Just Because I'm A Temp Doesn't Mean You Can Sexually Harass Me

I cannot speak up and stay employed.
Publish date:
August 9, 2013
co-workers, sexual harrassment, temp job

I originally wrote an article about things I do to manage my anxiety while temping, but you know what would help me out the most? My co-workers not sexually harassing me.

There's a blurry line of who I report to between my placement agency and where I'm contracting at any given time. No one wants to deal with sexual harrassment, nor do many supervisors seem to believe me; I have given up trying to report it. This is my reality in the workplace, to be regularly demeaned and harassed because I'm "just a temp" and "that new girl."

Sometimes I think maybe I should tone down my look or cover my tattoos even when no policy tells me to do so. Then I think, maybe my co-workers should just stop sexually harassing me.

What's funny is, what initiated my temping career was a an HR director telling me that I looked "wrong," needed to wear more makeup, straighten my curly hair, and dress like a model to look more appealing to the [male] executive staff. I quit that job with an embarrassing amount of delay.

I am an intense, teamwork-oriented, results-obsessed, jack of all trades. In the year I have been temping, most of my placements have been for project assistance. When I get there, sometimes I'm asked to work over-time, or cover for another position while simultaneously filling another and I will do ANY of it to get a pay check. But it's this exact scenario where some opportunist takes his chances to harass me, where I am not where I'm "meant" to be.

For an assignment at a law firm this March, I was approved for weekend overtime, contingent on two lower-level supervisors being present in the building while I worked. That Saturday, the two male supervisors took turns approaching me at my desk or following me to the kitchen and bathrooms to ask me if I'd like to party with them, if I like pain and that I should show them all my tattoos so they could see how far they went up my thighs.

I was there for about 3 hours and got about 30 minutes of work done because I hid in the bathroom as much as possible. Their supervisor was never around for me to tell her and my agency said, "So, are you saying you want to leave the assignment early? Because you're contracted through 4/30 and I wont have anything for you until after that date because this wasn't anticipated."

I couldn't survive over a month without pay.

Many one-off assignments have me working front desks or covering for admins, and delivery men, custodial staff and a few co-workers have taken great delight in displaying their "utter surprise" that someone such as I who is not as old, pregnant, male, or whatever else describes the person I'm filling in for, is sitting in their place.

The idea they are paying me a compliment is insulting. I'm trying to work on a deadline that could change at any moment and the quality of my work determines how quickly I will be placed in my next assignment. They are wasting my time lingering around, telling me what they think about my face and body.

Every placement I've taken has some person assuming I'm much younger than I am; that I am a bright eyed, naive, 19-year-old temp, or sometimes intern, who doesn't know any better. Even the company I'm working for now, a female colleague calls me "Little baby" and "honey baby" but does not given similar names to anyone else.

Yesterday she shouted at three male colleagues moving a piece of equipment that they were "such gorgeous, beautiful men" then turned to me and said, "You should never say something like that in an office, okay baby girl?"

All three men all looked visibly uncomfortable, but it's clear they won't speak up just as I do not.

I cannot speak up and stay employed. My agency cannot confirm any allegations I make because they aren't on location and any office made aware will hide behind bureaucracy before simply removing me for "a better fit," leaving me at square one.

Have you found yourself stuck between harassment and a paycheck?