Working While Black: My Co-Worker Told HR I Sexually Harassed Her Because I Didn’t Help Her With A Project
Editor’s Note: James Baldwin said to be conscious and Black in America is to be enraged most of the time. And sadly, those words are still true for many of us. In addition to the deeply depressing and unjust news headlines, there are the hostile situations we deal with everyday. For many of us, these incidents happen at work. In a culture where we spend more time working than with our families, these environments, with ignorant and entitled White people, can be everything from tiring to infuriating. In our new series, “Working While Black,” we compile some of those stories and share them with you, as a way to let you know you’re not alone, to offer advice on how to navigate these situations and hopefully to keep you from losing your mind, your temper or your job.
As told to Brande Victorian
Last week I was at work and a white woman at my job came to my desk and asked for help. I told her that I was busy at the moment but said I could help her in about 10 minutes. She became visibly annoyed and proceeded to stand over my desk, as if to force me to stop what I was doing and immediately assist her. I asked her if she wanted to leave the information I needed to help her on my desk and said if she did I would work on it as soon as I could. She proceeded to tell me the matter was urgent and asked if I could work on it right now.
I’d already told the woman no, but to ease the obvious tension between us I started being playful with her to bring some levity to the situation. I joked that she was getting all “swole in the chest,” i.e. puffed up and angry. She proceeded to tell my supervisor that I refused to help her and that I sexually harassed her.
Because the woman said I made her feel uncomfortable those types of complaints are automatically are forwarded to human resources (HR). My supervisor told me not to worry about it but said HR would have to meet with me next week to discuss the “incident.”
As it turned out, HR didn’t seem to care much about my coworker’s white tears. When the HR specialist came to the office, she asked another rep about the incident and she said the white woman overreacted. As a side note, the HR woman is a Black church lady; she likes me and she knows what’s up. She asked if I ever touched the woman or had any interaction with her before. She asked how I made the “swole in the chest” comment and I relayed it to her in the same tone and then told me just stay away from her. Plus tomorrow is my last day at the job anyway and, considering in my next gig I’ll be working from home, I shouldn’t have to deal with this type of nonsense again for a long time.