55

Brief Summary

So, I've been in a bit of a situation recently: one of my co-workers (female, I'm male btw) started flirting with me. It started with her throwing things like "hey, beautiful", and I took it as a joke. But she became more and more pushy, and it is now a situation where it is a problem for me on several levels.

As asked, here are a few example of her behavior:

  • Comments on my appearance, things like "Hey beautifull" or "Nice ass"
  • Unwanted physical contact, things like touching my leg, pressing herself against me

What I have tried so far (chronological order):

  • Be clear about my lack of interest in her.
  • Tell her that I have a girlfriend, and therefore am not "available"
  • Get angry at her when she behaves that way
  • Talk about it to her husband, who doesn't seem to care
  • Complain to our manager AND police, and they basically told me to "suck it up"

What I can't do

I can't ask to be put in another team, nor can I avoid her at the workplace (I'm working at a company of 5 people).

I cannot quit my job, at least not for now - due to many personal reasons quitting now would be problematic, and I don't think I'll be able to quit before 10+ months.

Any 'eye for an eye' tactics, violence, etc are not acceptable, for obvious reasons.

My question

Is there any way to get her to stop her behaviour?

  • 9
    It seems like you've already done a lot that... Have you checked the talks and advice on the WorkPlace.SE about the same matter? 1. stop a flirting co-worker 2. deal with an overly flirtatious friend 3. boss wants a relationship with me – OldPadawan Sep 29 '17 at 8:50
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    Have you mentioned the words "sexual harassment"? That tends to put people on edge a bit more. – Erik Sep 29 '17 at 8:53
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    @avazula It doesn't really change my statement though. I have my doubts that police would take these accusations seriously here as well. Even if it's harassment from a male worker, non-physical sexual harassment is hard to deal with for police if it's still in the "heavy flirting" stage. Labour groups would likely be a lot more concerned. They are specifically designed to deal with workplace issues; especially when you feel helpless in your company. – JMac Sep 29 '17 at 11:15
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    Is it flirting or stalking? What exactly does she do or say? She's "pushy" and she doesn't take "no" for an answer....but could you provide an example of her behavior? Is it daily harassment or frequent annoyance? What does she do or say? – user3114 Sep 29 '17 at 18:55
  • 9
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because any solution will involve workplace rights and possibly legal action. It is unlikely any further communication with the other party will alleviate the situation. – user3169 Sep 29 '17 at 20:17

12 Answers 12

46

Is there any way, to get her to stop that behavior ?

Unfortunately, that seems utterly impossible by human means. You have made yourself clear, ignored her, complained, moved around, threatened, and so on...

What's left?

  1. Quit and move away from this toxic environnment (later, as you said).
  2. Get help.
  3. Take legal action.

DISCLAIMER: I'm not a lawyer, but know french, speak french and could ask about it to people in France, and search the web in french. The following are based upon those. Links are not provided as they are not in english, but can easily be found by french users.

Step 2 : you can get help from the dedicated number 08 842 846 37 (Government run). This hotline is for people who suffer from sexual harassment (victim or witness).

You can also get help from your local unions, if any in your company, but also outside of the company. I believe it's quite easy to get the local phone numbers. NOTE: as an individual, you can go by yourself file a complaint to the Conseil de prud'hommes 1 or Inspection du travail 2.

Step 3 : file a complaint to the special court (Conseil de prud'hommes) or get help and advice from Inspection du travail) or to the police (can also be done online in France).

Be very careful, as you have to prove what you say, so you need to document everything.


LAWS: (France): Criminal Code - Art. 222-33 (2012/08/06) / Labor Laws - L1153-1 (2012/08/06 - 2012/08/08) - Europe - Art. 2002/73/CE (2002/09/23).

And tell your boss that he's responsible even it this happens outside of the workplace ! (Cass. soc., 19 oct 2011, n°09-72.672).

This might help, because if he faces legal action, and found being responsible, he will probably make a move before, and talk to her / fire her.

To make it more clear (after comments): I would talk again to your boss, and explain carefully what's going on, how much you're bothered, and how it affects both your work and your private life. Choose your words carefully, he has to know, but also not feel threatened by legal action.


1. This is a special court dealing only with labor laws and professional matters, as you know (for non-french readers).

2. This is a government organization that rules work environnement for persons and companies.

  • 1
    Do you happen to know if it is possible to get a ... don't know what it is called in english ... a "doctor's permit for sick leave" from a psychologist for sexual harassment in such case? ("Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung" in German) – Fildor Sep 29 '17 at 14:03
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    Yes it is (and it's a sick-leave). It's possible from any doctor or psychologist. The 3-folds "sick-leave" does not show the why (only Social Security + Doctors can see it, on the first 2 sheets). The company gets the 3rd fold, with only the name of the employee and the duration of the sick-leave. – OldPadawan Sep 29 '17 at 14:07
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    @TheCatWhisperer : the only possible step remaining that I can see is from his boss :/ – OldPadawan Sep 29 '17 at 14:50
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    @Mari-LouA The Harassement started around 7 months ago, as for why my manager did'nt care about the situation, well I have no idea. I don't like to play the "sexism" card, but it might have to do with the fact that I'm a male, and some people may think that sexual harassement against a guy is no big deal (but i could be totally wrong on this ofc). But you're right that taking legal action should be a last resort, so, after taking everthing into consideration, I decided to quit my job, probably the best solution I have anyway. – user3399 Oct 2 '17 at 7:43
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    @user3399 : If you made you mind up and decided to quit, then, maybe, the sick-leave becomes an option. So: 1. you have more time to look for another job 2. Social Security will have a record of the problem in that company (maybe it'll help someone else facing this problem again in the future because of that woman) – OldPadawan Oct 2 '17 at 7:54
20

Another poster mentioned just ignoring her, which I believe is one of the better options. However, if you must interact with her any way for work purposes, the extinction response will be less effective.

Furthermore, you need to not only ignore her with your words, but also with your facial response. However, given the level emotion and frustration I sense in your post, I think this will be difficult for you.

Often, flirting by women (and sometimes men) is not a means of attempting to seduce you, but rather expressing a desire for validation.

Look for other ways to give her the validation she is craving, while attempting to ignore her flirtations. Eventually, she will see the flirting is not the best way to get what she is after.


You, "Wow, that report you wrote up for the boss looks great! Gunning for that promotion, huh? We are so lucky to have you here! " :)


Her, "Wow, looking sexy in that tie today!"

You, "whatever, the weather sucks today, let me know when you finish the report."

(You have completely invalidated her attempt to flirt with you)


I know it is not fair for you to have to be one to provide her validation; it is not your job, but life is not always fair, and to my mind, this would be one of the more effective solutions. I am sorry you are in this situation, and will have to take additional responsibilities to deal with it.

  • 9
    ...and often its a display of dominance. – T.E.D. Sep 29 '17 at 18:19
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    The question doesn't ask what her motivation is, rather how to deal with her behavior. – user3169 Sep 29 '17 at 21:29
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    @user3169 but knowing the motivation behind the behavior let's you target the underlying issue. – ratchet freak Sep 30 '17 at 10:45
  • Flirting jokingly is different from harassing. – Walfrat Oct 2 '17 at 8:14
  • Honestly if someone said that stuff to me I'd assume I was being mocked, unless I was extremely attractive. – user Oct 2 '17 at 10:41
9

As you put it, you can't change your work and don't get help from your manager and police. Well done for taking all the steps you already have taken!

I don't think you can change other people. You might be able to change how they treat you. That can be enforced, mostly in organisations. But your manager does not see your problem.


But you can change how you handle this, so:

Document everything. So if you want to press charges, so you can prove what has happened.

Talk about it with your girlfriend, you need her support (and others family and friends) to handle this situation.

Know the law, if or when your co-worker steps over that line you know what to do. This is not a light thing to do. But if you must, know what your options are.

Ignore her flirting, let it slide, act like it ain't there. Act like you would with a child that seeks attention in a way you don't want. Or a puppy that jumps up. You have made clear you don't want to flirt, or anything else from her, so she knows. Ignore it. Try to keep your emotion out of it, let the interaction from your side be neutral. No anger, no fun, no flirt. Bring your poker face. Act like you don't care. And keep your (physical) boundaries.

This is not an easy thing to do. I wish there were better ways to counter (her) flirting, and I hope someone else will come up with one. But she has already shown she does not respect your boundaries. If this does not work, stick with your current job it till you can get an other one. Very few things last forever, this too, will pass.

For actions if / when she crosses the legal line, please see OldPadawan's answer.

  • You're right about the GF/family/friends support, but according to french laws, she already crossed the line! big time! When it comes to such a thing, NO should be seen, as IT IS, a complete sentence. – OldPadawan Sep 29 '17 at 14:29
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    I am unfamiliar with French law. So I didn't that she already did cross a line. But he still has to go to work and deal with her in the mean time. Agree on No is a complete sentence. – Flummox Sep 29 '17 at 14:41
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    Suggest slightly rephrasing, "you need her to... handle this." That makes it sound like you mean for her to intervene. I think you mean you need their support to be able to get through it? – jpmc26 Feb 6 '18 at 3:10
  • @jpmc26, updated answer. – Flummox Feb 6 '18 at 8:10
8

I find it crazy that people are suggesting:

  • Leave the workplace
  • Ignore the behavior
  • Insert clever reply here, to try and detract.

I think this is cut and dry. Though, I have never been on the giving or receiving end of sexual harassment, but my girl-friend has; fortunately for her the business is - I assume - is like 99.9% of every business out there and they fired the guy immediately.

I do not think the country you are writing from matters much. What she is doing is harassment, and is against the law.

Maybe the police will not do anything about it. But contact a lawyer, and they will.

Is not the company breaking a myriad of laws for not dealing with the sexual harassment?

I know it sucks, but it might kind of be your responsibility as a reasonable and just human to have the courage to contact a lawyer and proceed with bringing this lady (and IMHO more so) and the company to justice. The company telling you to suck it up, is the absolutely most nuts part of this story.

I know its kind of nasty, but you're on a website writing about a problem that is really stressing you out / emotional distress. In the eyes of the law, (i think...not know) I believe that has a price tag associated with it!!

DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. STOP THIS BEHAVIOR AND SET A PRECEDENT!

  • 2
    Not that he or your girlfriend needs to, but just adding that it's also clear that he tried multiple solutions that would be less damaging for his harasser, and she chose not to accept them. Any consequences she incurs are completely her own doing. – user3306 Sep 30 '17 at 18:32
  • This is by far the best advice. The questioner has done everything they reasonably could, and is now at the stage where beginning legal action is the next step. – user Oct 2 '17 at 10:43
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    "I do not think the country you are writing from matters much. What she is doing is harassment, and is against the law." - Wow! That shows a stunning lack of awareness of the range of laws and cultural mores around the world. Of course it matters where you are writing from when discussing the law. – Martin Bonner Oct 2 '17 at 14:03
6

I say this with the caveat that this is not an interpersonal issue; it's a workplace / legal one. You are being harassed--it's inappropriate and wrong regardless of the genders involved. I don't know how the laws and culture of France differ from the US other than what I've seen in movies so my understanding is limited.

It seems you've taken this to the proper authorities with no luck, which is the only reason I'm giving other advice since you are unfortunate to have to deal with it yourself. Continue documenting, including your interactions with the people whose job it is to protect you.

I'd also suggest, if you haven't already, putting a firm "Do not do this" (without explanation or excuses or apologies from you) in an email to her and ccing your boss, HR, and anyone else you think is relevant.

I am not on board with telling you to just ignore it; however, other posters have a point that she's trying to get a rise out of you and may see this as a harmless game. When she says something inappropriate, an icy glare and an incredulous "Excuse me?!?" can go a long way into shaming someone into appropriate behavior.

  • 2
    The only user who has given the easiest and most effective piece of advice. Written documented evidence. Emails. But I would definitely include specific examples and episodes of the co-worker's sexual teasing/harassment in the email, and send it only to her and wait for her reply. If that doesn't do the trick of "shutting her up" then I would follow it with an email to their superior/boss/manager. Could you place the 3rd paragraph in bold? In this sea of answers, it's difficult wading through each and every single one. – user3114 Oct 1 '17 at 6:58
4

You have the impression she wants to sleep with you ? but does she behave the same way with others?

It's important to put that in perspective before acting.

I ask because like you, a girlfriend of one of my friends calls me name like 'beauty', texts me for my birthday and even came alone to see me to talk during one of her breaks (my stepmom was there for that last event, and she quit when that happened because she felt a "malaise" there)

Yes, I felt the same way as you, asking why she did that, but ultimately I saw her do that with others and now I just don't care about such things, as she's a good person anyway.

I would ignore her or quit that workplace if you can't.

As the problem you face is that for the society, sexual harassment is a woman/girl problem, not a man/boy problem... People see that as a joke. For example: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/19536167/ns/business-careers/t/male-sexual-harassment-not-joke/. The problem if you fight too much is that it can leave you with bad references for a future job, thus why I suggest quit or ignore.

  • 1
    "You have the impression she want to sleep with you". The OP didn't say that. – user3169 Sep 29 '17 at 21:36
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    @user3169 the word "flirt" is a strong word. The OP didnt told she haress me, he told she "flirt" with me. – yagmoth555 Sep 29 '17 at 21:45
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    Lots of people flirt without wanting to have sex with someone... People flirt with cops to get out of speeding tickets, with bartenders to get free booze... flirting doesn't necessarily have to do with sex. – Catija Sep 29 '17 at 23:18
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    We don't talk a casual flirting. Repeatitive & unwanted flirting are handled what way in a workspace ? Sexual harassment. As a simple definition; Flirting is a playful, romantic or sexual overture by one person to another – yagmoth555 Oct 1 '17 at 10:13
3

Why does she persist in doing this to you? Well, because it's easy, safe, and fun. You can approach the problem from any of these three angles.

Safe -- No, you're not going to bean her with a stapler. And sounds like you've already gone to HR (who could threaten her job) with no joy, so let's leave "safe" alone for a while.

Easy -- Well, you're around and accessible, it's a small office. You don't fancy moving to a new job. Okay, let's leave "easy" alone too.

Fun -- Here's where you can take action. Make it not fun to flirt with you. Don't get mad, don't freak out. Do look annoyed and say "I don't have time for this, Smith. What do you want?" whenever she gets saucy on you.

2

You have made your point on many different levels to her. She wasn't discouraged by a possible complaint to the police too. It should be obvious by now that she does not care if you want her. Everybody who could influence her is not willing to help you.

You could probably switch her attention from affection to hate. For example if you embarrass her at work utilizing her affection to you. But with a person like this, it would be like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.

There is no way to get rid of her attention to you. Try to minimize contact with her. Maybe you can change your table or office room. But ultimately you have to change your workplace.

  • Except if her intent is to get the OP to quit or get fired, in which case your recommended action will just play into that. – user3169 Sep 29 '17 at 21:32
1

I'd like to put my five cents here and state that leaving a workplace, because there is a single person, whose behavior you don't like, is a bad solution to the problem. OP has his own reasons to work at that place. The problem is not that big, the OP can't keep working as usual and doesn't worsen his work reasonably enough to quit it. The situation is as bad as if there was a person, who often(not 24/7 as i can guess from the information provided) jokes on the topic you hate and makes you irritated. So you can just deal with it(of course, after you try every other appropriate ways to solve the problem, but i didn't manage to think about any), as if there has been thrown an inappropriate joke, but the person likes joking even thou nobody laughs.

By the way since what time a grown man can pay so much negative attention to a flirt?

  • 1
    @OldPadawan in my opinion, the only passive reaction to flirt is an increasing ego with some thoughts like "this women flirts me that persistently, i'm such a cool guy" and all. I still can see nothing negative here. – fixerlt Sep 29 '17 at 14:01
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    It becomes negative when you point out that behavior directed at you is unwanted and yet it continues, because that's pretty much the defintion of harassment. – Erik Sep 29 '17 at 14:05
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    Just because you cannot see anything negative in it, that doesn't mean there is none. Just imagine the roles switched (male/female) ... he would be fired in an instant. – Fildor Sep 29 '17 at 14:10
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    @Fildor my opinion remains the same in both cases, since flirting doesn't include offence or sexual content(that is actually harassment btw @Erik). Normal, gentle flirt cannot harass nohow. – fixerlt Sep 29 '17 at 14:34
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    Even normal flirting becomes harassment when you point out that it's undesirable. Because it's not flirting anymore when someone has pointed out the behavior makes them uncomfortable. You are literally just intentionally annoying the person at that point. Keep in mind that "flirting" is supposed to be "playful", which is absolutely is no more. – Erik Sep 29 '17 at 16:07
1

The best solution here is the easiest one. Simply ignore her.

If the topic at hand is not workplace or safety related, there is (as far as I can imagine) no reason to respond to that person.

The biggest problem I see in your question is that you are reacting to her behavior. That just reinforces it and causes it to continue.

If you do not respond to such behavior, I think she would either back off or turn up the heat.

In the case of the former, problem solved.

In the case of the latter, clearly harassment could be brought up. However, unless there are workplace or law enforcement actions possible (doesn't seem like it), that won't go far.

But I wouldn't count on your manager (or other management) or the police only. If they can't take any action, you should consult with a lawyer specializing in employment issues.
Just because they don't want to get involved does not mean there are not any legal protections available.

However, in taking such an action, you will have to address your involvement so far. If you are complicit in any way, that might cause problems. Basically it has to be clear that you did not encourage her behavior in any way.
And be careful since entrapment can be a motivation in cases like these (basically her doing something to get you in trouble).

I guess the bottom line is why you are reacting at all. If there are specific reasons you should add them to your question.

  • 1
    Question: Have you actually used this tactic when being harassed/terrorized by someone, and had it work for you? In my experience they just escalate until it can no longer be ignored. – T.E.D. Sep 29 '17 at 18:22
  • The main point I tried to make is "The biggest problem I see in your question is that you are reacting to her behavior. That just reinforces it and causes it to continue." The OP has done things (the first three bullet points) that were unwise and only complicate the situation. – user3169 Sep 29 '17 at 20:11
1

Based on what you stated above, it seems that you've tried most of the usual routes and nothing seems to be working. She doesn't care that you've said you're not interested and she doesn't respect your wishes since she isn't listening, so I'd say that gives you the right to stop respecting her.

I'm all for dealing with situations nicely, I get criticized for being too nice sometimes and not standing my ground. But for people who just won't quit, you have to draw the line for them and make them not want to. Make it a miserable experience for them. She is insulting you by not respecting your boundaries, so insult her back. Flat out tell her she's ugly or that she is obnoxious/rude for not respecting your wishes and that you can't stand her.

She might be thinking you're playing hard to get for whatever reason, but if she realizes that you actually dislike/despise her, that should take the wind out of her sails. It always sucks to be the mean person, but sometimes it has to be done.

If she isn't getting reprimanded for sexual harassment, then equally you shouldn't be reprimanded for speaking harshly towards her. She doesn't seem like the type of person who would stop if you just ignore her and the police/your boss doesn't take it seriously, so you will have to put your foot down. Yeah she might end up despising your guts, but that's better than being miserable everyday at work.

1

This not an advice to ignore her, but how you can ignore if you would do it, while you can't enforce law or something else on her.

  1. Don't let her make your day worse when she's not doing anything or leave you alone. Have your day, do your job, talk to her only about the job and only the strictly necessary, then "disappear" from her again. This is mostly to take care of yourself and not let bad feelings come from her.

  2. if she talks to you, be sure that it's about work. If it's not, mute yourself and stay that way. Don't tell anything on purpose, not even a "good morning". This is to keep her in isolation. Giving her attention breaks it and gives her the chance to feel confident about the situation. Acting like this has a chance to make her feel bad about what she's doing.

  3. Don't feed her provocations, don't give her feedback, don't answer simple questions. Same reasons than 2.

  4. Tell her to not touch you if she does it. If you think it's necessary, start to record with your phone. DON'T move away, don't let her take or limit your space, she must respect it. Harassment start with flirting, then provocation and then bullying. This is to let her know that this thing is goddamn serious.

  5. Write about it and prepare to give the story to the media. Gather witnesses. Put in the story how you feel. Basically: "attack" back without being aggressive.

  6. Give yourself the right to be angry and the right to be mean and bad to her. If you want do to something DO IT but keep the law on your side. Don't respect who doesn't respects you, don't be civilized with uncivilized people. You should keep confident and above her, not under. Bad people shouldn't be above us.

All these things (i think) can make you a bit less fragile not only about this situation but about others too.

  • Welcome! Please add some explanations of why these things will work. We need to understand what benefit these serve. Even if you think it's obvious, part of a good answer is to support itself. Knowing "why" helps with that, as does any sort of personal experience with this situation you might be willing to share. Many times people think that a solution is good but if they've not been in the situation and tried it, they can't know for certain if it is or not. – Catija Sep 29 '17 at 21:22
  • The problem with 6. is that it could so easily backfire, and then the OP is accused of aggressive or unsocial behavior. But I do like points 1-4 – user3114 Oct 2 '17 at 10:39
  • @Catija point 1 is to take care of himself and not let bad feelings come from her. Point 2 is to keep her in isolation. Giving her attention breaks it and gives her the chance to feel confident about the situation. Acting like this has a chance to make her feel bad about what she's doing. Point 3 has the same effects than 2. Point 4 is to let her know that this thing is goddamn serious. 5 is to "attack" back without being aggressive. And 6 is an advice to keep confident and above her, not under. Bad people shouldn't be above us. – Cleiton Oliveira Oct 4 '17 at 2:08
  • Um... don't tell me... edit your answer. – Catija Oct 4 '17 at 2:09
  • @Mari-LouA It's just not overdo the whole thing. It's possible to be "not kind" and "not aggressive" at the same time you're angry. It's really not healthy to be kind to annoying or mean people. – Cleiton Oliveira Oct 4 '17 at 2:11

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