It's an awful fact that sometimes, the only thing that will stop a man from harassing a woman is a ring on her finger. It's disgusting and low and also the reality of the world in which we live. When the woman in this story posted to Reddit's "Am I the A-hole?" was being repeatedly harassed at work and HR wasn't doing anything about it (another part of this terrible story), she thought maybe wearing an engagement ring would finally be the thing that gave him the message to back off.
But when she brought up this possibility to her boyfriend, he got mad! As if this situation was about him... at all. This woman took to Reddit to ask if she'd be wrong to go ahead and wear the ring even though it would be against her boyfriend's wishes. And she got some good advice.
In her post, she explains that she has been with her boyfriend for about two years but that they've basically been long distance for nine months. For the last seven months, she's been working at a company where she's harassed on a regular basis by a man she calls Derek.
She explains, "It started out with innocent comments, and eventually progressed to what I can only describe as borderline verbal sexual harassment. Throughout all this, I have stated repeatedly that I have a boyfriend, I'm not interested, etc. but the guy literally cannot take a hint. He usually replies with crap like, 'I don't see no ring on your finger' or 'When's the last time I've seen you at a party not alone?'" Her office holds cookouts to which most people bring their partners and kids.
The real problem here is that she's brought this issue to HR three times, and they've done nothing. They give him a warning, and then a few days later, he's back to harassing her. She requested to be moved to a different floor, but the request was denied. She's basically been told just to "ignore it," which is obviously unacceptable. But because it doesn't seem like HR plans to do their job anytime soon, her sister suggested another tactic.
During a venting session, her sister suggesting she wear an engagement ring while she's at work. Maybe this will be the one thing that Derek respects. Obviously, she shouldn't have to consider this. HR should protect employees from harassment. But because that doesn't seem to be happening, and because Derek won't take no for an answer, wearing a ring might be one of the only ways to get him to stop.
When she brought this idea up to her boyfriend, though, he got mad. She wrote that "he was completely against it, saying that it was disrespectful to him when we aren't actually engaged." I'm trying to understand this, but this makes literally no sense. This is not about him at all. This is about a last-ditch effort to get a harasser off her back so she can go back to doing her job.
Maybe the boyfriend is insecure about their relationship or maybe he doesn't understand the extent of the harassment. Maybe he thinks people will ask about the engagement, and then she'll have to come up with a story. But none of this makes his reaction OK. As one commenter wrote, "If his feelings are more hurt by you wearing a mock ring than about you getting verbally manhandled in what should be a safe environment, that's entirely on him."
Most commenters totally agreed with this take but also took the advice a step further. Obviously, the work situation is not being handled well — or at all — and it needs to be. One commenter suggested writing an email to HR detailing the three previous meetings she had, what she said in them, and writing that she needs help eliminating this "hostile work environment." If HR doesn't respond, she should CC her boss, HR's boss, and move that email up the ladder until someone takes it seriously.
"It's past time you took this issue up to someone higher up than HR," one commenter wrote. "You should also consider contacting your area's Department of Labor, or perhaps an attorney. If this Derek has been this persistent and is still employed, there's a huge problem in your workplace."
The fact that her boyfriend didn't want her wearing the ring is the least of her troubles. But it's still concerning that he's more focused on how he feels about it than the reason she's considering wearing it in the first place.
In an update to her original post, she attempted to clarify that her boyfriend does care about her and hates Derek for his behavior, but he was, as I suspected, more worried about the questions the ring would garner than the fact that it could possibly help her avoid harassment. Still not a great look, dude.
She still might have some work to do on her relationship, but she did seem to get the message that HR's lack of action is unacceptable. "I previously did not want to seek further action because I felt frustrated and spent with my HR," she wrote, "but after reading through all the responses I realize now that Derek is honestly much, much worse than 'just a creep,' and that I should be reporting my HR's incompetence regardless." Here's to hoping Derek goes down, HR learns their lesson, and her boyfriend puts her safety over the possibility of receiving some uncomfortable questions.