updates: HR questioned me for hours about a sex injury, and more

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager! All this week and next, I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. HR questioned me for hours about a sex injury (first update here)

So, here’s the probably final update on this whole situation now that it’s well behind me.

1. I live in a state where it is actually impossible to legally consent to BDSM so we had to settle for me just moving on because it got too complicated to actually pursue anything without also getting myself/my play partner in trouble. Thanks Puritans!

2. I have a new job! It’s much better paying and it’s remote so no one cares about any bruises I get!

3. And this is probably the juiciest bit. I learned more about Lee. Back in their previous scene, they had outed someone who was dating their ex by emailing pictures of their fetlife to their employer. WILD!

Thanks to you and everyone for making me not feel like a crazy person anymore. I was truly starting to question if I was as evil as Mary described.

2. My boss keeps calling my predecessor for help

I know I gave Jack a bit of a hard time in my original email but I can genuinely, confidently say that he’s the best boss, and he has a genuine care for his employees. When the situation was occurring, I know enough now about Jack that I can say that he just … genuinely doesn’t know a lot about my job, and it’s a unique sort of position that Jill sort of helped curate and set the stage for what it is today. Having that information now, I can see why he’d immediately turn to her with certain questions (not all, but some – some stuff he definitely didn’t need to call her about, but whatever).

Jack and I have ended up having multiple conversations – I’ve explained to him that I feel comfortable enough in my role to where he (and Jill) could be less hands on in helping me with things and I could even take on extra responsibilities. That was a tough one for him but I have seen over time how he has been willing to trust me more and more with responsibilities. He also explained to me the “office culture” he was used to working in and committed to doing a better job with making sure I’m actually able to do my job without outside input from former employees – and he’s following through! That has been really exciting for me.

Interestingly enough I’ve also had a couple conversations with Jill! Not about the situation with Jack specifically and her indirect involvement, but just about Jack as a person. She told me to just keep trying, and told me how to approach certain subjects or tasks with him and eventually he’ll loosen up a bit – all things which have worked.

Overall, things have definitely changed here for me for the better. I’ve talked to Jack in depth about this a lot and he says I’m doing great and he anticipates me being here for a long time and that I will eventually be moving up in the ranks (something I can definitely tell he’s preparing me for!).

At the time when you’d emailed me for an update I hadn’t taken your advice yet because I was so nervous, but eventually I did and I’m glad! At the time of emailing I genuinely loved me job but now I can see myself working here a long time.

3. I was exposed to Covid by doing my job and now have to quarantine without pay (#2 at the link)

I wrote about how I work in healthcare and was not paid for my quarantine after a work related COVID exposure from a patient. After you answered my letter, I sent a screenshot of the OSHA ETS stating healthcare workers had to be paid to my HR rep and manager. Both forwarded it to my manager’s boss. I initially got a very generic response along the lines of “thanks for reaching out, I’ll show this to our compliance officer and get back to you.” After a couple weeks with no response, I reached out again and was told their policies had been reviewed based on what I sent and they’d be happy to tell me how they’re maintaining compliance. I said I would appreciate that and got no response. I waited two more weeks and tried one more time to get answers and was ignored completely.

I started looking for other jobs and found one that I think will be really great and a move up the ladder from where I am now. It even came with a little pay increase to boot. I turned in my resignation and my manager was very sympathetic and agreed with me that I should have been paid, but has no control over the situation. She said she was told that it was denied because our state specific OSHA ETS does not mandate paid quarantine. I don’t see how a federal regulation can be ignored because it is not also state specific and have considered filing a complaint somewhere to find out if I’m actually entitled to that money, but not sure how or with whom I’d need to connect.

I feel bad for leaving because the people it most affects—my direct managers and coworkers—are a great team of people and have been very good to me. Sadly, the fact is I can’t continue it work for a healthcare company that sees an employee’s misfortune at being exposed to a potentially deadly virus at work as a good opportunity to withhold their salary and profit off of them. I also reviewed their policy closely and saw that I should never have been made to quarantine per their own guidelines unless I became symptomatic because I was fully vaccinated. However when my manager asked the chief compliance officer what to do about my situation she told them to make me quarantine—and still didn’t pay me for it. Hoping for better days ahead in my new job with my new company!

4. 2 of my coworkers spend all their time together and don’t do any work

Nikki and Jack are still somewhat joined at the hip, but Nikki was moved to another team where she has far more to do so their time together is limited. Instead of actually addressing the issue with either of them, Nikki was just shifted around as part of a secret plan to drive out the troublemakers along with a bunch of other people who weren’t managed, just forced into other areas. I know about this plan because my grandboss told me about it.

{ 109 comments… read them below }

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      This is the main takeaway. There is more than average awfulness all around in this story, but Lee is openly malicious.

    2. ConfusedLawyer*

      I’m just trying to puzzle out what jurisdiction doesn’t allow people to legally consent to whatever they want to do in private and whether that comports at all with Lawrence v. Texas.

        1. Curious*

          In that case, the complainant’s position was that conduct persisted after she used the “safe word,” and so consent was effectively withdrawn.

          1. Despachito*

            Yes, but this means that the injured person was not OK with what happened, which was not OP’s case.

      1. Maggie*

        Depending on how intense the acts are it could make sense. If it’s something where you could become seriously hurt or die (like from choking) then maybe they’re just trying to prevent that? Idk

        1. AnonToday*

          Friends in the scene in California said that (at least as of late 1990s) it was considered legally impossible to “consent to assault” so a top could be prosecuted even if the bottom objected. I’m sure this has links to problems prosecuting domestic abuse where a frightened survivor doesn’t want to press charges to prevent retaliation.

        2. Bob-White of the Glen*

          If you accidently kill someone in a non-sexual manner (throwing an axe for a co-worker to catch for example) you can still be held for manslaughter. The state doesn’t need to come in and police consenting adults and their behavior.

          1. Lab Boss*

            At the same job as the axe-throwing incident, we had an injury that resulted from two guys consensually goofing around throwing knives at each other. The police DID come take statements (they’d been notified by the hospital about a non-self-inflicted knife wound) but all they did was make sure it was truly an accident between friends and give a brief lecture. So yeah, the state has an interest in not letting people stab each other, that doesn’t have to extend to making it a crime for consenting adults to do something that could be dangerous.

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            yeah but in the UK we’ve seen a lot of murderers getting away with just manslaughter (and far less prison time if any) because they’ve pleaded that the choking occurred during “rough consensual sex that went wrong”. People are arguing that “even if she consented to rough sex she didn’t consent to being killed”.
            Because being charged with domestic violence leading to murder carries a different weight than accidental manslaughter during a consensual romp.
            There are too many women being killed like this.

      2. Parakeet*

        I’m about 90% sure it’s Massachusetts. The law doesn’t allow you to legally consent to BDSM in Massachusetts and it would fit with the Puritan reference. Look up “Paddleboro” (the first several Google results are all about the relevant thing)

        1. Minimal Pear*

          Oof well that’s information that something like… half of my friend group needs to know!

        2. Who am i*

          I also assume MA, and I’m fairly certain it’s to protect domestic violence victims who decide not to press charges.

          Also, it’s important to know that there are assholes like Lee in just about every BDSM community.

          1. Who am i*

            People like Lee are a small minority, and when found out, the majority of people spread the word about their bad behavior.

            As I re-read my previous post, I realized it could come across as anti-BDSM, and nothing could be farther from the truth.

        3. Beth*

          Not just Massachusetts, although the Puritan reference does imply it. That legal situation (the law can be applied to deny anyone the right to consent to assault) is pretty common.

          Also common is the law being applied selectively and vindictively. It doesn’t matter how many examples there are of the law not being used: it’s still there and can be brought in any time a jurisdiction decides to crack down on the “deviants”. It’s especially useful in divorce and custody cases, when one spouse has the pull to get the other spouse too legally damaged to fight back.

      3. Rankin Johnson*

        In Oregon, where I practice, consent isn’t really addressed in the criminal code (except as to sex offenses). There’s no defense of consent to assault (so boxers, tattoo artists, and surgeons are all potentially at risk). I’m not aware of any prosecutions for injuring a willing victim, and the appellate courts have not addressed it, but it’s a weird open question.

        1. Despachito*

          “any prosecutions for injuring a willing victim”

          I remember a case when a fencer injured another fencer , and the club legend has it that the police interrogation went like this:

          Policeman: Did you injure him on purpose?
          Fencer: Of course not!
          P: But you wanted to stab him, didn’t you?
          F: Of course I did, it was a fencing match!
          P: So you did it on purpose!

          And so on, and so forth – it was obviously difficult for the policemen to understand that although the fencer did want to hit the other fencer, it was NOT to injure him.

          I am not a lawyer so I cannot tell but I think that unless he killed or seriously injured him (in which case it would be probably investigated whether either of them neglected some safety measures), it would be up to the injured person whether he wanted to sue the fencer who injured him, and if he didn’t, that would be it. I can possibly imagine beginning a process against a BDSM practitioner for mild harm (bruises as OP was describing) if their partner wants to sue them but not if he/she doesn’t (as it was in this case)

      4. Despachito*

        This is what I was thinking, too.

        I mean, I understand that if you cause permanent harm you are liable even if the person you caused the harm to consented (I remember a recent case of a canibal who killed and ate a person at the person’s request).

        But given what OP wrote about this earlier (a coworker noticed the bruises, asked around, another coworker told her that OP is engaged in BDSM, HR questioned OP for long hours about that), what would happen if OP just flatly refused to participate in this farce? Like “oh, the bruise? Thank you for caring, but there is nothing to worry about?”

        Is the employer ever entitled to investigate in this and to get answers other than “none of your business”? I understand a human concern that a coworker may be the victim of domestic violence, but I frankly do not see appropriate much more that: “are you OK? Just in case there is something you need to resolve, these are the resources you might want to turn to”, and that would be it. I am not aware of the laws in the U.S. but I see what HR did in this case as a HUGE overstep and I cannot imagine that a person who might be a victim of DV could be legally interrogated in such a way.

        1. Everything Bagel*

          I think this changed from concern for the letter writer to concern for Mary being sexually harassed by the letter writer for telling Mary about her sex life, which if she didn’t anyway.

      5. Beth*

        It’s not that unusual. IIRC, the official stance is “nobody can consent to be assaulted” — a specific instance of “nobody can consent to be the victim of criminal activity”. Assault is criminal, BDSM is assault, black is black and so is grey.

          1. UKDancer*

            I should imagine through regulation of the activity. The case of R v Coney differentiated between “properly conducted sports and games” and an illegal prize fight. Participation in “properly conducted” i.e. licensed and regulated sporting activity is an exception to the legal principle that one can’t consent to be assaulted. A court would look to check what rules the sport had, how it was regulated, what safety precautions existed etc.

            R v Billinghurst differentiates injuries sustained as part of a rugby match from a decision by one player to punch another. The former is not a criminal offence and the latter is.

      6. Julia*

        It’s fairly common that you can’t consent to being assaulted. These are typically part of laws preventing domestic violence.

        In Massachusetts there was a 1980 case that ruled “Private consensual sadomasochistic behavior is not a defense to the crime of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon under G. L. c. 265, Section 15A. [308-311] ” (http://masscases.com/cases/sjc/380/380mass296.html). The dangerous weapon in this case was a riding crop.

        Lawrence v. Texas doesn’t cover all private sexual activities. A case from 2016 (Doe v. Rector and Visitors of George Mason University) ruled that there is not a constitutional right to BDSM between consenting adults.

    3. Everything Bagel*

      I’m glad the letter writer was able to move on to a better job, but I have to admit I was a little disappointed in the outcome overall. I was hoping to see that she was somehow vindicated and everyone awful at her former company got reprimanded in some way.

  1. quill*

    #1. I remember how everyone thought Lee was into stirring up shit because if you’re involved in that scene, you know how important discretion is, and I must say I am not surprised by this development.

    1. June*

      Lee is horrible. I think it’s always wise to remember work friends are SITUATIONAL and deeply personal information you want kept private should never be divulged to a coworker. Even if you feel like the best of friends.

      1. Nanani*

        It sounded like that boundary was crossed because they happened to share interests and therefore a specific non-work social circle.

        On the balance, you’re right, but you also can’t necessarily prevent your colleagues from joining the only hobby club in town, if that makes sense.

    2. Erin*

      +1 to this! I could not get my mind around how Lee was actively not following the well established rules of discretion within the BDSM community.

      Glad this person got away from Lee, and from an HR department that made them discuss their intimate life that took place outside of work. That’s just…..invasive and cringey

  2. Jake*

    #1 in #1 blows my mind.

    What an awful HR department and awful state and awful coworkers and awful Lee. Always awful Lee.

    1. whingedrinking*

      Honestly I’m still trying to figure out Mary’s deal. Lee is a butthole who gets off on causing chaos/violating people’s trust – awful, obviously, but not outside my own experience.
      Mary, though – okay, so she thinks OP is being abused, so she’s determined to dig in and find out the truth. But when she gets the truth, she both thinks OP is “flaunting” her injury as a sexual trophy despite insisting that it’s from roller derby and so OP must be fired because she’s a disgusting evil deviant – but also she’s being sex-trafficked and needs to be rescued and somehow the workplace is in on the whole thing and keeping her in subjugation so Mary called the motherforking cops about it all?

      …why are people?

      1. Dragon_Dreamer*

        Mary is a drama llama ding dong. She needs to be seen as OP’s savior as well as flaunting her virtuousness by condemning the “sinner.” It’s white knight syndrome combined with holier than thou.

        IOW, it’s all for as much attention as se can get while making herself look as good as possible.

      2. bamcheeks*

        I mean, this is classic SWERF logic and also drives a lot of homo and transphobia. “I am deeply discomforted by your existence and rather than recognise that as a me-problem I will swing between seeing you as a dastardly perpetrator or a voiceless victim”. It doesn’t have to make sense or have any consistency because it’s driven entirely by someone’s emotions and their refusal to recognise someone else’s humanity and agency.

      3. Van Wilder*

        The fact that she thinks OP is the victim of sex trafficking (possibly abetted by her employer?) makes me think that Mary is a QAnon nut job and there doesn’t have to be any further logic than that.

      4. OldBag*

        So I’ve been reading this saga and debating whether or not to speak up, because I know I need to explain it *extremely* carefully so it’s not misinterpreted. First, Mary sucks. She didn’t listen, went off the deep end, was completely unhinged, and even if she was totally correct and OP was being abused and trafficked and covering for her abuser (this, btw, is also why those laws about “no, you cannot consent to abuse” exist– It actually warms my heart that people here are all indignant about this, not even occurring to them the scenario of an abuser with a fistful of hair pulling ever so tightly as the victim brightly and cheerfully assures the nice police officers this was all consensual sexy time fun and “nothing to see here, officer! Move along please!”) — If Mary was trying to help a real and true victim, well, this was the completely and totally wrong way to go about it.

        And just to be clear– that ban on consenting to assault being rooted in protecting abuse victims isn’t entirely off the mark. Decades ago when I used to partake in such things on a more community level (this story is a BIG part of why I don’t mess with group kink scenes anymore– I do what I do with my partner and that’s it that’s all. We don’t talk about it with anyone else or socialize about it. Look at what Lee did with OP’s info. Forget that. I’m not giving anyone that info about me unless I have to– ie it’s someone I’m being intimate with), we had a new guy running around our scene who was SUPER popular. Of course he was– he was fresh meat in a small scene that got old v fast once everyone knew each other. He was attractive, smart, intelligent, fun to talk to. We had a lot of women in our scene then who enjoyed public displays of hetero sexual performance, and he wasn’t shy about this (for some reason a lot of the het guys in that circle then were very shy to do public performances– I mean like at a party, not in the middle of the street!) so that made him very attractive. He got a LOT of attention. He would sit and negotiate a scene, and was very much saying all the right things, seemed very safe, sane, sober, consent minded. He was very meticulous about making sure to take notes of the negotiations, documenting every no, softs and hards.

        And then he’d get into a play scene, violate every one of those hard nos, and after would act just destroyed, utterly destroyed, so upset because you see, he thought that the discussion of the nos beforehand was part of the *play*! He didn’t realize that was *serious*! He was such a silly boy; he thought telling the nos was a sub’s way of asking for what they wanted and that they were negotiating a rough scene! He was a master– he even would cry during this. And after the 3rd or 4th time this happened– including twice during two separate exhibition scenes at two separate parties– people cottoned on that he was a predatory POS who knew exactly and precisely what he was doing. People researched him and dug into his background. Found people from his former city and kink circles. Turned out guy had a thing for publicly raping women. Yuck.

        So, back to Mary. Mary was dead wrong… and Lee totally sucks… But here’s the thing Mary isn’t wrong about: OP needs to keep her sex life to herself. And that includes sex related injuries. She basically showed her hickies in public, intentionally or not. Sure, obviously not all bruises are from sex. But when you’re displaying regular, consistent injuries that don’t make sense, that arouses suspicion. So you better have a good story if you can’t hide them. I don’t think it’s part of a fetish on OP’s part. But there ARE people out there who will do things like when at a social event the sub still has to call the dom “master” and not speak to anyone unless given permission by the top… and that shit (doing it in public with the normies like that) is creepy and weird and totally inappropriate outside of a kink party. No one wants to see that. That is referred to as basically being an exhibitionist with your sex life, involving outsiders in your kink (by way of turning them into voyeurs) without their consent. That’s super not cool. And again, let me be extremely clear, I do not think OP was doing this. But here’s the thing: Mary did.

        Mary was, again, super wrong to do what she did. Lee sucks too, but I could see someone completely naively doing what he did. The fact he happens to in reality be a complete dirt ball (and the argument could be made that *Lee* is actually the one non-consensually turning others into voyeurs) doesn’t change that this could have all come about innocently. And none of it would have happened had OP taken time to make sure her injuries are hidden, prepped her play beforehand to make major effort to ensure any injuries that do occur will be able to be hidden, made sure her equipment was being used safely and properly, (and therefore not leaving traces), and either done some serious introspection, research, soul searching, or conversing with therapists to have a strong, firm conviction deep in her soul that no, she owes absolutely no one any explanation about anything in her private life. Obviously some injuries are going to happen! But OP’s problem is it was constant and consistent enough to arouse major suspicion. That was sloppy AF. This isn’t a world where it’s safe to do that. And if it’s happening regularly enough to arouse suspicion? I’m sorry but you’re doing it wrong. Kink better.

        For the record, if anyone reading this has this happen to them in the future? The appropriate response to HR’s inquiry is “I’m absolutely certain you did not in fact just ask me private information about my sexual activities. Because I’m also certain you are completely aware, just as I am, and as I hope you will shortly make Mary aware, that is not an appropriate work topic. I’m going to do you the favour of forgetting you asked that, you will never bring up such completely inappropriate accusations to me again, and consequently there won’t be a landmark sexual harassment settlement you’ll have to pay out to me. Then we’re all happy. If you have further questions about my sexual activities you are more than welcome to direct them to my attorney. Good Day.”

        But I’m too old for this crap, and I play hardball. YMMV.

  3. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    OP1, I am glad that you are now in a job where you don’t have to worry about being harassed or outed. And I continue to hope that karma will catch up with Lee and leave them in deep trouble.

      1. linger*

        It’s an especially apt pseudonym:
        lees (n) bottom-dwelling solid waste; the unwanted sediment of a fermentation process.

  4. Falling Diphthong*

    Shifted around as part of a secret plan to drive out the troublemakers

    Severance Season 2 is starting already?

    1. Lizzie*

      Sounds like where I work. Between shifting problematic employees to other areas, and doing away with perks and other things because a few people abused it, vs. addressing it with the offenders, they do a really good job of sticking their heads in the sand!

  5. RJ*

    #1 – OP, I’m just glad you’re far away from Lee the Awful and in a remote job where you won’t get judged on your personal life and choices.

    #3 – And this is how we lose great healthcare workers due to bureaucratic nonsense. Good for you for leaving and good luck at your new place.

    1. Hannah Lee*

      Re #3, not just bureaucratic nonsense, but bureaucratic nonsense with a side of “for profit healthcare” motivation. They aren’t paying LW because the employer would rather not have the expense, and keep the money in their own pockets.

      1. Van Wilder*

        I’m glad she got out of there but I’m still angry that her employer got away with breaking the law. It will obviously cost them more to replace OP but that money should be in OP’s pocket.

  6. Free Meerkats*

    Nikki was just shifted around as part of a secret plan to drive out the troublemakers along with a bunch of other people who weren’t managed, just forced into other areas.

    In the past we referred to our plant as “The Island of Misfit Boys” – we’re literally on an island – because any time someone in Public Works wasn’t working out, they’d get transferred out here. That’s pretty much in the past, mostly due to the old guard retiring, but the sobriquet lives on.

  7. ShysterB*

    OP3 — if you are in the U.S., there are two places to consider trying to pursue recovery of wages. First, check to see if you have a basis to file a complaint with the US Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. Second, your state Department of Labor should have its own state-level equivalent. If the amount at issue isn’t enough for you to go through the hassle/expense of a court filing (I’ve litigated such claims on behalf of employees, but they’ve generally been ancillary to other claims in dispute), those administrative/agency avenues might be worthwhile.

    1. The OTHER Other*

      I really hope OP follows up on this, the employer isn’t even following their own guidelines, let alone federal laws, and stonewalled the OP. This is egregious, and I doubt OP is the only person affected. They should be named and shamed!

      1. Elaner*

        Yes, this!! Because they’re right, that’s not how OSHA works. Each state is required to meet the federal standard at a minimum or they loose their ability to run OSHA at a state level and it reverts back to the feds.

        1. A Plain-Dealing Villain*

          This is true, but it’s a known issue at OSHA. In its 30 year history with state plans, OSHA has never revoked one, despite a few states not exactly following through. Three states failed to implement a healthcare ETS. Arkansas was one, and OSHA is in the process of trying to revoke their status because they have problems well beyond COVID. Could be worth it for OP to see what the Feds have to say through the federal OSHA hotline, though.

    2. Bob-White of the Glen*

      Please follow up with this. You should not have lost wages, and the state can help you get them back. Maybe in the weekend post put let us know your state and people might be able to give you more direct info on who to contact?

    3. W&H Lady*

      +1 – Typically state laws act as an additional protection on top of federal law. Federal law is the bare minimum everyone has to abide by. (I’m pretty sure that’s true most of the time, but it might not be true in states that are actively anti-worker’s rights…?). Unfortunately the protections OSHA affords have been shredded over time because… politics. Even if it’s against the law, they are very limited in what they can do about it (due to resources, caps on fine amounts, etc).

      In any case, LW3 – Google your state’s employment department or wage and hour division. You should be able to find out what the law is in your state and you may be able to file a claim for lost wages. Not every state has protections related to sick time, but some do.

      Signed, A State Wage & Hour Lady

    4. Chapeau*

      Another option is to call your Congressperson’s local or DC office. Staff can at the very least provide you with the contact information you need, and may even be able to help you file the complaint with federal OSHA, since they’re violating a federal requirement. Penalties for your former employer could be worth a lot more than the week’s pay they owe you…

      1. Former State House DO Staff*

        This is a great idea, either your Congressmember or your state House representative. Even if they’re not particularly cool on the policies you agree with, this is a pretty common job for their staff and/or interns, and they usually have direct point people in certain agencies to help you get things moving. I’d recommend their local district office rather than the DC or state capitol office because you’re more likely to get it directly to the people who deal with constituent casework rather than policy.

    5. Jessica Fletcher*

      OP, save and print all emails and documents related to this before you leave your employer! Then you’ll have it if you file a complaint (which I hope you do!)

  8. L.H. Puttgrass*

    I continue to enjoy these updates, and it’s great that the LWs are fixing their problems by getting great new jobs. But it’s also kind of dispiriting how often the updates to letters describing toxic workplaces, horrible bosses, and inane policies are that the workplaces are still toxic, the horrible bosses are still horrible bosses, the inane policies haven’t changed, and no one faced any comeuppance for their awfulness. I want a vicarious sense that justice has been done and wrongs have been righted, darn it!

    But I guess there’s a broader lesson there that sometimes, a workplace full of bees is going to stay full of bees no matter what and all you can do is get out.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Or you are finally given a bee suit, and it turns out there is also a mud flow on the third floor and chupacabras roam the office after three, which you weren’t noticing because the bees had all your attention.

      I appreciate the updates where people calmly raised an issue and it turned out it could be dealt with, and was. But when it’s a toxic workplace or a horrible boss, there really isn’t one magic thing you can do to transform all the managers above you. Inane policies are more mystifying in their persistence, but it seems that the people with the power to change them often have to feel real pain (e.g. “our best employees are leaving over this”) to make the effort to change them.

    2. Filosofickle*

      I think that broader lesson is often true, at least in the short term. It can be worth taking a stand when you have the power, and I’d like to believe that over time if people speak up or walk out and terrible behavior has consequences we’ll see a shift in work culture. Culture does change, just slowly. Personally I am the squeaky wheel type, I’ll push for improvements because I can’t help myself but I will leave before they drag me down. I can’t single-handedly fix a broken system. Gotta know when to fold ’em.

    3. Cedrus Libani*

      The consequences are the natural ones. Toxicity creates its own feedback loop: as the competent and reasonable decide to work somewhere else, the others stay behind, forming an ever-intensifying vortex of people who deserve each other. Eventually the vortex collapses under its own weight.

      The only thing you can do is get out. This is not merely self-preservation, although it’s that too. We all have a finite amount of energy – should you waste it trying to protect your boss (who sucks and isn’t going to change) from the logical consequences of their poor decisions? Nah; life’s too short. Go kick some butt on behalf of a workplace that sets you up to succeed. Let karma deal with the rest.

    4. kiki*

      I left a toxic job a while back in a bit of mass exodus. I wanted to watch the company burn, but it didn’t. It’s still chugging along. It sounds like they may have learned a couple lessons, but overall they haven’t changed much.

      It is kind of disheartening how many companies are bad but just keep going.

  9. SaffyTaffy*

    So, so good to hear your update OP1- I remember when you were between jobs, and I’m delighted to find that, you know, life is long and stories continue (this means you, OP3! I want an update to the update someday when this is a distant memory).

  10. Hannah Lee*

    So the managers at LW #4’s office are taking the inept elementary school teacher’s approach of just moving the seats of kids that are talking all the time? That sounds professional!

    1. LW4*

      I reported to 19 managers in 5 years so that didn’t help with performance management as you can imagine.

    2. Esmeralda*

      I dunno, as the mom of such a kid I have to say moving the chatty boys away from each other was pretty effective. (We had some in home consequences too lol)

      And it can work at work too. Clique-y snarksters were deliberately moved into separate teams and projects, paired to work with exceptionally professional people, and even meetings were engineered so that they couldn’t sit near each other. Manager also spoke with them directly, but breaking them up was what really did it. Took a few months. They were all capable workers, just had gotten into a toxic and unprofessional set of behaviors, maintained by being in that clique.

  11. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    “I live in a state where it is actually impossible to legally consent to BDSM”

    How on earth does that work?

    1. Jackie*

      A quick google search led to an article stating that if someone actually gets hurt, bdsm participants are liable regardless of consent. It says this is case in all of the US (not specific states) as well as the UK, it’s just a few European countries where consent carries weight. Curious if any lawyers here can corroborate.

    2. Just… no*

      You can’t consent to physical assault or injury, outside of some limited exceptions, like contact sports. Some states have built in BDSM exceptions, but many (most?) have not. This is pretty normal. However something like this is almost never prosecuted unless the victim states they did not consent.

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely the case in the UK. When I studied law at university we studied the case history in the UK when studying offences against the person. The main case was R v Brown (1993) where the police found videos of some consensual activities between a group of men wherein the House of Lords held that consent was no defence to ABH and unlawful wounding.

        If it hadn’t been for the videos then I don’t think the case would have come to court because nobody would have known about it. I mean the participants all consented, nobody went to the police so it’s not usual to prosecute people for this type of injury unless someone complains. In Brown the police found videos and thought they were snuff films so they launched a major investigation. I think I’d also say this was probably to a certain degree decided in the way it was because of the level of homophobia in the UK in the early 1990s and probably if it had been a heterosexual married couple involved rather than a group of gay men, the decision might have been otherwise. I’d imagine if the case were heard now it might go differently but it might not.

        But that’s the UK legal position until Parliament changes the law or there’s a different precedent.

    3. Velawciraptor*

      It can be about the definitions used in statutes like battery, assault, etc. For example, in one state, battery can be defined as something along the lines of “battery is an angry touching of another person,” while in another state it’s “all hitting is bad and therefore battery.”

      Criminal law is weird and rarely written by criminal lawyers. This makes for weird unintended (and sometimes intended) legal implications.

    4. Op 1*

      Persecution of assault and battery does not require proof of a violation of consent and it gets twisted. Intended to protect DV victims that won’t press charges, it just means we have to be Very Careful with our shit

      1. TheRain'sSmallHands*

        And in the DV sense, its really important that you cannot consent to being hurt – because abuse has such a psychological basis and control is what its about – DV victims often can consent about as well as children. But we are all aware that those laws can also be used because someone thinks someone else’s kink is icky.

        (Rule: Don’t judge anyone else’s kink – as long as its consensual between people who CAN consent.)

      2. Minimal Pear*

        Thank you for the explanation! I was very curious about what was going on there legally.

        1. SnappinTerrapin*

          I could be wrong, but I suspect we aren’t dealing with statutes that envision either domestic violence or BDSM, but rather, prosecution of the general laws against violent crimes in cases that happen to intersect with those circumstances.

          As a general proposition, consent to fight is not a defense when either party is charged with a crime because of a resulting injury. Most jurisdictions would support convictions for assaults, batteries or homicides, as well as more general offenses like disorderly conduct.

          Even in jurisdictions that formerly tolerated dueling, consent is not a defense to a murder charge under their current laws.

          Even self defense laws, authorizing one to defend oneself, assume that one party is the aggressor and the other is asserting that he was the innocent victim.

          The silence of a domestic violence victim doesn’t bar prosecution of the crime; it just creates an evidentiary burden to prove the charge.

          I’d be a little surprised to find a law that differentiates between a criminal assault and an injury resulting from consensual BDSM activity, and I’m having a little trouble imagining how such a law could be implemented. Maybe it’s better not to invite legislators to debate whether and how to regulate activities that are intended to be private. The best defense to criminal prosecution is to be sufficiently discreet to avoid coming to the attention of the prosecutor.

          When contested questions of fact have to be resolved by a court, the individuals involved have already lost their privacy.

          1. bamcheeks*

            I’d be a little surprised to find a law that differentiates between a criminal assault and an injury resulting from consensual BDSM activity, and I’m having a little trouble imagining how such a law could be implemented

            Genuine question: why would it be harder than law criminalising rape or sexual assault? The law in both cases is about a physical act which is legal with consent and illegal without it.

            (English/Welsh law frames it as “reasonable belief in consent” on the part of the perpetrator rather than consent per se, because you have to prosecute based on the state of mind of the perpetrator not the complainant.)

          2. UKDancer*

            No I think you’re absolutely right. The issue is that the legislation is that which governs violent offences (at least it is in the UK) and there is no defence of consent to violent offences. There are partial defences for things like body piercing and tattooing as long as they are performed in accordance with regulations. There’s no legislation for how to do bdsm.

            I think the premise in the UK is that people shouldn’t be agreeing to things that damage them and that the law should protect them. Otherwise you’d be unable to prosecute successfully people for getting into a fight when both parties are wanting to fight. I don’t think they had bdsm in mind when they wrote the legislation in 1861 and nobody in Parliament has successfully wanted to amend it subsequently.

            I should say prosecutions are very rare unless someone complains because without someone reporting it, the police are very unlikely to find out. I mean if you went to hospital with an injury you would probably get some searching questions from the staff but I don’t think they’d report it without your agreement.

            1. Kit*

              > I think the premise in the UK is that people shouldn’t be agreeing to things that damage them and that the law should protect them.

              This is… trueish? The foundational basis in common law that one cannot consent to physical harm (and the reason that it can be used to prosecute even if the ‘victim’ doesn’t want to press charges, as in this case) is not some high-minded protectionism, but that the state has a vested interest in its citizenry’s ability to work, and thus earn money to pay taxes. It’s actually rooted in a view of people as property, and the premise that a landowner was entitled to prosecute others who harmed his serfs and deprived him of the value of their labor.

              Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that we’re going to see a serious revision of this because the benefits of such a view (for DV prosecutions) outweigh the harms (of attempts to prosecute activities by entirely consenting adults, such as in BDSM). Attempts at actual protectionism by invoking mandatory reporting and the like aggravate the situation, but since being kinky isn’t a protected class on either side of the pond, it’s likely always going to be a risk.

            2. Nameless in Customer Service*

              I mean if you went to hospital with an injury you would probably get some searching questions from the staff but I don’t think they’d report it without your agreement.

              In the US an increasing number of hospitals are reporting miscarriages to the police so the women who suffered them can be investigated, arrested, and even jailed for supposedly trying to induce those miscarriages. I’m not sure I would trust hospital staff to not report other injuries gained in ways that someone might be able to find a way to object to on basis of morals.

  12. Lydia*

    It sounds like the kind of thing written to appear to be protecting people while actually giving legal recourse to prosecute anyone whose private life is deemed deviant. Like it was sold as protecting subs if a dom went too far and caused actual harm that had long term effect, to a bunch of people who don’t understand the relationship even vaguely. It can also serve its explicit purpose to help anyone harmed by an abusive person by allowing that “Well, she consented” is not a defense if someone is actually hurt in a way that causes long term or permanent harm.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      OP mentioned above that it’s intended as anti-DV legislation, which I kind of understand, since so often DV victims will make excuses for the abuser. Which does not prevent it from being misused in the way you describe above but does make it less immediately icky.

    2. Kate*

      There are multiple cases in the UK where a man has strangled a woman (sometimes to death) and then used a ‘rough sex’ excuse. This should not be a successful defence in English law (where you can’t consent to bodily harm either) – but it has successfully been used to claim the intent was not to kill and reduce the charge from murder to manslaughter and get a lighter sentence (eg in the Sophie Moss case – even though the killer had a history of domestic abuse he got less than five years for killing her).

      I find OP’s ‘Puritan’ comment self-absorbed and tone deaf. Other things are important besides your hobbies.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’m a transplant to New England. There some weird old laws (“Blue Laws”) that go back to the Puritan colonies.
        It’s been less than 10 years since Connecticut finally decided to allow alcohol sales on a Sunday.

      2. Op 1*

        I think you’re giving too much thought about my comment. And other things are important for sure but the law being against my hobby contributes to situations like being questioned for hours on end at work about something I did for fun so I’m a little bitter

        1. Nameless in Customer Service*

          FWIW this Internet stranger doesn’t think you did anything wrong.

      3. Nameless in Customer Service*

        Unfortunately a lot of people not involved in BDSM don’t know that or how it differs from so-called “rough sex”. BDSM has communities, protocols, even instructional books that provide advice on how to minimize harm and maximize fun.

        Also, even if everyone did nothing in bed but missionary vanilla sex forevermore that would not stop murderers determined to use the “rough sex” defense. LW hasn’t caused anyone to use that defense and isn’t harming other women with her sex life and has every right to her hobbies.

  13. RPOhno*

    LW 3, if you were a public/government employee, a volunteer, or (maybe, I’d have to double check this one) worked for a non-profit, then your direct occ health and safety regulator was your state COSH. However, those programs are required to be at least as restrictive as OSHA and are overseen by OSHA. If you want to file a complaint, I’d say go to your state COSH AND OSHA, as well as possibly equivalent Dept’s of Labor and/or Dept’s of Public Health.

  14. LW4*

    LW4 here. Unrelated to Nikki, Jack and everything else going on there that would be worthy of its own book, or perhaps a dark sit com, the organisation treated me appallingly. I was their star performer, until I moved to a new Dept where the manager engaged in blatant, (very illegal) discrimination, gaslighting and victimisation. I became very unwell mentally. Eventually I found the strength to leave, no easy thing when you’re in a very dark place. I now work in a flexible, supportive organisation that values me and my mental health is much improved. The old org continues to be just as f*cked but not my problem anymore! Commenters that told me to leave…consider yourselves vindicated, thank you.

    1. Bob-White of the Glen*

      So so so glad you escape. And are providing hope to those that haven’t yet!

    2. kicking_k*

      Well done for getting out! You’re right, it isn’t the easiest thing when in a dark place. I hope you are enjoying your new, non-bee-filled workplace and the improvement generally continues.

  15. Michelle Smith*

    #3 I hope you sue the heck out of them. Google “how to file an OSHA complaint” and call the number!!

    1. Adds*

      Ugh. I’m on my phone and this didn’t nest properly. Please accept my apology and disregard.

  16. Mamabear*

    #1; I’m calling this my summer of bruises. Because I’m getting more yard work done. ;p

  17. Bébé Chat*

    I feel so bad for LW#1 who is just surronded by awful people. I wish you all the best LW#1, in your professional and personal life.

  18. No Way*

    I feel awful for the OP dealing with people shaming them (Lee and Mary officially suck.)

    If it makes you feel better, OP, I’m a pretty vanilla, churchgoing Republican (NEVER Trumper) in the Midwest and as long as no one hurts kids, adults or animals, you do you. You are not a “freak” and what these 2 co-workers did to you, to say nothing of HR, is outrageous.

    I also volunteer for domestic violence awareness – so I might have quietly told you that I have your back if you need help. Once. That’s it. Glad you are happy and have moved away from that clown show!

    1. Nameless in Customer Service*

      I really hope this comment made OP feel better. It definitely made me feel better from over here in my blue East Coast city, and that’s pure honesty, no sarcasm.

  19. blood orange*

    OP #3 – I don’t know all of the details of your circumstances, but generally if you have state OSHA (as mine does) then their ETS needs to be *at least as effective*. That’s a general rule of thumb for Federal guidance vs. state. For instance, states can have a higher minimum wage than Federal, but not lower. It’s worth reaching out to your state’s labor agency to make a complaint!

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