'My boss sent me a screenshot of my Tinder profile'
"Upon receiving the message, I just froze."
To this day, I have a deliberate policy of never having a current boss or manager as a Facebook friend. Sure, they can check my happenings on Instagram, but beyond that, I have always wanted to maintain a professional relationship and not give someone the potential to stalk every post I have put up or having been tagged in the last 10 plus years.
On this occasion, however, I was working as the social media manager for a company my boss owned, and at that time, to take ownership of the account, we had to become 'Facebook friends.'
Then, one Valentine's Day, I opened my Facebook inbox to discover a note there from my boss.
Upon seeing the message, I froze.
It was a simple "Happy Valentine's Day", complete with pink love-heart emojis, but it was enough to make my blood run cold.
You see, this wasn't the first time my boss had been inappropriate with me.
Before he had hired me, he tried to make a move and told me how he had wanted to date me. I was attracted to him in a platonic way and admired him for his great enthusiasm and belief in his business. At the time, I was also trying to get my own business off the ground, and so I viewed him as a mentor and nothing more.
I accepted his offer for a low-paying job as at the time, I was desperate and trying to make things happen in my new adopted city in the UK.
Over the course of my employment, my boss did not hide his affection towards me and in front of my colleagues. He had repeatedly told my colleagues how he had wanted to date me but wanted to hire me too. He, of course, went with the latter.
He would also at times make inappropriate comments about my clothing and made it known that he felt something towards me. Sticking his fingers into my ice cream, wanting a hug. There was also that time that he spoke about his high-powered business friend being accused of workplace sexual harassment (it had hit the media) and somehow felt it was appropriate for him to drag me into the conversation, speaking of how he had felt about me in front of my colleagues during a work lunch outing. It was extremely uncomfortable, and I felt stuck.
I endured this as I had looked up to him as in industry professional whom I would learn from and who would be able to assist me with my own career goals. I chose to brush these comments off, but I see now how wrong I was to do so.
I would imagine many women do, unsure of how to react or scared of the implications that may result from speaking up: loss of employment, being ostracised and enduring ongoing workplace awkwardness. It is scary to speak up, especially when you find someone so intimidating and feeling so fearful about what the outcome would be if you did speak up.
I came to my senses six months after receiving that message and left the job I despised ever so much.
I'd assumed it was all behind me, but then another unwanted message made its way back into my life.
Out of the blue a few months later, I received an email from him. The subject line of the email was implying something humorous was inside the email.
I opened the message and was gobsmacked.
My boss had sent me a screenshot of my Tinder profile.
I felt shaken and disturbed. I was so freaked out that I ended up deleting my Tinder profile entirely.
At this time, we were right in the middle of the #metoo movement - and thank god, because without it I don't think I would have had the courage to speak out. But I decided that enough was enough, and that I needed to put a stop to his behaviour.
In the past, I have sucked it up, the comments and unwanted attention.
Not this time around, boss.
I decided to start proceedings against my former boss to take my harassment case to an employment tribunal in the UK.
I gathered my evidence, got my former colleagues to write their statements and a year later, presented my case before a judge.
The harassment could have been much worse than other women have endured, I know that. I am fortunate I did not have to tolerate harassment so severe. However, this man needed to be taught a lesson on moral grounds.
It had snowballed into something bigger and needed to be dealt with accordingly.
Before the case went to an employment tribunal, mediation had to occur. A dear friend of mine was my pillar of strength for the day while we sat in the grim dive of a courtroom to hash it out. Back and forth, the judge would mediate between my old boss and I.
It was a nerve-racking affair. In the lead up to the mediation process, my face broke out, and my body bore the telltale signs of stress. I just wanted to put this whole episode of my life behind me, but I knew I had a responsibility.
Throughout the day, it became more and more apparent that I would need substantial evidence to prove that harassment had taken place. I had emails, messages and that Facebook message to prove harassment, however I was told it would not hold up if this were to go to court. Why? The lack of solid evidence.
What else are us women meant to do?
Wear a camera on our heads at all times?
Record every conversation we have?
I came out as the victor after our mediation process, although financial, to go through the effort of putting the case together was not worth it. Still, I do not regret it. Not even for the burden it was on my life at the time.
No man has the right to make a woman feel uncomfortable in the workplace or outside of it. Not ever.
Despite the emotional toll it took on me, I am glad I took those steps to teach my old boss a lesson. Maybe he'll think twice before preying on another vulnerable employee.