housing, etc. Not that they are not tied to the carceral state as well, but I’ll leave that to the side and just say that their unions function VERY VERY differently from police unions.

        2. LW*

          Unfortunately, we are not unionized here. I don’t know if any accusations against the driver and have never felt he would behave inappropriately.

          1. ToS*

            That’s well and good – your manager has likely forgotten all of their EEO/Fair Practice/Equity training. This is about your manager – don’t get wild with the speculation because they might be parroting stuff their parents/church peers/other-personal bias-influencers would say. Talk to the whoever handles discrimination at work for a confidential consult, because your manager is not leading As A Professional, and is creating liability for your employer.

          2. Observer*

            It could be that there are issues you don’t know about. It could be that there are issues about your boss that you don’t know about and he’s projecting. Or it could be that your boss has just read too many pieces about “all those false accusations” that never happened.

            It doesn’t really matter which one it is to some extent. Your boss made a work decision that maligns you and also has direct negative effect on your work. That by itself is something that HR totally should be on top of.

          1. Cee*

            Definitely. Some of the strongest unions are public ( in NYC at least). Think police unions, public school teachers, sanitation etc.

            1. Help Us All*

              News for y’all…most US federal non-manager employees are covered by a collective bargaining agreement. Tr@#p tried to eviscerate Federal unions and the civil service, but thankfully was unable to fully do so during his one term. Only the USPS unions negotiate pay and benefits though, Congress determines those things for most of the rest of us feds.

      2. MBK*

        There might not be any actual concerns about the driver. Manager might just have some idiotic notion that men and women should never be alone together because there might either be (a) inappropriate behavior or (b) a false accusation of inappropriate behavior.

        Obviously neither of those things could ever happen between colleagues of the same sex or gender. /s

    6. LW*

      To my knowledge, there is no history of inappropriate behavior by the driver, or any type of accusation against him. I fully believe that the manager made the decision entirely on his own.

      1. tamarak & fireweed*

        It seems to me that then the driver could also be roped in to help here. Because while the obvious unacceptable supposition here is “LW might make a false accusation” (obviously sexist discrimination), a secondary one is “driver might harass a woman he’s left alone with”, which is also not something he should have to put up with.

        Good luck.

        1. Autumn*

          One thing that occurred to me is maybe the driver joined the Mike Pence “I refuse to be alone with any woman other than my wife” club. The root reasons for that, (religion) are just as much a third rail as “avoiding false accusations” and as a result the request could have created some foolish and ham handed statements. If true there will be the danger of an office full of angry Yellowjackets.

          I’m so over the creeping sexism from that end of the swamp.

          1. NotRealAnonForThis*

            Membership in that club should limit HIS ability to perform his job, rather than limiting the ability of his coworkers who happen to be women. They didn’t join the club, he did.

            Agreed. Way over the sexism and nonsense.

          2. bopper*

            If a Mike Pence doesn’t want to be alone with women, then he can set it up so he is never alone with anyone so it is fair.

        2. BabyElephantWalk*

          Except the phrasing of “false accusations” specifically implies that if anything happens the manager is putting the onus on the woman. It’s a specific piece of sexism and gender discrimination against women.

      2. Help Us All*

        And he made that poor decision based on purely heteronormative “concerns”, if you can call it that. Just awful all the way around. LW, escalate this garbage, sorry it happened to you.

    7. Petty Betty*

      It made me think that the boss himself has made inappropriate comments or done things that HE passed off as “false allegations” and was believed, so now he’s making sure that no other guy under him is place “in the same compromising position” for *their* safety and reputation, rather than actually protecting women. Gotta protect potential perpetrators, y’know.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        This, or the manager is one of those uber-religious Pence dudes who thinks all blame would and should be laid at Woman’s door. Either way, it’s gross.

  3. Sparkles McFadden*

    I am the sort of person who wouldn’t go to HR if my hair was on fire and they had the only extinguisher and I say GO TO HR!

    This is outrageous and I am sure it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Go to HR! This is what they’re there for.

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      You can pitch it as “I have no interest in spending eight hours in a car with Sammy, but I want to be treated as an equal in this organization and that means that if my client needs us to drive out there, I should take my share of the responsibility.”

      1. Tired Social Worker*

        Also this could impact pay, if it is an 8 hour round trip and LW is eligible for overtime pay was she denied this because of her gender?

        1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          Could impact pay as well based on per diem allotments and/or reimbursement access, depending on the vehicle to be taken, and policies on how and when folks get reimbursed.

          1. The OTHER Other.*

            It could also have an impact on annual reviews or promotion. She is kept from doing these trips, yet could be dinged for “not being a team player”.

            Add me to the list of commentators that think this is probably just the sleazy tip of an even sleazier iceberg.

      2. Anonymous Koala*

        This is a great way to phrase it. If I’m ever in need of similar language I’m definitely stealing this.

    2. Yvette*

      “I am the sort of person who wouldn’t go to HR if my HAIR was on fire and they had the only extinguisher and I say GO TO HR!” I don’t know why, but I initially read this as “I am the sort of person who wouldn’t go to HR if my BRA was on fire and they had the only extinguisher and I say GO TO HR!”

      I think I like my version better. But I totally agree with you. And OP, Please update.

    3. Observer*

      This is outrageous and I am sure it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

      This. 1,000 times over.

  4. Presea*

    Is your manager doubting your integrity, or have there been a lot of so-called ‘false’ accusations coming out about one particular coworker who you would have been in a car with that your manager is simultaneously doubting, covering up, and trying to prevent more of? All of this is gross, full of red flags, and you deserve the peace of mind that comes from addressing it, OP!

    1. C in the Hood*

      This was where my mind went first, though the entire situation does deserve to be addressed, regardless.

    2. Observer*

      Where my mind went was accusations against the manager. But your versions are equally likely.

    3. pancakes*

      Even in the extremely unlikely event that there have been a lot of false allegations from one particular coworker, it doesn’t follow that that one coworker is an ambassador for and representative of all women. Every time this type of behavior comes up, people try to bargain it down to appearing reasonable in some convoluted scenario. It still isn’t reasonable! It’s still ridiculously sexist and thoroughly unacceptable.

      1. mlem*

        I don’t think Presea was trying to present a “reasonable” spin, just trying to point out there’s a different awful angle — that the boss doesn’t doubt the LW’s integrity in specific, but rather that the boss *knows of allegations against the coworker* and has specifically decided to protect them (and doubts the integrity of women *in general* — still awful, but on a different axis).

        1. pancakes*

          It’s not any better in terms of redeeming the boss. The boss thinks the letter writer is deeply untrustworthy either way, due to her being a woman.

          1. Presea*

            I wasn’t trying to redeem the boss, I was trying to give the OP even more reasons to go to HR

      2. Cj*

        The comment was about multiple allegations being made against this particular coworker (possibly by more than one person) not multiple ones being made by the same coworker (against possibly more than one co-worker). I’m sure that’s why they put false in quotes. Because if there are multiple allegations against the same coworker, there’s a good chance that they aren’t false.

        They still need to go to HR, because if this is the case and the manager is covering it up, HR needs to know.

        1. Presea*

          You’re exactly correct in terms of my intent. If there are accusations of any sort, true or false, HR needs to know about them so they can do something about whoever the offenders are – and as you said, if there are several unrelated allegations against the same person and a manager who is content to assume the allegations are false, Something Is Very Wrong, even if it really /does/ turn out to just be a smear campaign against the driver.

          1. Cj*

            I’m going to add your “Something Is Very Wrong” to Alison’s “that’s not how this works, that’s not how any of this works” as one of the comments that could describe a lot of letters here.

        2. EchoGirl*

          “Because if there are multiple allegations against the same coworker, there’s a good chance that they aren’t false.”

          Little bit of a sidebar, but this has had me rolling my eyes so hard at a certain other case that’s been in the media recently, where the “false allegation” thing has been mentioned a lot. Even one allegation is more likely than not to be true, but this particular situation involves multiple accusations from different people, so the idea that all these women happened to falsely accuse the same man of the same thing really stretches the bounds of believability. At some point it really just seems like people are looking for any possible reason to not admit that the pedestal is well and truly broken.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            The only way I can make any kind of sense of this phenomenon is that it comes from people who still think stolen kisses are fun and sexual innuendo is a compliment. So, they think the allegations are exaggerated (those uptight no-fun feminists! can’t say anything these days!) and then “exaggerated” turns into “false” in their minds.

            Or else they’re scared shitless that their own behaviour will come to haunt them. Or both.

      3. Sick of this petty nonsense*

        You totally misread Presea’s comment. They wondered whether other allegations had been made *about* this male coworker, not *by* a random female coworker. Whether the boss is responding, appropriately or not, to a history of allegations against the guy OP would have been traveling with is a reasonable question to ask under the circumstances.

        Presea never said anything about any woman being representative of all women or said anything about the boss’s behavior being reasonable or non-sexist. The only one putting forward a convoluted scenario here is you. If you’re going to insist on posting just to take umbrage with other people’s comments, you should make sure you thoroughly read them first.

        1. Princesss Sparklepony*

          Although if the guy is problematic, why not replace him on the trip? Have two women go if the boss is such a weirdo about mixed sex coworkers. The wrong person is getting punished here.

          If it’s all in the boss’ mind, still the wrong people are being punished.

          1. Sick of this petty nonsense*

            Oh, I totally agree. If there were complaints about the driver, he should have been removed instead of OP. But Presea didn’t say that the boss did the right thing; they were speculating about a possible cause of boss’s behavior, which is a reasonable thing to do. If anything, I read Presea’s comments as saying a history of complaints would bolster OP’s complaint to HR, because removing OP instead of the driver would be an unreasonable reaction to those complaints.

            I’m just getting tired of watching a comments section which I’ve read for years and have until recently found friendly and helpful turn into a bunch of “gotcha” tone/content policing and uncharitable interpretations of people’s comments. There are a few posters here who never seem to add any substance to the discussion, but post only to chide others for saying things that half the time they didn’t actually say. It’s unhelpful to OPs, discourages others from posting in the comments, and makes them a bummer to read. If Alison wanted a comments section border collie, she’d presumably get one.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            LW said upthread that there wasn’t anything to indicate he was problematic and she thinks the manager did this by himself.

    4. OhGee*

      I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a broader thing in the culture – if they’re in the US, the Amber Heard/Johnny Depp trial is really bringing this kind of ‘false accusations’ crap out of the woodwork. Again.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Not just in the US. I’m in Ireland and am having students asking me, “Miss, why do women always get believed in court, even if they are lying.” When I tell them they don’t, I get, “but I read about this one case where a man was found guilty of domestic violence/rape/other crime and it turned out the woman lied.” Because ONE case (and one ACCOUNT of one case at that) clearly implies that any woman who lies about a man is going to be believed and that it could never happen the other way around or that somebody could be making a genuine allegation and be disbelieved!

        1. Nephron*

          I don’t know if you want to open up the box of sampling bias, but also the statistics on sexual assault cases and domestic violence cases with only a fraction of those reported to police in the United States having charges filed let alone convictions.

          But general agreed upon rate of false reports for sexual assault are at most 9%, the numbers varying and coming from academic research, support groups, and law enforcement.

          But sure, women will always be believed.

          1. Spero*

            Your statement of 9% is absolutely false. The ‘false reporting’ rate typically cited is closer to 2%. You may be thinking of the ‘unfounded’ rate which is higher – but a case may be considered unfounded for a WIDE variety of reasons that have nothing to do with whether or not it actually happened. For example, if a survivor reports an assault and then changes her phone number so the police cannot get any further info, it will often be marked unfounded. Doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

            I worked in the field for over 10 years and the only cases I EVER saw that were clearly false were 1) a person with a severe mental illness that had difficulty distinguishing time sequences – they may report that an assault just happened when it was several years ago; 2) a person who creates a deliberately vague description of an assault/abuser that cannot possibly be identified because they are trying to access resources (ex safe housing for the night, medications), in these cases it’s not an accusation against a person because no person was accused/accusable based on the vague assault description – the person who made the report doesn’t want to be disproved so they don’t want a person identified as the assailant; or 3) a third party making an accusation on behalf of another person, usually a person unable to report themselves (ex her dad touched her) for the reporter’s benefit.

            Very, very few people lie about this.

          2. Help Us All*

            Most women don’t even report SA including ra*e to have a chance of being believed! And convictions are astonishingly rare! Sex crimes against women largely go unpunished.

      2. Ally McBeal*

        Not just the Depp/Heard trial – legislators both nationally and in many states are actively trying to roll back women’s participation in public life.

      3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Not just in the US. For some reason we’re getting wall to wall coverage in the UK too.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Don’t go imagining that we’re escaping it in France! Since Depp was previously in a relationship with our national treasure Vanessa Paradis, obviously everyone’s going bananas over it.

    5. Beth*

      The boss’s action has now resulted in a false accusation, which is exactly what he claimed he wanted to avoid. He has implied that the LW is a liar and a potential blackmailer.

      1. Jora Malli*

        This is a very good point and it’s something I’d bring up in a meeting with HR. “When manager said he was worried about false accusations being made toward Male Coworker, what he was implying was that he believed I would lie and malign my coworker. I have given him no reason to believe such a terrible thing about me and I am appalled that he would accuse me of something like that.”

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        As well as, of course, smirching the driver’s reputation since all women immediately wonder whether there have been previous accusations levelled against him.
        As well as, of course, smirching his own reputation because who would think of such a twisted scenario without having been “falsely” accused themselves

      3. BabyElephantWalk*

        Yes. This is so damaging for the OP on so many levels, all in the name of protecting her coworker against something that hasn’t even happed (and is incredibly unlikely to).

    6. LW*

      I don’t know of any accusations against either the driver or my manager. While it’s possible, I don’t believe there is anything being covered up.

      1. Presea*

        I’m glad to hear that you don’t have any direct reason to suspect there’s a deeper issue. Please consider my comment as more reason to ensure HR is investigating the situation, and not a potentially false accusation against any of your coworkers

      2. Observer*

        That could be true. But it’s also possible that there is a pattern of problematic behavior that’s not obvious – but once complaints start getting made to HR, the pattern would become clear.

        I’m not saying that this IS the case. But it’s such a common thing and this is such a red flag that it’s worth getting this on the record.

    7. Ellie*

      Even if that was the case, he’s not allowed to punish all women because one woman is making a lot of false accusations. That’s if there even is another woman, a lot of false accusations, or even one real one. At best, he could change the process so that three people are sent.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Or send two women.
        (let’s not get into the possibility of one woman assaulting the other huh, Queen Victoria said lesbians don’t exist after all! /s)

  5. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    Oh how twisted that this event is in itself scandalous.
    This guy is an ass.

    I hope that OP gets an opportunity to tell the manager that she was so concerned to hear that he worries about false accusations! She certainly hopes if male coworker made an accusation that a female colleague made sexual advances toward a male coworker, the poor man would be believed!

    1. Idea*

      That’s what I was coming here to suggest: saying something like “I don’t really think mr. X would make false accusations, do you? Well, if it’s not him and it’s not me, I don’t know who would be left?” Then listen to him squirm.

  6. Yaz*

    I am so sorry you are dealing with this utter crap. What a waste of your energy. I hate this for you.

    1. Popinki(she/her)*

      Unless they’re one of them there homosexuals, who just looooooove working their wicked wiles on unsuspecting and unwilling straight men when they aren’t out there corrupting the youth of today with their icky homosexual agenda…

      (rolleyes to infinity and beyond)

      1. UKgreen*

        It’s like when they were making plans to send crews to Mars and they thought they’d send all female teams of astronauts to ‘prevent sexual activity among the crew’… *side eyes*

        1. Clorinda*

          I’m wondering if that was a lazy mental shortcut for “prevent pregnancy among the crew” which is a legitimate concern.

            1. Liz T*

              I think it would be about as easy either way? Unless you’re imagining some Jurassic Park-style solutions once all the women were on Mars.

            2. Nina*

              Equally easy, but when you’re hiring astronauts you’re generally interested in their brains rather than their brawn – the average woman is smaller than the average man, so with women you get (on average) more brain per pound of human you have to lift to orbit, and lifting things is expensive (literally my job).

        2. desdemona*

          I thought it was because there’s unexplained vision loss in men who spend extended time in space, and it doesn’t seem to manifest in women? Did not realize there was a ‘no sex’ aspect to that.

          1. Bethany*

            It’s also because (on average) women are smaller. That means less fuel, need fewer calories and smaller spaceships, and may (research is still ongoing) have a better psychological reaction to being stuck in confined areas for years.

        3. ToS*

          How about they send up an all-female crew because it is ABOUT TIME…as in, was this even a discussion when it was all male?

          I’m also imagining that any female has had 1-2 serious discussions about not being pregnant in space YEARS before being assigned, and has birth control locked down, like those serving in the military, because who wants to jeopardize a career-defining opportunity?

      2. WantonSeedStitch*

        I’ve always believed that homophobic straight men are so afraid of The Gays ™ because they’re afraid of being treated the way they themselves tend to treat women.

        1. mreasy*

          I had a former male friend who complained about walking around in SF’s Castro neighborhood and being catcalled & looked up & down and how awful it made him feel and how he understood what women deal with, I think he literally said “it was exactly the same,” and I was like…boo, you’re 6’4″ and this has happened to you in one neighborhood you’ve ever been in…and not in the city where you live. So I’m pretty sure that when women experience it everywhere, including, say, on their own blocks, by men who are often much more physically powerful than them it’s not “the same” in terms of potential danger and ubiquity, but nice try. And of course the whole thing was tinged with homophobia, though he would never have copped to it.

          1. Blue Glass*

            I don’t think it’s fair to assume there was homophobia involved based just on what you posted. But maybe there were other indications that he was homophobic.

            But he had every right to feel uncomfortable and creeped out about repeated unwelcome sexual attention from people he was not interested in. And while not exactly what women go through, it’s pretty close in that one instance.

            1. A Feast of Fools*

              It’s in the same ballpark but it’s not on the same base.

              Outside of catcalls being annoying, they come with a threat of physical danger when it’s men catcalling women that doesn’t exist when it’s gay guys in the Castro catcalling a 6’4″ man. The threat level isn’t the same.

              1. Salymander*

                Yep. I remember several times where I didn’t respond to a catcaller and he just freaked out and started threatening or full on chasing me. Never caught me, thank goodness. I explained this very thing to my husband when we had that “it isn’t the same for men” conversation, and it was eye opening for him for sure. I told him that he might be afraid of being embarrassed, but that I might be afraid of being murdered. Not the same.

                1. the cat's ass*

                  Was it Margaret Atwood who said that men are afraid that women will laugh at them, and women are afraid men will kill them?

            2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              I’d say it is tinged with homophobia, because they are horrified at the thought of homosexual sex. I mean, they wouldn’t be horrified at a woman giving them the come-on, if they’re not interested they’d just say “not a fugly bitch like her”.

        2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          There’s a whooole lot of “men can’t help themselves” thought out there.

          1. Dasein9*

            And it always seems to be thought by the same people who think men are more rational and in control of themselves and therefore women shouldn’t be in charge of things.


  7. EPLawyer*

    Well OF COURSE, those silly emotional women just make accusations about men because they can’t take a joke. It’s not the MEN who are the problem.

    Go to HR IMMEDIATELY. Make it clear you WILL be speaking to an employment attorney if something is not done. In fact, speak to one anyway. It’s worth the consultation fee. In Maryland, there is a Free Employment Law Hotline run by the Women’s Law Center. They take ALL employment law questions and you speak to an actual employment law attorney. Check if your state has something similar.

    1. LisaB*

      Serious question though – did I miss an implication that the false accusation would come from the female? I see several commenters saying something similar, that the boss was assuming the woman would be the one to level the accusation, but I don’t see that said in the letter. I was still horrified that this is where the boss went, and agree they are disgusting for bringing gender into business decisions and presuming that men and women can’t do a business function together, but where does it say that the boss suggested it would be the woman making a false accusation against the man?

      1. RoseMai*

        Because the boss removed the woman from the situation and put a man in her place, implying that removing her fixes the issue.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I would have thought the implication would be that it’s the easier solution. Wrong “solution” and move either way, clearly.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              The man was the point person–the manager removed the person who was sent just as an extra driver, who happened also to be a woman. Presumably here the person who wasn’t removed knows more about whatever is getting picked up and why than the extra-driver person, so it was easier to switch out the extra-driver person.

      2. Presea*

        The manager removed OP, a woman, from the work trip in order to ensure there was not a situation where false accusations may be made. The manager doesn’t have to explicitly spell out that this part is about false (or ‘false’) accusations from women about men; to most people, it reads as an obvious conclusion from the facts of the situation, combined with the social context (at least in the US) where the stereotype surrounding false (or ‘false’) accusations is that it is always a woman accusing a man who has power or money that she wants to destroy or claim.

      3. me*

        The boss said it with his actions. Why would he send the male coworker on the trip if he was worried about him making false accusations? Obviously he meant the false accusations would be made by OP.

      4. Laney Boggs*

        The implication is the entirety of American society.

        The already fake fear of “false accusations” really only flows one way. It’s pretty disingenuous to imply otherwise.

        1. Jora Malli*


          The manager didn’t say what he said in a vacuum. He said it in a society where the former Vice President of the United States refused to hold private meetings with his female subordinates because he was worried about being falsely accused of harassment or assault. When people say “men and women shouldn’t be alone together because there’s a risk of false accusations,” this is exactly what they mean.

          1. laser99*

            Ah yes, that silver fox, Mike Pence. Or as Stephen Colbert calls him, “the ashen weasel”.

      5. Raboot*

        We need to use our critical thinking skills please. This is the not the right place for jumping to wild conclusions when an obvious one is right there.

      6. EPLawyer*

        Because people saying this are 1) always men and 2) believe the myth that men are falsely accused by those “gold digging women looking for a payday” all the time. no one ever says a guy falsely accuses a woman of sexual harassment, because, OF COURSE, any women would WELCOME the attention of a man and not consider it harassment.

          1. J.B.*

            I think that to have that thought about what EPLawyer said you missed some context around this discussion.

      7. Observer*

        Serious question though

        And I have a bridge to sell you.

        did I miss an implication that the false accusation would come from the female?

        No “implication” here – it’s explicit. Note that the manager removed me from the trip to ensure that there was not a situation where “false accusations might be made.” And replaced her with a man who has NO connection with the work

      8. Marni*

        My somewhat naïve reading of it was that the manager was worried about false accusations coming from other people getting the “wrong idea” about two people of different genders traveling together. It was only in reading the responses that I realized just how much worse what he said is.

        But regardless of how that part is taken, the gross thing is him seeing his employees through a sexual lens at all. Even if this manager got a talking to and stopped taking adverse action based on gender, I would still hate knowing that my manager was considering my underclothes parts at all.

        1. Sleeve McQueen*

          That was my thought too. Not that it makes it any better, but that he was worried about “tongues wagging” because apparently it’s 1956 in his head

      9. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

        One of the number one reasons women do not report sexual assault or harassment is the fear that they will not be believed. When the boss said “False Accusations” he was not worried that a man would accuse a woman of something but that the woman would accuse the man.

      10. Irish Teacher*

        If they were worried about the man making false allegations, then sending another man with him wouldn’t solve anything. He could just as easily make a false allegation against a man as a woman. Since they don’t want her travelling, it is clearly because they think she is likely to make false allegations.

      11. Liz T*

        I believe this kind of comment is what’s known as “Occam’s Big Paisley Tie.”

        1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

          I love this.

          Occam’s Big Paisley Tie:
          If Occam’s Razor is the principle by which the simplest explanation is usually the correct one, this urge to exhaust every possible explanation—no matter how convoluted, remote, unlikely, or totally fucking absurd—is Occam’s Big Paisley Tie.

          The whole post here is great:

      12. LW*

        When the information was relayed to me, it was suggested that the managers goal was to protect the driver.

      13. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        How many times has the ‘men make false accusations against women’ trope come up in the business world versus the ‘women make false accusations against men’ trope?

      14. Batgirl*

        He didn’t say he was removing the sex pest (those are mythical to him), he said he was removing the false accuser.

      15. BabyElephantWalk*

        There’s cultural context that suggests it would be a woman making the false accusation. Plus add that it was the woman who lost out on the work opportunity.

  8. Red Lines with Wine*

    It’s worth pointing out that there are some religions where men are prohibited from be alone with women. Could it be this is one of those times and HR/management is just incompetent at communicating? I’m not saying this isn’t a crap deal, but without knowing what was actually discussed, the OP shouldn’t immediately assume this is about *her* specifically.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      My manager removed me from the trip to ensure that there was not a situation where “false accusations might be made.”

      That’s not “Clarence’s religion says he can’t be in an enclosed space with a woman.”

      1. Observer*

        Does it even matter if religion was playing a role? Even if that was the “real” reason, this is not an acceptable way to handle such a situation, even before we get to the issue of false accusations against the OP.

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I’m all for respecting religion and religious practices, but if the driver is religiously prohibited from driving a woman around by himself, that’s reason to remove *him* from the car, not *her*.

      1. EPLawyer*

        THANK YOU.

        If you can’t be alone with a woman because of your religion, that well, YOU are limited in what you can do. The WOMAN should not be limited because of YOUR religious beliefs.

    3. PhyllisB*

      My mind went to a man who doesn’t want to ride with a woman driving. Still gross, but this is an issue that arises. And the manager was using a reason that seems more “legitimate”?

      1. Observer*

        “this is an issue that arises”? With reasonable people? No.

        And there is no good reason for the boss to accommodate unreasonable people in this way. ESPECIALLY when he “explains” it by making false accusations.

    4. Bernice Clifton*

      So the OP’s coworker is falsely accusing the boss of thinking the LW would falsely accuse the coworker is where you stand? Even if that’s true, that the sort of thing an HR investigation should sort out, no?

    5. mreasy*

      I can’t imagine a world in which the manager thinks that their “reasoning” is more legitimate than an actual religious restriction though?

    6. Darsynia*

      Even if this were the case, the person with the objection should be the one removed from the situation, or at the very least, allowances could be made that did not put the woman in a position to be subservient to the man’s religious preferences.

      TL;DR: this is still bad

    7. Yorick*

      Did you read the letter? OP has heard this from someone who witnessed the discussion.

      1. Yorick*

        Seriously, let’s stop bending over backwards to imagine ways that sexism might not exist, or might not be as bad as we think. This is a really gross situation, it’s exactly what OP said it was, and HR needs to know and do something about it.

        1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

          Exactly. Sorry, but no I am not giving this man the benefit of the doubt that he’s not being sexist. He is sexist.

        2. Dark Macadamia*

          It’s still sexist if it’s a religious belief. But either way the religion speculation is irrelevant because there’s already a clearly stated reason, and a religious reason wouldn’t be less of a problem anyway!

    8. Peachtree*

      That’s not a reasonable adjustment for religious reasons though. Your right to practice a religion does not trump my right to be treated with equality at work. If your religion prohibits you from sitting privately with me, and that disadvantages me, then you need to take the disadvantage on yourself. In this case, it’s a drive to collect something – but what about if it was a drive to a high-level client meeting? Any man who couldn’t drive alone with a woman in that scenario (or indeed, any scenario) should be the one to step back and face the disadvantage.

    9. Ashkela*

      It doesn’t matter if it was about her specifically. And that kind of religious rules means the person of the religion gets to not participate in something. Whether OP is being penalized because of her gender, her (lack of) religion, or her specifically for one of those reasons, it’s under protected class and it’s wrong.

    10. Critical Rolls*

      Right?! Or he could be ALLERGIC to women and needs a MEDICAL ACCOMMODATION! I’m sure Mr False Accusations has a perfectly sound reason for this!

    11. Observer*

      the OP shouldn’t immediately assume this is about *her* specifically.

      Correct, she shouldn’t. But that makes it even worse. If the boss had a specific reason to suspect a specific person, that would be a problem that the OP would have to resolve. And even if it is a mistake on the boss’ part, that would not necessarily be sexist. But if it’s just that the boss suspects ALL women of being likely to make false accusations? That is by definition sexist. No way around it.

      Now, if the boss did this as a “religious accommodation” that would be a significant problem by itself. Doing it the way he did – by claiming that it’s either because he believes that any woman is likely to make false accusation OR by making a false accusation against the OP is beyond gross.

  9. Kathryn T.*

    Also, it says a lot that your boss believes that only women could “falsely” accuse this guy. After all, in a true false accusation, the accused has done nothing and so their own inclinations are irrelevant.

    1. LisaB*

      But I’m not seeing where the boss said/gave the impression that the false accusation would come from the woman, and not that the man could also be the one making things up. IT’S STILL GROSS that “false accusations” came up at all, but I don’t see where it was presumed it would be the woman lying, and not potentially the man?

      1. Presea*

        If the boss is concerned about the OP, a woman, making false accusations, and replacing her with a male coworker fixes that potential issue in his yes, that implies the boss assumes any accusations from her would inherently be false. Obviously this is really twisted and weird and not how anything works, but that is the likely logic of the manager here.

      2. RabbitRabbit*

        It’s still gross because the boss believes a lying man is better to send on a business trip than a presumably-competent woman.

        1. Darsynia*

          Thank you, all of my attempts to articulate this as an answer were much longer than your succinct and on-point one!

      3. Nephron*

        For it to not be gender related the boss has to be thinking the male left in would make a false accusation against OP. They replaced OP with a male unrelated to the project.

        Also, context matters and the conversation about false allegations especially up to and after the me too movement all centered around men not being able to be alone with female employees out of fear. There has been no large scale action of not having closed door meetings with men alone to avoid the male employees from falsely accusing them.

      4. PB Bunny Watson*

        Logically, you remove the one likely to make the “false” accusations. Also, this is a pretty common trope–a woman “falsely” accusing a man of sexual assault or sexual harassment.

      5. Yorick*

        Come on. When has anyone ever been “concerned” about a man making false accusations about a woman? Look what’s going on in entertainment news right now – people are way too excited to believe anything a man says about a woman.

      6. Kathryn T.*

        If the false accusations wouldn’t have stemmed from her, how does replacing her solve the problem?

      7. Salymander*

        The false accusation nonsense is pretty much always about the poor man being falsely accused by the wicked woman. That is the narrative. I don’t know why you keep asking why we assume it is this way. Even if it is, that doesn’t really change the fact that the situation is messed up and HR needs to step in. So why do you keep going in about this? You seem to be oddly invested in the far fetched idea that the manager is worried about the man making the false accusation rather than the woman. Why does it matter so much to you? I have heard naby men say that they sorry about women making false accusations. This is a widely recognized trope. It is the most likely explanation for whatever cockamamie idea that this manager has cluttering up his head.

    2. Irish Teacher.*

      And it’s not like rape or sexual assault are the only things one can make false allegations about (and men can sexually assault men and women sexually assault women too). If one wanted to make a false allegations, one could just as easily claim somebody stole from you or punched you or that they did something unprofessional, so can’t imagine how sending a man reduces the risk of false allegations. Unless they believe women are inherently malicious pathological liars and no man is. If the fear is of false allegations, there is no reason to expect they would have anything to do with gender or six.

      1. Irish girl*

        Its funny you say it that way as there are a lot of males who are malicious pathological liars….

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Definitely. The idea “I’ll send a man with him to protect him from malicious pathological liars” makes no sense.

  10. Anonymous Koala*

    I like to think of things like HR reports as a way of discovering and documenting a pattern of behaviour. If your boss is doing this to you, he may do it to other women too, and your report will help those women as well as yourself. Also, he may have learned this behaviour from others in the organisation – in my experience, local government orgs can be clannish and slow to get new blood so culture sticks around for a long time. If nothing else, going to HR will force them to record the incident in a way that they may not do if only the witness reported it.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Yes, this. Get it on the record. Maybe there’s a pattern here that has yet to be recognized, or maybe HR can put a stop to this and prevent this in the future. Good luck, OP!

  11. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

    Escalate this as much as you can. This is so illegal, gross, and a damn shame in 2022 we are still fighting for basic equality, and rapidly trying to turn things back to the 1950’s. It’s always been this way, but pieces were put into place 5 years ago for this mindset to become acceptable and almost aspirational in some cases. We were not being dramatic in 2016, this was always the plan.

  12. Irish Teacher.*

    That’s horrifying. They were more worried about false allegations than assault or stealing or any far more likely (though still highly improbable) things! The title of this already bothered me but now I think not sending you because you are a woman isn’t even the biggest problem here. The fact that they have categorised you, and presumably all women, as potential pathological liars and seem to be assuming any allegations will be false before any such allegations happen are even more serious problems.

    1. Observer*

      The fact that they have categorised you, and presumably all women, as potential pathological liars and seem to be assuming any allegations will be false before any such allegations happen are even more serious problems.

      Yes. It’s horrifying.

    2. Dona Florinda*

      Yeah, boss is more worried about women making false allegations than about men’s toxic behavior, and that’s telling.
      I would specifically bring this up: that boss’ gross comment has now disencouraged OP from ever reporting harassment for fear of being labeled a liar.

  13. Heidi*

    I really want to ask the manager what exactly he thinks is going to happen on this 1 to 8 hour road trip. It’s difficult to know how to respond to vague allusions to some unnamed fear. He should have to spell it out who he imagines is going to be making false accusations and what these accusations are and why he thinks this is likely to happen.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I wrote above a similar thing, ask the manager that while OP appreciates his looking out for her, why he’s worried male coworker would make a false accusation against her!

  14. Bernice Clifton*

    Ugh, I’m so sick of this attitude!

    Men to women: You shouldn’t live alone, live on the ground floor, drink too much, be out after dark, wear anything revealing, take an Uber alone, or be alone with a home repair person or you WILL be assaulted.

    Also men: If I’m in a car with my female coworker she will falsely accuse me of something!

    1. Popinki(she/her)*

      “Men to women: You shouldn’t live alone, live on the ground floor, drink too much, be out after dark, wear anything revealing, take an Uber alone, or be alone with a home repair person or you WILL be assaulted.”

      With the unspoken addition of “when you’re assaulted it’ll be YOUR fault for being careless/provocative/naive” and not the man’s fault for not controlling himself. Because women are nothing but potential victims on the hoof, not people, and men are nothing but boiling cauldrons of hormones and the gonads rule, not the brain. But that’s ok because boys will be boys. They can’t help themselves. Fcuk that noise.

      1. Bernice Clifton*

        Very true, my point was more about how we get told all of our lives we have to do a million different things to protect ourselves from assault but if we ARE assaulted we are told we are making it up.

        1. Popinki(she/her)*

          Oh, my, yes, “so and so would NEVER do that. You must have been leading him on/ misunderstood what he said/ mad that he didn’t respond to your flirtations.” Arrrrrrrrgh.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I firmly believe that the men who think this are the exact men who find themselves thinking about doing bad things to women (not necessarily acting on it, mind you, but thinking about it). So they believe that every man is just like them, except that a lot of the men can’t control their actions and HAVE to act on these impulses. I think they don’t realize that in fact there are a lot of men out there who don’t even think about these things and that for most men, being alone in a car with a woman is NBD. And these same men probably also think that all women want is to have sex or take advantage of the men they’re alone with and if they are turned down then they will falsely accuse the man of something he started. I dunno, this is just a personal theory that I have (though I think it’s pretty much projection, right?) so no real basis in fact, but it helps give me some perspective.

      Oh, and also I should point out that this is of course NOT OKAY for a man to think, but it’s just sometimes what is happening in these situations.

      1. Karia*

        I think it’s an accurate theory, and likely a bit generous. It’s the same type of man where *all* his exes are ‘crazy’.

      1. londonedit*

        Also men: any woman who apparently doesn’t want me is an ugly frigid stuck-up b*tch who deserves everything she gets.

      2. Bernice Clifton*

        Ugh, yes. These are the guys who think every female receptionist, server, etc, is interested in them romantically. Because they can’t imagine being friendly, helpful and accommodating to a woman they aren’t interested in.

    3. Emmy Noether*

      Oh, this is quite easy to resolve! Don’t you see, the danger is always the anonymous man, the stranger, the lower class. Because, you see, the pillar of the community, the respected and influential, the family man with family values and family money, HE would NEVER. How dare you! He’s RESPECTABLE!!


      You just need to combine the sexism with classism, and it all makes perfect sense.

  15. Naomi*

    I’m particularly nettled by the passive-voice “false accusations might be made,” because the boss is astute enough not to outright say OP would lie, but is sure willing to insinuate it. Or the boss has this as an across-the-board policy and hasn’t given a thought to how insulting it is to the women affected.

    1. Christmas Carol*

      No, he’s given a lot of thought as to how insulting it is to the women affected. His thoughts are that since they are women, they deserve it.

      1. londonedit*

        Or at the very least, he knows and doesn’t care, because obviously it’s far more important to protect the men from all these evil women who will take any opportunity to ruin a man’s life with ‘false accusations’ than it is to treat women like actual human beings.

        1. Salymander*

          This is exactly it.

          “It is too bad that your feeling are hurt, ladies, but there are more important things at stake, like the need for men to not get into trouble. Through no fault of their own, of course.”

          So infuriating.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      As Alison rightly points out, there are at least three major things wrong here, but this default assumption about “false accusations” is the most egregious of the three. I know some conservative men who don’t want to be alone with women because it may appear “improper,” but the idea is more about appearances than that the two of them will do something wrong (commit adultery, sexually harass, “falsely accuse”). Still messed up but obviously could be worse, apparently. Going a step further to say the greatest danger is “false accusations”—no. Absolutely no. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

      Even though the OP should absolutely take this to HR (and document everything), the OP should also consider looking for another job, not because she should be the one to leave but because it’s sometimes easier to leave that toxic environment than to change it. HR will likely side with the boss, not her.

  16. Ginger Pet Lady*

    I would 100% be personally offended as well. They’re saying that they do not trust you to be honest. They’re saying they prioritize the remote possibility of “false accusations” over treating you like a professional.
    Absolutely go talk to HR.

  17. Harvey 6 3.5*

    And because the employer is a government, not a company, if HR does nothing, it would be a shame, a crying shame, if a young reporter from any local media company accidentally found out about this and reported the blatant sexism to the entire community.

    1. LMB*

      Local governments tend to have pretty bad HR and also, pretty bad local papers. It really depends, I think, if this is a big metropolitan area or smaller towns how this plays out with either. If it’s the former HR will probably intervene and if not, going to the press could make a difference. If the latter, HR will likely brush it under the rug and the LW may become labeled “difficult” (though honestly who cares), and even if the reporter doesn’t miss the point, you just get a bunch of old men writing letters the editor about what is wrong with women these days (I mean honestly, have you a local paper recently? They will print anything). In any case LW definitely has to make this known, but unfortunately I’m not that optimistic about what the outcome will be.

      1. Whirligig*

        You sure about that? In my experience having served on my SHRM state council for multiple terms, it’s the governmental entities that model sound HR in smaller communities.

    2. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

      State worker here. Branch in a different city had multiple people reporting 1 upper management person for sexual harassment and inappropriateness. Victims and witnesses. MULTIPLE PEOPLE. Wide spread issues because of one bad manager. One state worker was a lawyer. He documented EVERYTHING and summed it all up in a major newspaper story along with the timeline of how many times HR and other management had been warned about what was going on.He was fired the very next day (and I’m assuming sued the pants off them) Bad Manager was investigated by HR and let go. Suddenly all state employees had to take a new and improve Don’t Harrass People at Work class.

    3. Brett*

      This sounds great, but it is one way that the OP could definitely get into serious trouble. If the OP wants to take this to the media, they need to do it in an officially way directly notifying the relevant media relations persons that they are going to the media. Leaking a personnel matter to a reporter will almost certainly violate policy on media relationships and be a significant enough violation to make termination possible. Then you get into a complicated anti-retaliation and first amendment case that the OP could lose, if they wanted to pursue it.
      (Also, reporters know that using a leak like that risks their future relationship with that local government and might decide to ignore it for that reason.)

  18. lobsterbot*

    Sounds like they already know the original driver is a missing stair, and don’t want to do anything about it because that might be difficult. Go to HR, and good luck!

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      That’s interesting. I think the manager may be the missing stair since he is the one who is openly making sexist decisions and nobody is shutting him down. There is no way this is the first thing he’s done…

    2. New Jack Karyn*

      OP has posted, and says she’s never seen or heard about the driver being inappropriate, and doesn’t get that vibe off him at all. She’s pretty sure this is all on the boss.

  19. LMB*

    Dear god this is even worse than the headline implies. And I’ve worked for a local government organization and somehow I am not surprised that’s where this took place. I don’t know why exactly, it just seems to be a hotbed of interpersonal drama, old school sexism, etc. In any case this manager was afraid of “false” accusations of sexual harassment and he ended up with a real allegation of sex discrimination. Bravo dude.

  20. Richard Hershberger*

    Re the presumption that any accusation is false: My county is setting up a police review board, as this is mandated by the state. The sheriff was just in the local paper complaining about it, and telling how he was working to ensure that no one would get on the board who had ever had a “negative interaction with the police.” There was no mention of preventing bias by also ensuring that no would would get on who had ever had a positive interaction with the police.

    LW’s boss would fit right in there.

    1. Liz T*

      Great, so all they have to do is make sure everyone in the county has a negative interaction with the police, and then poof! No review board.

  21. Hibiscus*

    Your manager also believes you might make a false allegation. He thinks you would lie. Now, whether if pressed he believes all women lie or just you, this is something that casts doubt on his ability to be an effective manager with the trust of his team. Because he does not trust you because you are a woman, not because of you the individual.

  22. Lattes are for lovers*

    Sadly, i know of several organizations that have rules like this. A close friend of mine worked for a large megachurch that had similar rules.

    I cant believe this crap still exists in 2022.

      1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        Yep. As soon as Pence came out with his “never be a lone with a woman” stance, so many churches basically adopted that as well, because you know us women. Either we’ll trick you into assaulting us, or we’ll lie and say you did!

        It was basically the end of my time as a religious person. I’m now happier that I’ve left all that behind.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          #notallchurches. Unless an Evangelical megachurch is your baseline of what a church looks like. I have often had discussions with people who had come to recognize the problems of the Evangelical megachurch, but had internalized the lie that this is the One True Way. Evangelicalism does a bang-up job of creating ex-Christians.

          1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

            In the Midwest, you’re less apt to find a church that isn’t somewhat problematic. My parents are still religious and attend a small evangelical church, but they vote for progressive policies and raised my sister and I to not tolerate sexism. I clearly remember my youth group leader in the 90’s asking my mom to buy me less “revealing” clothes (they were not, I always had large boobs) as to not distract the boys. My mom was not having it and said my clothes were perfectly fine and maybe she should talk to the boys about not objectifying me. (Ironically I think the leaders son was the only one who was, the other boys didn’t seem to struggle with the fact a female was near them)

            All this to say, I am sure there are lovely, progressive churches, but I’m very happy not believing anymore for a whole host of reasons. 2016 was just kind of the nail in that coffin

            1. RabbitRabbit*

              As a Midwesterner, I’ll just note that generalizing nearly anything about the entirety of the Midwest is difficult, as I’m sure is true for any other region of the US, and that the difficulty of finding an accepting, open-minded church is probably more strictly limited by population density (and church density) than anything else.

      2. Clobberin' Time*

        Would that be the large megachurch that just had a report published about its leaders’ covering up and enabling sexual abuse? It’s depressing that I have to ask which megachurch.

        1. Lattes are for lovers*

          Actually no – a different church. However, the church I referenced in my earlier post does in fact have ties to THAT church. Super surprising/s.

  23. Up and Away*

    I am SO VERY TIRED of this sh*t. SO TIRED. Seething over here.
    LW, please do everything in your power to bring attention to this.

  24. Ozzie*

    I can’t help but feel something more sinister is/has been going on here… Seems like perhaps the driver has done some things? That was where my mind went at first.

    Either way, someone here is in the wrong – either just the manager (for the surface action of pulling LW off the trip for this nonsense) or the driver and the manager (done things/cover up). HR needs to know regardless, because the manager is 1000% in the wrong.

    1. NerdyKris*

      It’s possible, but “women make false accusations” is a popular narrative in response to more women speaking up, and the Depp/Heard civil trial is being weaponized as proof that women are liars. It’s extremely common for men not used to having boundaries enforced to claim that there’s a conspiracy against men. There’s three links in the post about similar attitudes.

      1. Ozzie*

        Oh for sure, I feel like it’s a bit of a coin flip nowadays – one feels just as likely as the other. I don’t think I would have felt so evenly split about it even 6 months ago. And certainly without any proof it’s not something I would say to HR (I would just point out the very real, very sexist thing that the manager did). Just something I can’t help but ponder as an observer… and wouldn’t like, be -shocked- if it came up in an investigation.

        1. Karia*

          Statistics show that false accusations comprise 3% of all accusations. So no, it isn’t ‘as likely as the other’ and it isn’t a ‘coin flip’.

          1. EchoGirl*

            If I’m reading correctly, what Ozzie is saying is “it’s a coin flip whether the driver has had accusations made against him in the past or if the boss is just jumping on the ‘women make false allegations’ bandwagon”, not actually referring to the odds that an accusation is true or false.

      2. pancakes*

        It’s a popular narrative because misogyny is popular. It always has been, even among some women.

      3. Meep*

        I am mad at both of them because they both aren’t great and were probably horrible to each other, but I am furious at her because now these men have a very public case to point to about a woman making false accusations that they can justify their misogyny with. I know it isn’t right, because in some ways she is a victim, but grrrr…

        1. Karia*

          I don’t think you should say she’s made false accusations when there’s no proof of that.

        2. Delphine*

          Mutual abuse is a myth. She’s not a victim in “some ways.” She is a victim, period. She is not the reason men believe women are liars and make false accusations, since her accusations have been proven to a civil legal standard. She is the poster child for our society’s misogyny and for how easy it is for abusers to turn the world against their DV survivors.

        3. pancakes*

          “I know it isn’t right to treat individual women as representing all the rest of us, but some really gross men do that when it comes to cases like this, so I’m going to do it too.” That’s basically what you’re saying. You don’t actually have to play along with that mindset at all. You can just reject it. Not repeating it whenever it comes to mind could be a good start.

        4. theybothsuck*

          UK courts have found that there are multiple credible instances where it is “substantially true” that he abused her. The fact that he is relitigating the matter in another jurisdiction is pretty gross, as is his insistence that he make it a public spectacle.

      4. Karia*

        Weaponised? The trial is a *reflection* of the fact that society sees women as liars. “Oh Depp? The man with a known history of aggression and violence, a long history of anti-social substance abuse, several ex partners under expensive NDAs, and self admitted threats against the woman in question? He could never. See, the psychiatrist (that Depp paid) diagnosed the alleged victim with two (incredibly gendered and controversial) ‘disorders’ typically used to stigmatise and pathologise women, Heard must be lying.”

          1. Karia*

            Yep. Tyson admitted to hitting her, joked about hitting her, is convicted of multiple violent offences, and people still call Givens a lying gold-digger.

    2. anonymous73*

      The only sinister possibility is if this person has a history of being inappropriate around women and nothing has been done to put a stop to it, which would be worse. To me it reads as simple as boss being a sexist pig and treating women as second class citizens like it’s still 1950.

      1. Ozzie*

        Yes, that’s what I was referring to as the possibility. And I agree it would be worse – but if that’s not the case, what the manager did is still -bad-.

  25. Aand3*

    “ensure that there was not a situation where “false accusations might be made.” ”
    I’d tell both HRs and that supervisor that this is all but declaring that credible accusations should be made against the guy driver but I’m a jerk like that

    1. Presea*

      That seems like a great way to throw an unnecessary drama bomb into the situation while also basically making a false accusation. LW suspects that this is 100% the manager and 0% the actual driver himself. Nevertheless, I respect the core of your impulse here.

  26. pancakes*

    You can just not say asinine things to women. Try it, it’s great! If you lack finesse and often feel you don’t know whether something you’re thinking of saying will be taken badly or not, you can just not say it! I would hope you had time to reflect on that after having to leave your program, but apparently not. Apparently you still think it was important for Suzanne to hear your thoughts on what she was wearing. It wasn’t.

    1. Critical Rolls*

      I missed the original comment, but hooboy. It really sounds like “She ruined my life by saying I did something that I did. I took, and take, no responsibility, but I learned that women are untrustworthy and I refuse to be alone with any.” Which is like textbook sexist discrimination.

      1. Beebis*

        He said she “misunderstood”

        which seems like the first thing I always hear from men who know they got busted being gross but are desperate to spin it in a way that absolves them in the hopes that they don’t have to face any consequences for it

  27. Observer*

    Alison, I’m so sorry that you are stuck with needing to clean up the awful justifications.

    I’m sorry for you for the extra work. I’m even more sorry for us as a society that this kind of stuff happens and is defended so vigorously by awful people.

    1. Presea*

      I find it ironic that there have been a few comments talking about how of course women make false accusations and #metoo is so bad and stuff… while blatantly ignoring the fact that OP is basically a borderline victim of a false accusation herself here. You’d think people with that viewpoint would have more sympathy for OP, and maybe some of them do but aren’t commenting or commenting in a way where those viewpoints are obvious, but like. Still.

  28. Paris Geller*

    This is so, so gross. I guess the only upside (? if one can call it that) is that at least this is BLANTANTLY sexist & misogynistic. The boss can’t try to spin this as a misinterpretation (though I’m sure he’ll try).

  29. anonymous73*

    Is your manager Mike Pence? My eyes rolled so far back in my head after reading them, I fear they may never come back.

  30. Caroline Bowman*

    Also worth saying that if someone’s religion precludes them from being alone with a person of the opposite sex, then *they* should under no circumstances do the trip. They should stay at home rather. Making it that *the other person* stays home is a nope from me.

    Believe what you like, that’s absolutely fine, as long as you understand and accept certain consequences of your choices to live according to whichever rules they are. I imagine there are many for whom alcohol or certain foods are proscribed for religious reasons realising that this impacts where they can comfortably work. Legally obviously they can work where they like, but their choosing to accept specific rules might not.

  31. OlympiasEpiriot*

    I am assuming that the supervisor who informed OP is someone trustworthy? I know they are also a woman, but, I’ve found myself once being used as a pawn between 2 managers. One tried to wind me up about something the other supposedly said.

    That said, the OP has a mess of a situation and needs to go to HR and document this.

  32. Former Young Lady*

    “Every time we send a woman on an assignment with Sleazebag Larry, she comes back with a whole passel of false accusations about what a creep he is. So, since every woman on earth is conspiring to ruin Sleazebag Larry’s bright future, we have to exclude half the workforce from any assignments he’s on.”

    “Have you ever considered that maybe Sleazebag Larry is the problem, and it’s costing us extra time, resources, and talent to keep him on this assignment when half the population can’t be left alone with him?”

    “…OMG, you’re one of them! SECURITY! Get this WOMAN out of my office before she accuses me of something!”

  33. Anonymous Dude*

    Is there any reason my comment would have been removed? I can’t find it. It’s real simple, I’ve had my life destroyed by a female student misunderstanding my comment so I get it. Twenty-five years later with a family to support I can’t put myself in that position again and will refuse to be alone with a woman for any reason.

    1. Becky*

      Then in this case, the responsibility would be on YOU to decline the work trip instead of having a female co-worker removed.

    2. Ozzie*

      You see it as simply a misunderstanding, but if after 25 years you cannot see why commenting on a student’s (you left that part out last time!) attire is inappropriate, then the problem is with you – because the rest of us do not see it that way. We follow the logic that a man in a position of power commented on what a female subordinate was wearing, when he also simply could have said nothing – and he used the word “hot” no less, which is an extremely charged word.

      Your refusal to be alone with women after your error only shows that you learned nothing, and have no interest in learning – and are, in fact, part of the problem.

    3. Former Young Lady*

      If you can’t control your behavior around women, stay out of public life. I regret to inform you that, unlike in the movies, we’re half the population. We’re darn near everywhere.

      If people keep “misunderstanding” your comments, in the workplace and on the internet, that’s an opportunity for self-reflection.

    4. Information goddess*

      I’d say then that if you were in this situation, it should be you who stays behind. Because this sounds like a you problem.

    5. Jack Bruce*

      It’s also derailing the conversation, which is about the OP and not your situation or
      “what if we look at it from the man’s side?”

    6. Presea*

      Comments are sometimes removed for not adhering to the site’s commenting rules, such as that comments should focus on being constructive for the OP.

      Anyway – this letter is about the OP possibly being a victim of false accusations herself (in this case being implicitly accused of being someone who would make false harassment/assault allegations), so surely you can sympathize with her perspective as well even if you’ve been in a different situation before that makes you particularly sympathetic to the manager and driver here.

    7. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Because “it only takes one wrong statement to ruin a man’s life” stuff isn’t accurate and it’s wildly derailing from the realities women actually face.

    8. Dona Florinda*

      I’m sorry for what happended to you, but the reality (at least where I am) is that only 0,6% of sexual harassment/ assault allegations are false. And the cases that are reported are about 11% of the actual number.
      See the problem here?

    9. Dancing Otter*

      So go join a monastery. Don’t discriminate against every woman in creation.
      And maybe watch your mouth.

  34. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    This is banana crackers! I’m guessing the manager is also one who doesn’t understand why telling someone their bum/chest/any body part looks good is not acceptable.

    Gonna go ahead an preemptively request an update on this one in December (if not sooner).

  35. Elizabeth*

    I wouldn’t stop at HR. I would immediately escalate this to the state agency on discrimination and/or the EOO office, particularly since you are a public employee.

  36. Carrots*

    Maybe by “false accusations” they meant they wanted to prevent *other* colleagues insinuating that these two colleagues engaged in inappropriate behavior. Was it an overnight trip?

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      Even if that were the case it’s not okay to remove the OP from the assignment. The better option would be to address those “false accusations” if they occur.

      1. Vio*

        indeed. just because two people are of the opposite genders does not mean that they will shag. even if both of them are straight, they probably won’t shag. even if they’re both attracted to each other, they still probably won’t. most people have self control and sense enough not to just randomly shag somebody just because they’re sleeping in an adjoining room. of course people might gossip but the people who will are the people who will gossip about anything anyway and who most people will know not to believe

        1. UKDancer*

          Can confirm. I spent 4 years travelling with my boss before Covid. Despite being opposite genders and straight we managed not to shag because we didn’t actually find each other attractive. Strangely being away with someone does not overcome one with irresistible lust.

    2. A Feast of Fools*

      @Carrots – When I was in sales, most of my work trips were just me and my Sales Tech (a sales-oriented techy coder person).

      Without fail, the Sales Tech was a man, usually married. I am a woman, who was usually single. The trips were not just overnight, but out of state and usually over 2-3 nights.

      If I’d been pulled from those trips because other people might think that those were company-paid sexytime outings — just because I was on the trip and not a male colleague — I literally could not have done my job.

      It doesn’t matter if it’s overnight or over lunch, that kind of salacious thinking needs to burn a fiery death.

  37. Meep*

    I was minding my own business in a Safeway this morning. It has a Starbucks that I was walking by to get my items when a middle-aged man jumped out at me with a hot coffee in hand. He kept insisting that I take it despite telling him no. I finally had to say I don’t drink coffee and bolt down an aisle. I am sure his drink was actually made incorrectly and meant to do a nice thing, but going over the only 20-something female in the vicinity when there are at least 5 other people – some getting in line! – isn’t a smart idea.

    I told my mom about it and she was very concerned I took it. Not because he is probably a predator, but because men are the ones who shouldn’t be trusted.

    We hear about 1 in 10 SAs being “fake”, but in actuality, the number is more like 0.0001%. Two out of 3 women will be SA’ed in their lifetime. Only 1 out of 5 SA victims will go to the police. Of those that do go, only 1 out of 10 will result in a police report and only 8% of those police reports end in charges. Of those charges? only 9% end in a conviction and 97% of those convictions result in less than a year in jail. So men worrying about false accusations are really telling on themselves here.

    1. Tired Social Worker*

      Also as a women I am not in the habit of taking drinks from strangers when they could have put anything in it. Being completely unaware of all the safety precautions we have to take on full display here.

  38. RB*

    I am so angry, I just can’t even today. Outraged that you have to work for this ass.

  39. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    Dear blokes: If, for whatever reason be it religion, past history, paranoia, personal morals, you feel you cannot be alone with a woman then kindly remove yourself from the workplace until you get the issue sorted.

    I work in IT. There’s been a number of occasions in a 25+ year career where a man has said I can’t go into the car with him to site/go to a meeting alone with me because he’s afraid of the ‘appearance’ or ‘that someone might say something untrue and ruin his career’. When you’re the only woman in the department it basically boils down to ‘I prefer not working with women, sorry’.

    Thankfully since I’m the boss these days it doesn’t happen (or at least it better bloody well not do) anymore.

    Definitely speak to HR. This is outright sexist behaviour and discrimination.

  40. Erin*

    Also, the man who was scheduled to go with you – how is he feeling with this? He’s essentially been labeled a creep, and that could be very damaging to his reputation.

    1. Presea*

      +1. There really doesn’t seem to be a single interpretation here where the manager is acting rationally and in good faith.

  41. A Feast of Fools*

    Was this answered above and I missed it?

    LW – Was your manager the person who originally assigned you to the work trip?

    If yes, then there’s a whole ‘nother level of grossness / weirdness about what happened between assigning you and then removing you.

    Mind, the whole entire thing is gross but if he changed his mind then I’m curious about who put what kind of pressure on him to un-assign you.

    Also, whether Manager assigned you and then removed you, or if he had no say in the original assignment but stepped in to replace you with a man, Alison’s advice and 98% of the comments are spot-on, in terms of advice and noting how gross and horrific this is.

  42. Vio*

    is it just me or does there seem to be a lot more of a focus on “how can we stop women from accusing men of sexual harassment?” rather than “how can we ensure there is no sexual harassment?” in too many organisations? obviously both true and false accusations can and will happen and it’d be fair enough to try to minimise false complaints if a: there was evidence that there were a large number of false complaints being made and b: at very least an equal effort (ideally a greater one) was being made into ensuring that true complaints are not necessary
    instead of complaining about having to keep emptying the pan under the sink, try getting the leaky pope fixed!

    1. Nameless in Customer Service*

      is it just me or does there seem to be a lot more of a focus on “how can we stop women from accusing men of sexual harassment?” rather than “how can we ensure there is no sexual harassment?” in too many organisations?

      It’s not just you. Many many people identify the problem as “women report harassment” rather than “harassers are harassing people”, and apply solutions correspondingly. It’s so dismaying.

  43. A Feast of Fools*

    BTW, when I first read the headline I thought this story would be about a woman being removed from a work trip to a nation where women are ultra-actively-oppressed by the government and where they are seen as “fair game” for sexual assault if they are in public.

    But, nope. It’s not even about a manager missing the mark on keeping his employees safe. It’s the same misogyny as practiced in those anti-women countries.

    1. Former Young Lady*

      ‘a nation where women are ultra-actively-oppressed by the government and where they are seen as “fair game” for sexual assault if they are in public’

      Red-state dweller here. Our government is definitely working on it, and that’s definitely the perception of some men I’ve encountered in broad daylight on our streets.

    2. Neddy Seagoon*

      I had the same thought.

      Alison, would it be legal to do that, if that was the case? If someone was going to Gilad, would it be legal to suggest they don’t go?

      1. Ellie*

        I don’t know what’s legal and what isn’t, but in my company we often send people to Saudi Arabia and Turkey (which didn’t used to be a problem but is now becoming one). If the appropriate manager is a woman they get sent just the same, but never on their own, and there’s a series of hotels and transportation that is always used, that is supposed to assist with safety. And if a country is on the do not fly list, then the trip gets delayed or cancelled, so there are some limits.

        You can always refuse to go yourself though. Anecdotally, the company seems to be more understanding of women who refuse but officially, anyone can, and I haven’t seen anyone punished for it. You might miss out on an opportunity though.

  44. Brett*

    Just wanted to add more experience working for a department in a large (~1M) county government.
    If you are a civil service/merit employee, skip your organizational level HR and go straight to county HR. If county HR is too slow, next stop is the civil service/merit board.
    If you are not a civil service/merit employee and work for a quasi-public organization, county HR won’t touch your case. Go to your own HR and then go to the staff of the governing board for your organization, and then go to the county civil rights commission or whatever their equivalent group is.
    If you are a patronage position (serving at the discretion of an elected official), good luck. You probably need to go straight to the staff of the elected official who appointed you and after that go to the county civil rights commission. Being in a patronage role is extremely tenuous if you don’t have your appointing official there to back you.

  45. RolandJS*

    This column has always given me much great food for thought! I sincerely hope we as a society are moving towards equalization of people from all walks of life.

  46. Not Mindy*

    I’d be tempted to say “are you worried that he might falsely accuse me of lying if I file a complaint against him?”

  47. Suzie SW*

    I hesitate to even ask this because it gives the benefit of the doubt when it is clearly not deserved…but is it possible that when they were talking about “false allegations,” they were referring to the potential for others to start rumors of impropriety (i.e., “Tarzan and Jane were gone together for an awfully long time…you can bet what they were up to!”)? The implications are still pretty bad, but at least it wouldn’t mean that the boss is dismissive of SH/SA claims.

Comments are closed.