I work as an administrative assistant at rating agency, one of the big three, in New York City. In June 2012, one of my co-workers, a research assistant (RA), was talking to managing director #1 and another colleague about his cross dressing in detail. I was not aware he was a cross dresser. The individual also happens to be gay. He was talking about makeup and dress. I tried to tune out, but the RA was loud, and went on about it for a few minutes. The RA and I have cubicles next to each other.
After talking about his cross dressing the RA said, “No one below my level can complain to HR.” Which was a dig at me. I felt he made this remark because I AM at a lower level than him, and also, because I’m a Christian. Yes, he knows I’m a Christian; there have been a few other Christian people who have stopped by my desk. We don’t get into any heavy discussion about Christianity, we talk briefly about the blessed lives we have and bless each other.
I felt I could not go to human resources to complain about his talking about his alternative lifestyle because he was talking with our managing director. If I complained to HR that would also, I figure, be trouble for my managing director.
I had been in the department only a month, although I temped throughout the company for nine months prior to being hired. The RA has been with the company at that time for nine years.
From time to time the RA would talk about his personal life, loudly, for example, “I’m dating again, I have to be the pretty one in the relationship...”
On Thursday, April 11, 2013, my other managing director #2, and I had a planned meeting. He asked me how things were going in the department, asking if I had too much or not enough work. I told him I was not overworked, but would like more responsibilities and I mentioned two areas that would make me a more valuable player to the department and the company (I did not tell him that).
I then mentioned what the RA said back in June 2012, and subsequently. I said that I was specifically offended at the statement, “No one below my level can complain to HR.” The managing director #2 said that a lot of people in the company know he’s a cross dresser, and asked why I thought the RA made the statement. I mentioned about my level in the company, and that I’m a Christian.
Three weeks later all the staff in the department do not speak to me anymore, with the exception of managing directors #1 and #2 – they have to speak to me. It’s a total of 11 people in the department, including me. I am the low person on the food chain, so it’s no loss to them. If they want something from me they will email me, which is the norm for the department.
On Thursday, May 2, 2013, the RA and a director were talking at his cubicle. The director is very close to the RA. They started talking about gay marriage. I felt they brought this topic up to dig at me. I put on my earphones and turned to an internet radio station so I could not hear what they said. If ANYONE else in the company brought up this topic I would not care, but as I said, I felt they brought it up to dig at me.
This morning, Friday, May 3, 2013, I was on the New York subway platform, waiting for a train. A male voice quickly walks behind me and says “ASSHOLE.” The voice sounds familiar. I was in the first car of the train. Whoever said this was in the same car. When switching trains several minutes later, I watched who got out of the car. One of the analysts in my department, who is hostile towards me, got out of the same car, and walked further along the platform. I strongly believe that was the person who called me an “ASSHOLE.” He is good friends with the RA, also.
I was livid when I got to the office. I was telling a colleague on the phone what transpired, and said the person who did this is a friend of “him,” meaning the RA. I said “This is war!”
The RA has a friend in HR and he contacted her and she came down. They spoke in English and Spanish. I had no interest in what they were saying.
Following is the email I sent to the analyst who I strongly believe called me an “ASSHOLE.”
May 6, 2013
Subject: Friday, May 3, 2013 – The New York City Subway
The morning of Friday, May 3, 2013, I was on the subway platform at 42nd Street & 7th avenue, waiting for either the #2 or #3 train. Someone walked quickly behind me and said “ASSHOLE.” I was shocked and didn’t move for a few seconds. I am unaccustomed to being called derogatory names. The voice sounded vaguely familiar. The train arrived and I entered from the first car, third door. The person who said this would be in the same car as me.
When I got off at Chambers Street I scanned the car. You got out of the first car at Chambers Street. I believe you called me this filthy word.
For several months you’ve been hostile towards me. Last month you bumped into me in the hallway, and reluctantly said you were sorry. I believe you only said it due to their being a witness from another department present.
Several months earlier, you asked for help with a function on the copier, you had an attitude with me, although I was assisting you.
I reiterate, you are hostile towards me, although, I have not said or done anything to provoke such feelings.
I am copying (managing director #2) on this email. I would like this matter to be addressed.
I emailed managing director #2 and told him also about the RA contacting HR.
Managing director #1 is in London all this week.
Managing director #2 was angry, said that I should not send such inflammatory emails through the company email system. I also mentioned about the RA talking about gay marriage, believing he was doing this to get a rise out of me. The managing director said that I was being paranoid. I told him emphatically that I was not. He also defended the analyst saying, “I know the kid, he was probably shy when bumping into you.” Well this man definitely was not neutral.
Just so you have as much information as possible – I am a 55 year old black female.
He set-up an appointment with me to see a rep from HR. She asked me to tell her what happened. I did.
The analyst - I reiterated about his having an attitude towards me for several months.
In this meeting I mentioned an associate director who does not speak to me (she is Iranian and I do not understand her accent and this makes her angry). The analyst works closely with her and since she has an issue with me, he has one also.
Also in the meeting I talked about the RA and the things he has said.
The HR rep asked me what I would like to happen. I said that I would like to be transferred, although I looked on the company intranet, but there are no openings. I said my second choice was to stay in the department. Since people have stopped talking to me about three weeks ago, they can continue to do so.
I also asked at least twice if I were in trouble. The HR rep said, “No,” that I should have scheduled a meeting between managing director #2, the analyst and myself.
Fast forward - on Tuesday, May 7, 2013, I sent an email to the HR rep, letting her know who the witness is to the “bumping” incident with the analyst. I reviewed my journal at home to get this information.
On May 7, 2013, I am reading managing director #2’s emails. I have permission to read them. I notice that the analyst sends an email to the HR rep and managing director #2, denying all charges I accused him of, saying he was not aware of any hostilities between him and me. I was not copied on this email.
Later I asked the HR rep why I was not copied. She said she told the analyst not to copy me.
On Wednesday, May 8, 2013, the HR rep and I talk in her office. She says there are not clear examples of the hostility between the analyst and me. She says it’s a case of “He said, she said.”
She said he was not aware of any hostilities between us, and other people that she spoke to were not aware of any issues that I had with them. They were surprised.
I asked the HR rep who she had spoken to. She told me that she is not going to say. Later in the conversation I asked her this question again and she said, “I am not going to say at this time.”
I was stunned by her telling me everyone said things were fine. They lied.
She asked if I would like her to talk to those she had spoken to. I said they did not tell the truth, so there’s no point in talking to them. They are not to be trusted.
The HR rep suggested we meet again in two weeks to see how things are.
Today, Thursday, May 9, I was left a voice mail from the HR rep saying she and managing director #2 would like to meet me at 9:00am on Friday, May 10.
Do I have any legal rights in this case? I felt that being a Christian was a reason for the things the cross dresser said.
I also feel that since this analyst is a “young golden boy” whose father is known by managing director #1, I didn’t have a chance of being treated fairly by anyone involved. Yet, I couldn’t let this person get away with disrespecting me.