Ask Amy

Sexual harassment not always overt

Q. I’m not sure how to handle a situation at work.

I’m a young man, and my boss is several decades older. It is a hostile work environment (he has demeaned employees and made sexual comments to women).

Recently, he’s been commenting on my looks and clothes, occasionally telling me that I look handsome. I’ve caught him staring at my butt and also touching himself as he says he needs to use the bathroom.


I feel uncomfortable because this is getting more frequent. I know we’re both gay, and he knows that I’m engaged to my boyfriend.

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I’m afraid to file a sexual harassment claim, because this behavior hasn’t been overt. I don’t have any proof, and he’s denied other charges brought up by other employees to HR. Plus, if I’m wrong, I don’t want to ruin his career because of my misinterpretation.

I like where I work, and my job is secure. Should I start a job search rather than file a complaint? I don’t know what to do.

Unsure but


A. You should start by asking this man to stop. You say, “It makes me uncomfortable when you comment on how I look. Please don’t do that.”

You should document that you made this request, including the date and time and his reaction. Also document every instance of his making a comment or behaving in a way that makes you uncomfortable, including a description of the behavior, your reaction, the time and date, etc.


Take your complaint to HR. Because others have complained about his behavior, I can imagine two scenarios: Either the department is building a case, or HR will do nothing.

I agree with you that this is not overt, but staring, commenting on someone’s looks or gesturing constitutes possible sexual harassment, according to guidelines published at Also check the guidelines to see if you want to pursue this beyond your company’s HR department.

Q. I discovered that my husband of 15 years had been cheating on me and lying about various things for the last five years of our marriage.

We divorced, and it has taken me several months to get over the anger. My ex-husband’s parents behaved very badly toward my children during our separation and continue to be distant, uncaring grandparents.

I feel I am finally in a good place and just want to put the past behind me. The problem is my sister-in-law. She and I were never very close; we only saw her once or twice a year.


She seems to want to continue “to be friends,” but the relationship seems fake and forced.

I don’t believe our friendship was ever strong enough to be sustained, especially feeling the way I do about her brother and her parents. We both have children, but they are not close because of physical and substantial age differences between them.

Should I tell her how I feel or simply let the relationship die out?

Trying to Move On

A. So far, your bad experiences with all of your ex-husband’s family members have taken them out of your life. If they are unsupportive and badly behaved people, I can understand why you would want to be done with them.

Now you have one person who is behaving decently, who is also the mother of your children’s cousins. I suggest you fake it with her, unless she says or does something meriting a negative response from you.

Amy Dickinson can be reached at