Ask the LifeQuake Doctor – Jun 2018
Dear Dr. Galardi,
I’m a therapist at a residential treatment facility. What I’m writing you about is very difficult for me to talk about to anyone because it involves someone else with great visibility. I’ve been experiencing sexual harassment from my boss. He’s very well known in the addiction field, and to protect my anonymity, I wish to keep any details about him out of this letter to you.
It’s one thing for celebrities and Olympic athletes to come out about their experiences with having a producer or another actor abuse their power in a sexual context; these people have made a lot of money and can afford to speak out now. In spite of the fact that I have a master’s degree in psychology and am licensed as a marriage and family counselor, I’m barely making ends meet. I need this job and he hasn’t been overt like Harvey Weinstein or James Franco—his approach is subtle. He makes comments about my clothes, he wants to know how I spent my weekend, he makes excuses for me to meet with him one-on-one to discuss the residential clients, and he alludes to his unhappy marriage and how his wife has never minded his having affairs. However, he’s never crossed the line physically. What do I do? I don’t want to offend his very big ego.
– Confused and Not Amused
I deeply empathize with you. My guess is that if he has been both unfaithful during his marriage and indiscreet enough to brag about it, you are dealing with a sex addict who has not done any recovery around this issue. I am going to be very direct with you, my dear: you can get another job in another facility.
Perhaps the reason you are not seeking employment elsewhere is that you do not want another job as a therapist. Maybe the compassion fatigue is high and you have an even greater challenge because you are feeling stress coming from both your clients and your boss.
I would invite you to look at this situation as a wake-up call. I did not hear in this letter anything that would indicate you love your job, just that you need your job. The universe pushes us to move forward in mysterious ways. I would encourage you to work with a career coach and explore what other options you might have with your skill set. While you are still there, if he does do anything that feels inappropriate, I would seek the advice of an employment lawyer.
Here is some information:
To hold your employer responsible for sexual harassment, it must be covered by the federal or a state law prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace. Under federal law, employers with fifteen or more employees are covered. Each state also has its own antiharassment laws, which may cover smaller employers.
. . . Keep a copy of any reports, letters, e-mails, or notes that you have to show that you told a manager about the harassment. On the other hand, if a supervisor harassed you, give the lawyer any evidence you have to prove the harassment, such as e-mails, texts, copies of offensive visuals, and the names of witnesses to (or other targets of) the harassment (England, n.d.).
I also want to include information about the #MeToo movement:
Long before the New York Times released their bombshell exposé on Harvey Weinstein, one woman coined the words that would spark a revolution both on and offline.
Though not initially credited with its founding, activist Tarana Burke launched the Me Too campaign in 2007 for her nonprofit Just Be Inc., which helps survivors of everything from sexual harassment to assault. Her upcoming memoir Where the Light Enters: The Founding of the ‘Me Too.’ Movement (slated for an early 2019 release) will explore what this unprecedented moment means for the millions of women she inspired to speak out (Joho, 2018).
The issue of sexual harassment can be a complex one, but I for one am happy to see the light being shed on this issue. I was brought in as a consultant for a treatment facility several years ago where the offending employee (who was in a supervisory position) was a gay woman, so it is not only straight men as perpetrators. I have heard stories from gay men being hit on by their male bosses as well. The issue is abuse of power, not sex.
Good luck with whatever decision you make. Thank you for reaching out!
About the Author
Toni Galardi, PhD, is a licensed psychotherapist and transitions expert in Marin County, California. She works with people by phone and Skype all over the world. She is also the author of The LifeQuake Phenomenon: How to Thrive in Times of Personal and Global Upheaval. She can be reached through her email address [email protected] or at her office at 310-890-6832.
England, D. C. (n.d.). Will a lawyer take your sexual harassment case? Retrieved from https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/will-lawyer-take-your-sexual-harassment-case.html
Joho, J. (2018). #MeToo founder is writing a memoir. Retrieved from https://mashable.com/2018/02/02/tarana-burke-me-too-founder-memoir/#AXJi_MZbk5qS