Another #MeToo Story in Retail Loss Prevention
Editor’s Note: Following our article published earlier this week about sexual harrassment in the LP workplace by senior retail executive Joan Manson, a few readers emailed us thanking us for giving this important subject a platform. One female LP executive, who will remain anonymous, wanted to share her own story, which we are publishing today below. Understanding current events and the need for every industry to address this issue and allow those impacted to be heard and begin the healing process, we at the Daily offer this column and guarantee anonymity. If you would like to submit your own story or thoughts on the subject, feel free to email us.
My Sexual Harassment Experience In LP
Jan 12, 2018: Submitted anonymously
I was very touched by your inclusion of the #MeToo movement in your Daily. I love the loss prevention industry and have worked for various retailers over the past ten years and have only had one inappropriate interaction in that time, which is one too many. I would like to share my story with you.
I was working as a Senior Fraud Specialist for a retailer. My team was working a very high profile case involving multiple store managers conducting fake refunds for cash at our flagship store. Due to the high case value of more than $800K and members of store management conducting the fraud, a lot of pressure was put on us to put a strong case together for investigators to take to the interviews and share with Law Enforcement. As a result, I was working around the clock to catalogue all the evidence for them and required a lot of extra time working out of office hours on the weekends.
As we got closer to having this completed and going to a city on the East Coast, my boss was contacting more frequently for updates, which wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.
These frequent contacts for updates became more invasive, however, on a weekend that my mother was visiting and he started texting me while we were out spending time together to chat. In addition, he asked me to meet him at a bar that weekend to give him an update. I found it slightly peculiar, but being in my late 20’s, a bar was not an unfamiliar setting for me and grabbing a drink in the middle of the day on a Saturday was an activity I had done many times. So I went to the bar to meet him and showed him the things I had been working on. He had wanted me to stay longer but I told him that I needed to meet my mom and was able to extract myself.
The Sunday before the trip, I was at the office finalizing the materials before handing them off to my boss. Although I was going to be on the East Coast, I assumed he wanted to review on his trip there to be prepared. After I finished up, my boss asked me to meet him at a bar/restaurant close to the office to give him everything and he said he’d buy me dinner for all the hard work I had done on the case. I went to the meeting place, where he was sitting at the bar, and I grabbed the chair next to him so we were sitting side-by-side.
We ate some dinner and had a couple of drinks and talked and I noticed the content of what he was saying was getting a bit more “casual” than anything we’ve previously discussed. For example, he told me a story about some girl “touching” herself (my less graphic description) on the back of his motorcycle while he was driving. I just brushed it off and said something like, “Wow that’s crazy.” Shortly after, I’m not even sure how it got to this point, he took his hand and placed it on my upper thigh, rubbing and told me, “I really like a girl that can throw a couple of drinks back and hang out.” He didn’t remove his hand and just looked at me so I jumped up quickly and told him I needed to use the restroom. I went into the bathroom shaking and stayed there until I could compose my nerves. When I came out, I gathered my purse and told him I needed to head home because my dog was in the car. He followed me to my car and looked a little nervous but I quickly got in and drove away with him standing there.
While on the East Coast, the investigation and the overall atmosphere was very tense. My friend and coworker who was there convinced me to approach Human Resources with the situation. I pulled the HR person who was working with us aside, who happened to be a female, and I shared the experience with her, as well as several text messages to support my account of the situation. I do think in many situations some things may be misconstrued, however, I know when a man is testing the waters with me or not and I didn’t want anyone to think that I was confusing a fatherly gesture with that. The person from HR said she would bring this to my HR “partner” in San Diego to discuss this with me when we returned.
After the trip, I was summoned by my HR “partner”. I showed her everything I had in terms of text message and recounted my story. She then asked me what I expected to get out of this. I told her that I wanted my boss to know that I was not okay with the way he touched me, that I don’t want it to happen again, and that after this I never want to have this discussed with him. She asked if I wanted him to be fired, and I told her that if that’s the company policy and it’s decided that’s how it will be handled, then I’m fine with that. She then spoke to my boss, who denied touching me and brushed off the text messages.
The result of this was that my HR "partner" told me that because my boss denied it, it’s my word against his, and since it can’t be proven, then nothing can be done. She also told me that it didn’t reflect well for me that I agreed to meet him at a bar on two occasions and drank with him. As a side note, after she said that I asked her that if a woman who dresses provocatively is sexually assaulted or harassed, does she (HR partner) think she deserves it? To this my HR "partner" replied that she did think she was asking for it. I was very insulted that a department that represents themselves as the part of the company that is there to help employees had handled it this way and that one of their people had even turned it on me by saying that if something did happen, I put myself in that position. I even went back to the bar where he touched me to see if they had surveillance footage where we were sitting so I could prove it, but they either really didn’t have it or just didn’t care to help.
Several months later, the retailer at which I worked closed most of their stores and a massive reduction in force was carried out, of which both my boss and I were casualties. I was still unhappy with how the retailer had handled this and was considering my legal options, however, in order to receive my severance I had to sign an agreement to not take legal action against the company for any reason (bravo, HR). So to secure financial stability for the next couple of months, I gave up any chance I had to stand up for myself, which was difficult to do but necessary for my situation.
When I had told my father what had happened, he had reprimanded me for reporting to HR. He told that if there was any situation that came up while I was working there where they had to let people go, they would use that opportunity to cut me loose to avoid any legal ramifications that could come from this incident and having that on record would guarantee it. Still in my late 20’s my father was still always right.