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Ask HN: Victim of an unfounded harrasement accusation. Your thoughts?
146 points by fjfkdjfjfjd on July 1, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 138 comments
Seeing top HN link about sexual harassment in SV https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14673777 and my recent experience facilitated this posting.

I will try my best to keep this post brief, so please ask in the comments about details I left out.

Swift action has been taken against me by management, due to an accusation by an anonymous female co-worker. All management could tell me is that I made this person "feel uncomfortable", I am guessing in a sexual way. My desk was moved across the building away from where my immediate co-workers sit, and I was told to be not talk to women at the office unless absolutely necessary regarding business matters.

The extent of my non-work-related conversation with female employees has been saying hello/goodbye and making small talk on occasion (How long have you been with the company? Do you have travel plans for this summer? Are you doing anything fun this weekend?) I realize some of these questions could be viewed as hitting on someone, but that was not my intention, and believe that question was cleared up once they responded to me that they were going to see their boyfriend/girlfriend.

I am a male in my mid-20s on an internship ending in a few months. (The company has told me they do not have the budget to hire me full-time or extend my internship.) In the grand scheme of things, I understand this is small potatoes. But what has kept me up at night is the worry that I could be accused of sexual harassment or rape in the future leading to job loss or criminal charges.

I am frankly quite scared of talking to or approaching any women in my office, even for a work-related purpose. This is not a good long-term strategy, and I am not sure how to proceed. I would love your thoughts or advice on this topic. Thanks in advance!

It's certainly a phenomenon that exists, we've all seen and heard of false accusations to damage people's reputation, business, and such. "Scandals" have been around since humans have, it's gossip, it's libel, it's whatever you call it.

Question: did they provide you with any substantial evidence?

Anyway, ultimately your case and many others is why the law is at it's very core based on an innocent until proven guilty paradigm. Once you take that principle away, you put all the power in the accuser and none in the accused, which is objectionably unjust.

I've recently seen a few very disturbing comments on HN and from similar people (above-average education, born into privileged conditions, politically left, etc.), who naively believe that this is a bad or somewhat ineffective paradigm, and that we should "just believe" rape accusations, because ???? shrug. It disheartens me that some people can be so blindly ignorant about the law and human nature. We only need to take a short walk down history lane to explicitly see that if you give one side of anything human-related an enormous amount of power (like in this case if accusers are believed before evidence), there will be many who abuse it. It is human nature, and the law prevents it from reining free and causing utter chaos.

In your case, by the sounds of it they did not present to you any form of evidence (right?) to show you your misconduct. No sexually harassing text transcripts, no internal email transcripts, no witnesses, nothing. What this is is chaos and injustice, under the guise of some very malformed concepts of "progressiveness", and it's unfortunately ever-more prevalent.

No substatial evidence was provided. After being told that I made a woman feel uncomfortable, I immediately apologized for any harm I would have caused. I then asked if its possible to know what I said or did that caused this discomfort to insure I do not repeat an offending action. Management said they could not divulge this information for privacy reasons. So at this point, I feel there is really no evidence other than the testimony of one person.

" I feel there is really no evidence other than the testimony of one person"

There is not even the testimony of that person. They don't told you what she say, they don't allow you to confront her.

For all that you know they could be making up all the thing. I don't think this is the case, but it's a possibility when everything is done in the dark.

Don't take this as advice, please, because I can't predict the results, but in your position I think I would feel compelled to confront them. Maybe with the help of some worker representative if that it's available to you. What I would avoid is to confront the woman, that could backfire very fast.

Wow. That's disturbing!

It happens all the time. I've been in a similar situation. Denied a promo because of anonymous feedback from someone who said I had "communication issues". Probably not sexual in that situation as I never hit on anyone at work or had any desire to, more likely I asked them to (re)do their work and they took it personally given the context at the time. Nobody would tell me what I'd said, or to who, or what I should do with such feedback.

My actual communication skills were not the issue, mind. The company frequently asked me to write and give presentations, either in public conferences or to the rest of the firm.

Anonymous accusations that sink careers are a plague of the modern workplace and are entirely due to a culture of "always believe the victim".

Bring a slander case against them. Happens all the time.

Not judging you but it could just be that you might come across as """creepy""" (notice the three pairs of quotes here). The issue is that you're in a hyper sensitive environment with hyper sensitive people. If you try and initiate a conversation with certain women (even to be polite because you dgaf about them) that dislike you, it can be considered """pushy""" and/or """creepy""" (even though there's no objective proof that you were trying to force their hand) but if you're the tall, confident, handsome guy from marketing then you're "such a player". So yeah, my advice to you is stay extremely professional for the remainder of your time there, try not to burn bridges with the company, stay courteous, work hard and most importantly find a job somewhere else. Also, learn about social dynamics. If you're socially awkward you'll be more at risk of being accused of rape (whatever its definition of the day is). Not to mention the increasing pressure that lies on HR and management as a result of the fear of being labeled the next Uber.

I've concluded over the years that I must give off some sort of creepy vibe at tmes. It's wierd, it seems to be situational or based on the other party, because it's only happens about 95% of the time. I've found that I just seem to make some women uncomfortable.

Sometimes it's been justified, and I've learned what not to do, like sitting to close to a lab partner in college. But then other times, I'm still mystified to this day; like why was asking a co-worker if she was still running half marathons a reason for her to respond "how do you know that? why do you care?" in an an accusatory manner. I concluded, maybe I'm not the only wierd one, in that case.

At the end of the day, you only control yourself. I figured out early on to concentrate on conducting myself in a professional manner, and keep small talk to a minimum. Work isn't for making friends. Friendships will arise, but I'm always very cautious at work.

I'm going to expand on your comment a bit with regards to the whole "creepiness" thing. I think it's very important to realize just how difficult it can sometimes be to manage professional and personal relationships. I think one of the ways we tend to learn social interaction is by observing others and emulating what we see. This doesn't always lead to good outcomes. I think most people like to imagine that rules, and I don't necessarily mean rules laid out by corporate HR, but social rules, are applied equally to everyone. I don't believe this to be the case at all. Social norms can be very subjectively applied based on the people interacting.

I'll be perfectly blunt, there are a number of things about me(I'm short, skinny, not particularly attractive, definitely not smart, not exactly charismatic, a long list of other things I'm sure) that make me a rather low status person, at least if we are basing it on somewhat superficial standards. I've worked with people before who were all the things that I'm not, and had I emulated their behavior, I'm quite certain it would have come across as creepy or harassing rather fun-loving or joking. This doesn't mean that you should try to get away with as much as you can based on your perceived status, but instead that you should always be aware that very different rules may apply to you based on how others view you. It's not exactly fair, but there isn't really much that can be done aside from trying your best to be a good person.

Also, for clarity that "you" wasn't you specifically, just a general "you".

> like why was asking a co-worker if she was still running half marathons a reason for her to respond "how do you know that? why do you care?" in an an accusatory manner

Well, the devil is in the details. How do you know that she runs half marathons?

Do you know it because 2 years ago she posted it to Facebook and you've gone through all her old Facebook posts and know that she once ran half-marathons? Creepy.

Or, do you know it because 6 months ago you were having a conversation with her and she brought up that she runs half-marathons, but she's now forgotten that conversation. Not creepy, she just has a bad memory.

And there's quite a wide range of alternatives in here, ranging from "not creepy at all" to "extrememly creepy".

you have established a rapport where you talk about weekend activities, and she has mentioned half marathons to you in particular

"Are you still running half marathons?"

Not problematic at all; by standard social conventions you have implicit permission to ask about a topic that was previously deemed acceptable. Everyone knows how you know about marathons.


you have established a rapport where you talk about weekend activities, and she has NOT mentioned half marathons to you

"Are you still running half marathons?"

Might cause a moment's confusion but is probably fine — she might think you heard it from a mutual acquaintance, and marathons are not so intimate that they'd be off limits if you have previously discussed equally intimate subjects.


you are only casually acquainted, have had maybe one or two conversations in group settings and the two of you did not directly interact in this group

"Are you still running half marathons?"

Too forward — you probably don't have implicit permission to bring up personal subjects that she did not explicitly bring up to you first. The social standard here in this situation would probably be to determine her attitude towards you by asking less intimate questions (e.g. "Did you have a good weekend?") that give her the option to signal whether she's interested in more interaction. ("Yup." -> not interested. don't ask about marathons. "Yes, I went running, how about you?" -> potentially interested.)


you are not acquainted, or have met once or twice but have not spoken to each other outside of when it's required for work

"Are you still running half marathons?"

Nope, way too forward. Most people take a gradual approach ("Did you have a good weekend?"), and the fact that you're not doing that is a signal that you don't understand social nuances and are potentially dangerous. Best case scenario, she makes a polite excuse and leaves.


you are not acquainted, and also have a reputation for not understanding social norms

"Are you still running half marathons?"

She's thinking of the best way to make unambiguously sure that you don't talk to her again.

Yeah that all makes a lot of sense; the scenario was: more than acquaintances, worked together for over a year, she was QA on a project I was on, we talked everyday. She was very open about her life, and talked openly about the half marathons. Then I ran into her at a beer meetup with alumni from the same company, I hadn't talked to her in over a year. I was trying to make conversation, so I asked about the half marathons. That was the context, very not creepy imo. But I welcome feedback on that :)

You know, I'm not trying to make you feel bad here, but I wonder if that's the kind of question that needed some lead in? Usually when I meet a co-worker or acquaintance who I haven't spoken to in over a year (particularly if there is alcohol involved), I tend to be a little more conservative about how I bring up topics.

For example, in that situation, I might have said something like:

Hey, remember how you used to tell me all about your half marathon training? I just ran my first 5k...are you still training?

With those sentences you have:

1. Queued her memory. 2. Showed how that particular topic is relevant to you. 3. Asked your question.

That kind of approach also tends to be a more fertile conversation starter with people who I haven't spoken to in a long time.

Finally, this is harsh advice, but necessary to hear. One of the keys to people is understanding that some people are significantly more important to you than you are to them. You may use the phrase 'more than acquaintances' to describe your relationship to her. She may refer to you as 'some guy in IT'. Or, maybe she has never referred to you because you just aren't that important to her.

That isn't bad though, because it is just as inevitable that you are significantly more important to someone else than he/she is to you. Heck, 'that person who serves you coffee' may refer to you as 'le-mark le drool'. :)

Point being, our operating systems aren't all compatible.

It shouldn't be creepy, I think, but I can see that it is interpreted that way.

I've had a few experiences similar to yours. I'd ask about something I remembered from earlier, and people acted surprised that I remembered. Sometimes the response was negative, and I got the impression that they themselves had forgotten that they told me about this. But other times, especially in a dating context, the response was very positive ('I can't believe you remember!').

As a result of all this, I've made it a personal policy to be very careful about sharing what I remember. When I feel confident that it'll be considered positively, I mention it. When I'm not sure, I act like I don't have the memories that I do.

As an aside, there's some evidence that strong memory in this regard correlates with depression. For me that strikes me as very true: I vividly remember and feel guilt over things only to find out that the other party has entirely forgotten about it.

yeah, that definitely sounds like an appropriate question in that context, then. sounds like the problem isn't with you there :/

> Too forward — you probably don't have implicit permission to bring up personal subjects that she did not explicitly bring up to you first.

Maybe if you have low social status....

For normal people it is absolutely ok.

You aren't asking about her sex life.

Well said! I will definitely keep the workplace for working especially during the rest of this internship.

Thanks for your commend and advice! Definitely looking forward to keeping my head low and seeing how much more I can accomplish in these next few months I have left. I believe I fall into the socially-awkward/inexperienced category. Are there any resources you could suggest to learn more about social dynamics?

Observe, watch. And be aware that these things aren't really fair or systematic. Like the guy says, exactly the same behaviour can be interpreted as creepy or giggle-inducing depending on whether the guy doing it is attractive, confident, successful etc.

You sound like you're not confident and as you're an intern, you're not financially successful either. So the bar for you to be not """creepy""" to use ops phrasing is a sadly a lot higher.

Frankly I'd suggest watching a lot of comedy shows and soaps. Your issue probably isn't anything you specifically did, it sounds like you just need to get better at small talk so attempts to be sociable come off as suitably casual. Women like guys who are relaxed, confident, funny and whose conversations are a little bit surprising (but in a good way). Nobody can teach you that with conventional methods but watching how well scripted characters do it on TV can help you get into the groove.

> I'd suggest watching a lot of comedy shows and soaps

Those (at least the ones I watch) are full of sexual innuendo. Not exactly the kind of humor you would want to "learn" if you come off as a creepy sexual predator.

Practice, practice, practice. But not on the female co-workers that you like.

yeah that. Also try and engage in social activites outside of work (could be charity or whatever you're into). The goal is that you get used to human interactions with low stakes and that you get out of your own head. For example, go to a gym and be a regular member there, you'll eventually get to know the staff and be more optimistic about speaking to others (not to mention the immense benefits on health / body image and the effects it has on your level of confidence). Talk to the ugly barista at starbucks (joke about how she's spelt your name wrong, after a while ask her how she's doing, then ask her name), smile more if you don't already. And just work your way up from there. Being a software engineer is actually a massive advantage in the social field because you have an analytical mind so you can develop the best judgement on what to do and calibrate your behaviour to others. If you share offices with other companies, talk to them during their break if they're having a quick smoke outside (that's what I used to do) eventually they'll start to invite you to bars and coffee shops and other events. You'll then expand your social circles, you'll go out more, speak to more women (attractive or not) and you'll soon realise that the sad person who accused you is actually not worth speaking to. (I was going to say something else, but I wanna keep my karma init </south london accent>)

I'm bookmarking your comment! Thanks for your advice! I definitely could use a gym membership. And when I meet such new people, I'll try to find conversation topics that would be very unlikely to be taken the wrong way (as I have now learned, It's better not to ask people about their weekend plans as this could be viewed as hitting on them).

Asking about weekend plans (or about the previous weekend) is a pretty standard office smalltalk in the UK, but I think it's considered quite intrusive in the US.. so also depends on where you are

You have described exact reason why I completely disrespect third-wave feminism, political correctness culture and other derivatives of left-wing politics.

I hear that. I've had to deal with self centered / entitled people on numerous occasions and if I wasn't socially equipped to deal with that kind of BS, I honestly don't know where I'd be right now.

Those accusations can come from weird places. I was once accused of sexual harassment by a male coworker (I'm a straight male, and a father of two). When summoned by HR to face the victim it turned out that he felt that touching his screen (when explaining something) violated his personal space. Not that it is necessarily relevant to your case but if you feel innocent then you probably are - unless you're a psychopath, that is.

Wow! That is a crazy story! I am not justifying the person who falsely accused you at all, but at least in the end, there was some "closure"/mutual understanding of how to reduce any tension. I wish something like this could have happened with management bringing me and them together to determine any problems and resolve them. I hate this feeling that I do not know what if anything I did wrong.

From what I know HR brought us together because they couldn't figure out what actually happened. My coworker was not a very social person and could not coherently explain his accusation. When they finally figured out the whole story... you should've seen the HR director's face. She left not long afterwards to a much more 'conventional' environment. Definitely not related to my case but I'd imagine she never looked back. Anyway, if the accusations were clearer and more coherent, or a female was involved, I don't think HR would organize a confrontation like this.

Wow, that's quite extreme. But it doesn't have to be a crazy person like that.

Some more everyday activities that might make someone uncomfortable in the workplace even without direct interactions:

- wearing T-shirts with scantily clad women in the workplace (http://edition.cnn.com/2014/11/13/living/matt-taylor-shirt-p...)

- wearing other T-shirts deemed inappropriate (heavy metal T-shirts with pentagrams or whatever; once, in the US, I wore a T-shirt referencing marijuana to a casual restaurant and was told off)

- displaying political preferences or religious ideas not shared and potentially considered dangerous by others

- having a desktop background image deemed inappropriate (scantily clad women, again)

- visiting websites or watching YouTube videos deemed inappropriate during your breaks

I'm not saying complaints about any of these are justified (although I don't think the workplace needs to be sexualized), but these are things people do complain about, in the real world. If you "feel innocent", and even if you pass the famous "I asked my female friends and they said it was OK" test, that still doesn't mean that nobody can complain about these things.

I wouldn't call him crazy, just... peculiar.

Displaying scantily clad women in the workplace in any shape or form would most certainly warrant an HR action. As a manager of an offending individual I'd certainly be the 1st one to react.

While I can see being peeved about screen touching, the fact it was construed as sexual harassment is absurd.

Then again, perhaps displays have sexuality too.

Accusing you without specific reason so you cannot defend yourself is a bad form harassing. Consider to step up and demand either specifics of the accusation so you can defend yourself, or all charges being dropped immediately in combination of an excuse from your employer. Check your local law if you could threaten to sue them for misconduct if they are not willing to cooperate. Consider not to comply with their demands to restrict your communication, ask your coworkers in a friendly way if they know more or if there was anything you said that made them feel uncomfortable.

Thanks for your input! I have toyed with the idea of meeting with management and making such demands, but between being nervous of getting fired sooner than my internship already ending, I am reluctant to do so. On the other hand, I feel this may be good practice on how to approach a similar situation should one arise, and when I am in a permanent position. The single co-worker I asked (and generally confide in) was very shocked to hear this and had nothing bad to say about how I handle myself around other people in the company.

Talk to a lawyer. I highly doubt your internship will end well there, the way things are going. Do you really expect them to give you a good reference?

I think you have mostly learned all that you can, and you are wasting your time at that company, particulay as an intern. Depending on what you have planned afterwords, I'd probably just leave for another opportunity ASAP. Somebody already questioned the idea of them giving you a good reference, I wouldn't count on it and wouldn't waste anymore time.

Though I have no specific advice for you, I want to mention that the current hypersensitive no-accusation-is-too-frivolous always-believe-the-accuser climate will result in many cases like yours unfortunately.

"The extent of my non-work-related conversation with female employees has been saying hello/goodbye and making small talk on occasion (How long have you been with the company? Do you have travel plans for this summer? Are you doing anything fun this weekend?) I realize some of these questions could be viewed as hitting on someone, but that was not my intention, and believe that question was cleared up once they responded to me that they were going to see their boyfriend/girlfriend."

When someone feels like they are being "hit on" and they have a boy/girlfriend, a go to move is to mention something that indicates that they have a b/gfriend as a way to rebuff the approach. I don't mean to imply any fault or criticize your behavior but as a fellow densizen of your planet I know first hand how difficult it can be to understand human behavior.


Person A: "I'm going to Catelina this weekend, what are your weekend plans?"

Person B: "Nice! My girl/boyfriend loves going there."

Keep an open mind. I don't know you, nor your coworkers, but you may have done something that feels "normal" to you but is actually inappropriate without even realizing. That's why it is important to raise awareness on misogyny and the rape culture: a lot of the problematic behavior seems perfectly normal and acceptable to the perpetrators, but it's really not. Not saying that's what happened with you, but it could have and the only for you to find out is to get a clear explanation on what the complaint about you was exactly.

I'd recommend approaching HR (or management) keeping this in mind. You could tell them that these are serious accusations and that it makes you sick to even imagine you made someone feel that way. You could show them you genuinely don't understand what was wrong but are willing to improve and to work on yourself so you don't ever make anyone uncomfortable again.

My 2cents, but again: I don't know you, the company you intern in, nor have I ever been in such a situation. So please take my post with a grain of salt.

> so you don't ever make anyone uncomfortable again

This is not within OP's (or anyone's) power.

HR, "Human Resources" is not there for you : it is there for the company.

Exactly right. Don't talk to the person either. And write notes, verbatim if possible, after any meetings with HR/mgt. Also - seek advice from someone outside the company who understands rape culture. Review with them the interactions you had and seek to learn.

Yes and ask HR for honest feedback, specifically for improving one's professionalism. They most likely won't do it, but let them be the one to be unprofessional.

Dunno, I would recommend asking trusted person, but not hr.

I have been in a similar position fairly recently, although what was done was I was laid off without cause & without discussing anything - I was tipped off what I was accused of by someone privy to the details, and although I was fine with being laid off, the accusations did not match the reality.

In my case, having explained the details to my friends (including several females) and discussing with a former female coworker at that company, my mind was put at ease somewhat as to what was actually my fault (I wasn't blameless, but I did not do sexual harassment - there are some greater responsibilities that I failed on as a manager that was my primary fault). I was also already debating leaving the company at that point because I was dissatisfied with higher management, and it turned out to be a major blessing for me.

My recommendation is to keep work strictly work as much as possible. Small talk is fine, but when you spend time outside of work hanging out with coworkers, especially on the weekends or separate away from other coworkers (i.e. just another coworker and you), you put yourself at risk potentially. It sounds like what you did might be ok, but of course we don't know the full details so it's hard to really give an accurate assessment. One should be guarded in the event one has coworkers who aren't well-meaning, which is always certainly a possibility & the disproportionate damage that can occur sadly makes it important to be watchful & behave accordingly.

My brother (manager) has been confronted to a similar situation, except that he was accused of moral harassement. The employee complained about it to the director of human ressource. They reacted swiftly. They hired an independent and specialized company to investigate the matter. The conclusion was that it was a fake accusation.

This is the correct behaviour in face of any kind of accusation between employees. This protects the company in face of justice, and gives some insurance that the truth comes out. Relying on an independent company gives some garantee (not full) that the investigation is impartial.

While this is not perfect, it is the most optimal and fair reaction in such situations.

Regarding your situation, it is understandable that it is worrying because you just discovered that you are very exposed. From what you say, it appears that what you considered small talk where questions on private activities. A normal person would simply skip it or make you understand that this is not your business. But some people can't handle that because they are socially disfunctional.

I would suggest that you keep a low profile until the end of your internship. The human resource did simple put distance between you two. So there is nothing dramatic.

Regarding the small talk, I would suggest that, in the future, you try avoiding asking questions. It is better to let the other person drive the talk so that you can easily deduce what is ok to talk about. Stay in the ok subject domain. Eventually you may share some of your private info but be attentive to the other person reaction. If he/she switch subject, it means private life discussions are to be avoided. Even that could already be enough to make socially disfunctional people inconfortable.

The fundamental rationale is just a matter of respect. Some people don't like to share private matters at work. People complaining at HR are really disfunctional because they can't handle everyday situations themselves. These kind of people are toxic in their way and potential source of problems for the company. That person who complained about your behavior has raised a red flag about herself. It's for your own safety that I suggested how to avoid being confronted to such situations again. For now buck down and let the wave pass. Good luck for your future.

Thanks for your insightful comment! And I'm sorry to hear of your brother's story. It has been hard, but I have suspended talking to people about non-work-related topics since this incident. I thought I was in a domain of acceptable topics, but I guess its better to exercise extreme caution. I am also not very socially-skilled so perhaps this lack of experience has been the catalyst for this incident. I would think that a normal person would signal to me that they are not interested in talking further, or should they feel bothered inform me of this prior to going directly to management, but I guess if they feel extremely threatened or intimidated, they might see management as their first option.

> I am also not very socially-skilled so perhaps this lack of experience has been the catalyst for this incident.

Ok, then something came across much differently then you intended. Is there a dude on the job that you could trust which could provide you honest feedback? Someone who tend to talk directly and does not badmouth others behind their back. Emphasis on trust here, really it is important that you can trust that person. Maybe the person signaled that she is not interested, but you did not get the clues.

In my experience, level of directness required when talking with people who have less social skills is level that would be rude when talking with anyone else. Some people have hard time to overcome that. I have been accused of being rude by third party when I talked to my college like that - third party did not knew the guy.

That is not to excuse going to hr instead of directly talking to you, nor excuse that hr left you confused, but to emphasis that you want to ask for feedback someone who will speak frankly to you - and will keep the discussion private.

Thanks for your comment. I have a male coworker on my immediate team who I feel comfortable confiding in. I am a little confused though: what sort of honest feedback should I be asking for? How I may be coming across to other people? Something else?

What exactly makes people uncomfortable about your innocent small talk? What could you change so that you get interpreted correctly next time? Specific info like that.

Most advice here goes toward keeping to yourself and while it can be safer up to the point, social isolation sux in long term - it sux on the job too and limits your career. Also, if you isolate yourself people wont learn how to communicate with you either and will more likely to interpret you wrong. It is certainly reasonable to be careful about communication (safe topics, end small talk soon so that they wont get wrong idea, don't be persistent, etc), but if you closing yourself entirely is bad idea. But I cant tell you exactly what good strategy would be, only someone who sees you interact every day could.

The goal is to learn how to avoid the problem without isolating (and thus potentially harming) yourself.

What is moral harassment?

I'm suprized you don't know that. We are in europe. This concept is well known here and it is illegal. Moral harrassement is humiliating someone in front of collegues, requesting to complete unachivable tasks, continuously requesting things from someone without leaving him "time to breath" or complete the previous request. And then complaining that the previous task has not been completed, threatening to fire the person or changing his holliday period in last minute to jeorpadized his planned holliday with his familiy, calling the employee for an appointment at the end of the day, let him wait 2 hours and then say the apointment is cancelled, etc. It is psychological torture, but we call it moral harassement because it affects morale and demolishes people psychically. It doesn't leave visible trace but may lead a person to commit suicide when he refuse to give up and resign. Because of lack of traces the employer can deny any responsibility. The victims often commit suicide on the work place because it's the last way they have to show that something is wrong at the workplace and the "work" led them to that.

This kind of torture may be more frequent in europe than USA because it is more difficult to let go an employee due to employee protections. Some manager then use these techniques to push employee to resign. Otherwise, it's just psychpaths who do these things.

France Telcom was a french public company that was privatized. The new management did put a lot of pressure on employe to get rid of some of them. They, for instance, moved them alone in an office in a distance place without any furniture, missions, no phone, no internet, nothing. There were many suicide in that company in that period which is not long ago.

My broder is not in such company. He is in a good company handling employees with respect so as he does.

> I'm suprized you don't know that.

They don't know because you're mistranslating from the French -- not all terms are subject to literal translation simply because they can be translated literally.

The proper translation for "harcèlement moral" in US/UK English is "workplace bullying". No English-speaking country (with English as a native tongue) commonly uses the term "moral harassment".

Thanks. I didn't knew that. Sorry for the confusion.

Different europen countries have different laws. But basically it sounds like a more elaborate bullying.

Thank you for the answer.

I am curious too!

I don't have too much useful advice. I don't think there are any positive outcomes for you here, so find another employer ASAP. If you had been at this job for a long time, or you were worried about vesting options or something then it would make sense to consult with a lawyer and defend yourself a bit, but as it is it seems like management at this company is scared and trying to hide you until your internship is up.

I think it's totally bizarre that they would restrict you from talking to any female co-workers. If I were to guess at this situation with no more information than you have given, there is probably some consensus from many employees that you are 'creepy', and since they aren't willing to fire you for 'creepiness' they are just going to put you in the basement until your contract is up.

Good luck, consider whether you are generally creeping people out (maybe privately ask some male co-workers that you know if this might be the case), make sure your personal hygiene is good (shower every day, wear clean clothes everyday), etc. Maybe you do all this already and you are just a regular guy getting a bad deal, I don't know obviously, but you wouldn't be the first stinky guy in tech if that happens to be the issue.

That's a very immature way of dealing with the problem (by the management). The issue likely has 2 very different perspectives and both people involved should be mature enough to be confronted with the other's perspective so it can be dealt with fairly.

For example, you might be sitting opposite of some female co-workers and frequently meeting glances might be interpreted by them as "staring" etc. while you might not even be consciously aware that you do it ... Solution: put up some optical barrier after talking with all people involved together.

> For example, you might be sitting opposite of some female co-workers and frequently meeting glances might be interpreted by them as "staring" etc. while you might not even be consciously aware that you do it ... Solution: put up some optical barrier after talking with all people involved together.

Do we want to legitimize starting at a particular direction as a crime?

These are my eyes. I'll look wherever I want. If someone is uncomfortable, they should move their face away from me.

I sit facing a wall on one side of the room. The two desks on either side of me are where my teammates (both male) sit. Behind me at the other end of the room, there are two girls, one facing the back wall, and one facing the opposite side wall. The only time I look in their direction is when I enter and leave the room.

Something to consider: women do not generally appreciate being called girls. They may consider that language infantilizing or possibly even sexualizing. It's definitely a word to excise from your at-work vocabulary at a minimum.

question was cleared up once they responded to me that they were going to see their boyfriend/girlfriend

Situations where clarification requires those or similar statements share some context with those in which one person is clearly expressing a possible romantic interest in a person without a similar reciprocal interest. Multiple conversations within a relatively short time frame might reasonably be interpreted as a pattern within workplace.

On the positive side, recognizing that these situations can readily be interpreted as hitting on someone means that they are avoidable by not engaging in the behavior. Self identification of the root cause behavior also means that the allegations are not unfounded.

Good luck.

Then there are the ones that perceive any contact from the opposite sex as being "hit on".

Person A: "Do you have the time?" Person B: "I have a boyfriend!!!"


1. The OP describes mention of a significant other as clarifying the situation;

2. The OP states that their actions could be interpreted as hitting on the other person;

that does not appear to be the type of situations described in the question.

Look for a better full time job now. Your time there is limited.

I'm not in the US, so I don't know anything about how you have to handle this legally, but I would publicly apologize for any unintended wrongdoing and make clear that you don't know what you are punished for. Be rather brief.

Any decent person (which isn't legally bound) will come to you and give you some hints or let you know what happened from their view. If not, forget about it and move on.

Thanks for your advice. The first question I was asked was if I knew why I was brought into the meeting with management. I answered I honestly did not know. When they told me, I made someone feel uncomfortable I apologized for any harm I caused to this person. I asked if I could know who this person is so I could apologize to them but I was informed that they had no interest in speaking to me. Its been two weeks, and no-one has come forward to me yet sadly. If I were in their shoes, I would have come forward to someone who is bothering me prior to going to management. Though if I did feel seriously intimidated by this person, I would ask if I could have a meeting with management and the person bothering me present. But thats just me.

I would second the call to start looking for a new job ASAP. However I would focus my energies entirely on ensuring the healthiest departure possible, leaving any and all relationships you can on a positive note. And I would not speak a single word about this accusation ever again.

Unfortunately business culture in the US is such that it's very easy to become "tainted" by an accusation like this, and it's the next worst thing for your career after being a felon.

Actual evidence of wrongdoing is not a prerequisite for your conviction in the court of public opinion. It may seem unjust, and if things went down as you describe, it is. But you're best served by walking away from this situation in an orderly and professional fashion. Don't feed the trolls--shift attention and energy, both yours and others', on positives ASAP. The sooner you that happens the less chance this will come back to bite you one day.

Thanks for your comment! Well said! I am looking forward to working as hard as I can and then moving on in a few months when this internship ends. But becoming "tainted" or worse, convicted of a crime is what I am worried about, especially further down the line, when I have a permanent position, a mortgage to pay, or a family to support. I recall in a Planet Money podcast episode an interview with a Wells Fargo banker, who after being pressured to meet new account quotas by opening extra accounts without their customers express desire, was somehow marked when she left her position, and had trouble finding another job in the banking industry. I wonder if anything like this (or perhaps a social credit system) exists, and if it could be corrected/adjusted as spurious information on one's credit report can be taken off.

It's not really possibly to provide solid advice, nobody here knows the full details of the situation. But here's what I (might) do:

1. Ask them to put everything in writing, if it isn't already in writing.

2. If you're thinking about quiting, talk to a lawyer.

3. If you quit, consider making a case against them for constructive dismissal.

I'd probably quit. It sounds horrible, and I couldn't work in that environment.

This is basically what I was going to write. Having it in writing I hadn't thought of but it's definitely important.

I have a question for people reading this thread (it's something I've been pondering a lot lately).

If for whatever reason, person X makes person Y uncomfortable, shouldn't Y tell X about it, and X stop the behavior/languages that caused the situation?

I think people make mistakes all the time, and some of them are quite honest/unintentional. What happened to "Let's learn from our mistakes?"

Not to be confused with people who make the "same mistake" all the time, in which case I think their behavior should not be tolerated.

In situations like this (for example if the women who mentioned having a boyfriend had been more direct "please stop trying to spend time with me") it would cause its own set of problems. An intentional harasser will insist nothing is wrong and keep coming back... at best. Some cause problems at work or become verbally/physically abusive. OP may have awkwardly stumbled into this situation, but his colleague doesn't know how to stop it without everyone getting pissed off. Is it worth HR involvement? Depends on what's been said. But it's not like they would understand each other from one conversation.

This took time for me to understand. I had an acquaintance starting at a company who was interested in my separate traveling job. When I moved to SF she said we should have dinner, we were cool, invited to her birthday. She suggested I find a souvenir for her on my next trip. Months later I gave her a nice scarf and never saw her again. She probably forgot that it was her idea! I asked her to meet up, and she'll agree, but then it never happens. If I say, "hey, why don't you tell me why we didn't meet up? I need to talk this over in person, you need to believe me", that's exactly what a harasser would do. So I've had to let this go. It might be a little uncomfortable, but no one really gains anything from fixing it, except trying to feel like I'm always right.

Never be around or communicate 1:1 with a woman you don't know alone. Always be with other people whom could be witnesses or with a clear paper-trail. Furthermore, keep "getting to know" questions to safe, nonintrusive topics for anyone new. Strangers are potential liabilities until proven otherwise.

Is that a US thing? I know this advice is given to teachers and such here, but colleagues? Quite a few of the people who worked at my company had relarions and/or married (with kids a lot of them) because of office flirtations; some love at first sight. I guess if it is a common thing then yours is good advice but I would not exactly like to work in such a paranoid environment, especially with people who should be my peers.

> believe that question was cleared up once they responded to me that they were going to see their boyfriend/girlfriend.

This sentence is kind of interesting. So, you were 'just making small talk', until they told you they had a boy/girlfriend, and then, you just ... stopped 'making smalltalk'? :-P

Where in that sentence do you get the idea that he "stopped 'making smalltalk'" after "they told [him] they had a boy/girlfriend"?

It sounded that to me too. That he assumed the issue is cleared and that he can continue conversation without worrying that she would interpret it as hitting.

Because since he now knows she has boyfriend, therefore he is not hitting, therefore logically she is unlikely to interpret further conversation as hitting. Incidentally, that is remarkably similar to the way people on spectrum "logically" interpret humans - have hard time imagine other person perspective (here he knows he is not hitting therefore she knows too) - and get into trouble despite really not having bad intentions.

I see, I was interpreting the GP comment as that the OP stopped talking altogether after knowing she had a boyfriend. But you are right, it can also be interpreted that after the OP knew she had a boyfriend he changed from "small talk" to some more interesting subjects cause he felt more at ease of not being misunderstood as hitting on her.

Honestly, i would quit and burn the bridge. If they can't show any evidence and can't even tell you what wrong you did, why bother dealing with this nonsense?

Anonymous sources can say you're a pedophile and I'm a canabal hatchet murderer, and face no consequences for making false claims.

Furthermore, for those with very thin skins (SJWs) whom see microaggressions everywhere, it's fine for them to use whatever tools are available because the ends justifies the means, as a person, in their mind, is guilty merely for being born with innate identity privilege attributes. SJW behavior is disproportionate retribution combined with stereotyping.

Really the only sound advice anyone can offer is "keep your head down until you naturally part" or "leave now via a mutual agreement" so as to not cause any of the harm you're afraid of causing. We only have a few tidbits of information from you - this isn't to say that I disbelieve you, but rather that it's impossible to give proper advice without knowing far more about what's going on; anything else is just going to be speculation, likely driven by personal biases and spurious opinions.

Professionally, stick it out with your nose to the grind stone and leave with work experience on your resume, or part ways now on good business terms if you're really worried that something else is going to happen.

If you are really worried about communication via the stick-it-out option, just try to keep it via email and business oriented. There's nothing wrong with dropping the pre-tense of small talk in conversations and keeping an email just to "Hi [name], I'm working on X and was wondering if you could provide Y for me as it will help a lot. Thank you, fjfkdjfjfjd"

I must confess it's very hard not to project my own prejudices and biases here; I tend to be of the opinion that a company wouldn't bother with such a PR disaster if there wasn't something that troubled an employee - my past managerial experience with such situations is that most are caused by well-meaning but socially awkward and oblivious young men not realizing that what they say or do makes people uncomfortable. (Luckily for our business, all parties were able to come to a mutual understanding that it was a misunderstanding after my investigation, and the issue was forgiven and a friendship established by the parties) We also had several cases that were genuine harassment and punitive action had to be taken.

With how little there is for anyone to go on here, everyone is going to be relying on their own past experiences - my experience is "where there's smoke there's fire", others see false claims, but neither is going to be right because we can't comment.

So, if you're worried professionally, just weigh the benefits of actions here - you can pursue it, make noise, and maybe get a pyrrhic victory of principal while damaging your professional career, or you can let this one go, focus on your professional life, and move on. We don't have the information to give any better options; you do. If you share more (honestly), we can advise more, but if this is what you feel safe with, then just take the safe approach, stick it out and/or move on.

I have no intent on damaging my career or making others feel uncomfortable, so at this point, keeping my head low, nose to the grindstone, let this pass, is how I will attempt to make these last few months work out. From the comments here, I definitely gained from seeing other's perspectives of the occasional small-talk I was making could be viewed in a way other than what I was intending.

I am happy to provide some more detail. Is there something specific I can provide?

Not ok. You need to walk in there and demand to know what you are accused of. Not "so that I won't do it again", don't say that, but because you have the right to know to be able to defend yourself.

> The company has told me they do not have the budget to hire me full-time or extend my internship

Were you told this AFTER these apparently unfounded accusations?

And are you in competition with any female for a position? Are there female interns? If so, suspect those individuals.

I faced the same situation, although it wasn't 'sexual' harassment, just harassment in general apparently.

Basically the company I worked at was taken over and me and some others were forced out. The others rage quitted. I had false complaints made against me, and I was suspended while they 'investigated', I just quit.

My advice would be to walk away. If you know you've done nothing wrong and there's no evidence, you don't want to be in that kind of toxic environment.

> I realize some of these questions could be viewed as hitting on someone, but that was not my intention, and believe that question was cleared up once they responded to me that they were going to see their boyfriend/girlfriend.

If someone tells you she has boyfriend, then she thinks you are hitting at her. Always. It does not automatically clears your intentions, but it makes it clear she interprets you wrongly.

I don't have any advice for you per se. This sounds like a really, really terrible thing. I am going to link to a previous discussion that I participated in as food for thought. People were trying to give me push back and tell me I was wrong for saying this needed to be investigated even handedly and I asked people "Do you want to work in an environment where women can level accusations and get you summarily fired without so much as asking your side of things?"

So here is that link:


There is additional related commentary on my website on an easily found piece called Lawyer lawyer lawyer LAWYER lawyer LAWYER. that I am not going to link here. But the point I want to make is that we all need to start doing a better job of building bridges or you can expect more of this sort of thing in the future and it isn't going to do ANYONE any real good. This is not a solution to the problem of sexism.

> I realize some of these questions could be viewed as hitting on someone, but that was not my intention, and believe that question was cleared up once they responded to me that they were going to see their boyfriend/girlfriend.

Multiple people felt the need to tell you that they have a partner.

Why do you think the problem is non-existent?

When the question is "What do you do on the weekend", then, of course, people with partners will most likely respond with something involving their partners.

How does that imply a problem with the OP, except his inability to magically know the relationship status of his coworkers? Which would be the only ability allowing him to evade such answers to a rather casual question.

Maybe he's new in town and looking for places to go to during the weekend? Is the weekend question really that inappropriate in such a context?

OP has interpreted this as not being g a problem. I'm looking out that if many people felt the need to drop the "I'm not interested in you, and I have a partner so back off" line then maybe there was a problem.

That's the thing with these kinds of situations, whatever the OP original intentions had been, they don't matter anymore as soon as the other party thinks he/she is being "hit on" and feels offended about it.

If the other party is actively looking to be offended, then there's literally nothing one can say/do to make it not worse, just walk out of the situation in silence and take a break.

By your own description it sounds it is founded, asking what you're up to this weekend is a lead in to asking for a date. I get that wasn't your intent, but that doesn't matter, does it?

Others have said find another job, that sounds like a good ideas. I probably wouldn't put this internship on my employment history.

And seriously, your 20's are for getting laid as much as you can. Are you? Because if you're not (outside the workplace obviously) the women at work might be picking up on your energy and taking it the wrong way. The more you get some outside of the office, the less you'll be emanating that "oh I wanna fuck that" energy around the office. I'm not saying get a girlfriend but having one (if you are suchly oriented) might help dissipate that energy on a regular basis.

In hindsight, I realize that such a question about weekend plans could be taken the wrong way. I was ultimately trying to be cordial, not to make anyone (male or female) feel I was leading on to them.

On your last point, I am still a virgin now in my early-mid 20s. Never had a girlfriend or been in much of any romantic relationship. I met a girl while traveling, got her info and really connected after we were thousands of miles away over the Internet for a few months, which eventually faded. During college, I chose work and studying over a social life, and in hindsight, I kind of regret it. I definitely feel I am very socially underdeveloped/inexperienced and would love to know how to develop in this area.

Don't worry about the virgin thing - but there is plenty of time to socialise (and now you have the full time $ to support your hobbies which most 20 year olds don't.)

I didn't start drinking until 23 and didn't start going out with friends until 25. I moved city and made all of my friends through the local live music scene, I'm sure you could have similar results.

I think it is different for everyone. But if you feel afraid about anything, work through the fear.

The worst thing that can happen asking for a date, a phone number, a coffee, or sex, is the woman says "No".

Try your best to not get fixated on one, that can lead to unlimited opportunity loss. Pursue women that are reasonably close. I had a GF about 37 miles away in Los Angeles. The driving sucked especially Friday after work. Maybe for Ms. Right it would have worked. But we weren't right for each other. My point is, proximity or propinquity is a huge factor in attraction.

A friend in NYC, whom I had a major crush on, told me it was a numbers game and to go out on some dates. And I can tell you for certain, there is a magic number of dates you have to go on before you find what you're looking for. Unfortunately I can't tell you what the magic number is. (Same thing applies to finding a job, btw)

Start figuring out what you want, but more important is what you have to offer. Don't go too deep on those lists at first, you'll figure that out as you go.

When I decided to take my friend's advice, some 10 years later, I went on okcupid. Before I found my wife, I went on a bunch of dates with really great women whom I didn't click with. I had a lot of fun with them, not sex but seeing bands, going places I don't usually go to, etc.

Dating on okcupid was a grind. I'd get 1 response for roughly every 30 messages I sent. And about 1 date for every 3-4 responses. I just sent 10-20 messages every other day for a time. Lesson: don't get discouraged.

During those dates, I learned a lot about what I wanted, what I didn't want, and what I could put up with.

When I got that response from the woman who would become my wife, she rebuffed me, saying she wasn't ready. I felt some connection with what she wrote in her profile, so I bookmarked her. Then I cyber stalked her page for a few weeks and noticed she updated it. I immediately messaged her and said I noticed the update and asked if she was now available. We text chatted for 4 hours online, then when I asked her when we could meet, she went silent. For 20 minutes. I just left the browser window open, feeling some disappointment. Again, the worst that could happen is she would say no. Turns out she had to take a phone call and we arranged a date. Lesson: persistence pays off.

When I met my wife, I knew there was a special connection. She annoyed me by her choice of restaurant- because it was so loud we couldn't hear each other. But we left and spent 5-6 hours talking after that. The rest as they say, is history.

Anyway, don't feel pressured to go right out to meet someone. That's how I feel about my 20's; I wish I had sought more dates than I did. If you're ready, just get out there, whatever that looks like to you. Be yourself, and another friend told me, don't commit fraud while dating. That was some awesome advice. I don't want to have to be an actor, I want to be me.

Leave but before you do so find a chance to talk to a nontrivial percentage of the staff and explain that this thing happened, affected you deeply and it was never your intent to upset anyone and it has really negatively impacted your experience at a formative stage in your career so whoever made the accusation could they please be aware in future that they may have it wrong about people and accusations can hurt. No issues otherwise enjoyed the company, see you all later sorta thing. Makes the point but it's not "in your face" to the accuser, and also makes the management aware they should be less manipulable.

That will come across as passive aggressive or manipulative at best. You need considerable charisma to be able to pull something like that off. It is nice as vengeance dream, but in practice would turn against him. It is therefore bad advice.

> but in practice would turn against him

... How? If he's leaving, exactly what they could do against him for you to say "it would turn against him"? Nothing, of course, that's the point of quitting, but I'm all eyes to your take on it.

Network of people you know and their willingness to work with you again are quite helpful in both getting new jobs and telling you how the workplace really looks like before you go to interview.

Also, what is the point of leaving as parent suggested? It is that you get to look like a good guy in the end and she gets to feel bad/look bad in the eyes of the management. If he ends up looking like manipulative asshole, then he won't get that.

Meh. You can take that stance. However, I don't think the OP is going to come across as manipulative if they have been wrongfully victimized by such a situation. My policy has always been and continues to be "open, honest, and to hell with the social implications." While it's not the snazziest social calibration one can aspire to, and it can burn bridges, long term it creates trust and more importantly removes the need to bother managing such petty issues mentally.

Practicaly, it does not matter whether he was wrongly victimised or not. It is irrelevant whether she wrongly accused him or whether he was collosally out of line. It matters whether he can talk about "formative stage of career" without sounding like a colossal weirdo. Most people can't.

He was looking for advice how to make his situation better. This is not it.

Also, there is big difference between saving mental resources by not thinking about impact of your words and spending effort looking for "a chance to talk to a nontrivial percentage of the staff and explain ...". The latter does not save mental energy. The latter is major project instead. Nor does it build trust. Characterising it as causual "saving energy from managing petty issues" is ridiculous.

Your response is 90% opine.

By bringing it up he is giving the company a chance to be aware of its mistake. As long as he is respectful in how its done that's a very selfless thing.

FYI the open-and-to-hell-with-it strategy works well for me, I am very successful by most measures.

> Network of people you know and their willingness to work with you again are quite helpful in both getting new jobs and telling you how the workplace really looks like before you go to interview.

Exactly how many of your jobs have helped you in any way in getting the next one? Hell, I have never even been asked references. Maybe we just work in entirely different industries and you're making too many assumptions.

> It is that you get to look like a good guy in the end and she gets to feel bad/look bad in the eyes of the management.

Perhaps and whoever accused him should feel bad, but won't, people who take advantage of the power that a false accusation gives tend to be sociopaths, they don't care about the person they're accusing nor about actual victims.

> If he ends up looking like manipulative asshole, then he won't get that.

He won't.

That's textbook harassment (common in Coercive Control) and will serve to persuade people that the accusations were true and that OP is a massive arsehole to be avoided at every opportunity.

I would suggest a lawyer. Even though it looks like no charges have been filed, it could be the company's fault for not investigating properly.


>looks like no charges have been filed

Charges? I don't think you mean criminal charges, but you may mean a more formal HR investigation.

The accusation sounds frivolous, judging from your side of the story, which is all I have access to. Keep in mind though, that it's not always strictly about what's said. Like if your eyes keep unconsciously drifting to her tits the whole time you're talking, the conversation could be about feeding the hungry and singing in the church choir with your wife of 8 years and it'll still be pretty "uncomfortable" for her -- maybe doubly so!

Anyway I think I recommend the same thing your management does, except take it with you for your whole career: Keep the conversation to business-related things, and save the BS small-talk stuff for your social life outside work. Those are low-value conversations anyway... people's boring-ass weekends? Their stupid commutes? Who cares? I personally could not give a flying you-know-what about what any of my co-workers did this weekend or ever. Kill me with a thousand knives first!

That's just me. Still, you might not believe me when I say, it is truly a privilege to work in a professional, work-focused environment of basically disinterested strangers who happen to work together. It's truly something to behold. There is no drama whatsoever... nobody has time for it! Everybody is happy as a clam and almost as quiet. That's why I stick with my current job even though I'm kind of underpaid.

It's not done out of a sense of discipline. Well I mean it does take a little bit of discipline but it shouldn't take a lot. I'm there to work, I value the work, I enjoy the work. And I like getting it done, preferably as fast as possible and with concise work-related answers to my work-related questions, and a minimum of hearing about people's weekends. All those conversations do is slow down the work and interrupt the work. Sounds fanatical doesn't it. Again I would say it's a privilege to be in a situation where I can say all this honestly.

You should ask what you did so that you can avoid doing it again. If they can't tell you why then you know it's all BS company politics.

> I was told to be not talk to women at the office unless absolutely necessary regarding business matters.

When you are at work you should only be talking about work anyway, regardless of who. I wouldn't take this too harshly.

A clue was provided by HR, and you (and others) do not seem to be paying attention to it.

I doubt it will feel better until you leave the role. There is only so much self reflection you can do until you are self destructive. I think it's too late now to ask for more information, so there is nothing you can do - and this is an awful situation.

I imagine and hope it was an honest mistake towards someone who was a bit more sensitive about one of your actions and there isn't a huge amount you can do to make the situation better for anyone. You seem keen on fixing yourself which is noble so I hope you don't let this eat away at you.

"I am frankly quite scared of talking to or approaching any women in my office, even for a work-related purpose."

Have you told management this? Can they offer advice?

I've been in a somewhat similar situation. Here's some hard advice to consider.

Your manager and HR had a duty to stand up for you and did not. The fact that you've been moved to a far corner away from your team will not be lost on anyone. Your accuser is either a mischief-maker or has significant mental health issues, and there's a good chance she's spreading gossip.

It's pointless to try to fight this or even to try to learn more about the false accusation.

If at all possible, you should leave immediately. You can't use them as a reference, so probably two-week notice is needless. Your reason is "personal reasons".

If the internship has been sufficiently brief and not very publicly known, scrub it from LinkedIn/etc., and proceed as if it didn't happen. Otherwise, come up with a plausible and not particularly verifiable cover story.

If you can't leave right away, keep your head down. Name, rank, and serial number only.

The timing of this in your career is actually pretty lucky. No one really cares about internships unless your boss is a Nobel Prize winner or something. Once you get your next job, this will be ancient history, and just a sad lesson. In the future, of course, take steps to protect yourself from such allegations.

Don't let this get you down! It's not that important, and in less time than you think, you'll realize that it's really had no real effect on your life at all.

Good luck.

Although I do believe that HR handled the situation poorly (i.e. moving you away from your group), I also think you're not innocent in this. My advice to you would be to reevaluate how you come off to other people and maybe what went wrong in these interactions. If they were bad enough to warrant someone talking to HR then something definitely needs to change. I recommended the book " The Charisma Myth: How anyone can master the art and science of personal magnetism" by Olivia Fox Cabane. Additionally for the fellow commenters, Shame on anyone calling the accuser "mentally ill", "spreading gossip", or anything of the likes. That is victim blaming and weather her accusations are true or not doesn't give you the right to justify his action through attacking her character.

Just come to Europe and work here man. People are normal here, both how men treat women in a professional environment, and how women perceive men in such an environment.

I touched a middle aged woman on the shoulder and my manager also told me to limit my talking with women for 6 months. I was just avoiding shaking hands.

As an intern you may consider leaving early unless you know there is some one sympathetic there who will still provide a good reference.


Ok, since you've ignored our many requests to stop posting uncivil and/or unsubstantive comments, we've banned you.


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14676313 and marked it off-topic.

"The anonymity of Raymond's source means it is nigh-on impossible to assess the credibility of his relayed allegations. That he's essentially circulating a wild conspiracy theory makes it even harder. What is certain is that Raymond – who once claimed Iranian terrorists were out to get him [...]"

"In 2013, Sarah Sharp, who then ran USB-compatibility efforts in the Linux kernel, urged Torvalds to stop verbally abusing fellow kernel developers and encourage more civil conversation with developers of any gender."

So, Sharp urged Torwalds to be less verbally abusive (because she considered him being role model for whole culture) and generally delusional dude had unnamed source about someone attempts to target open source programmers. Which never happened, Torwalds was never accused of harassment (he was accused of being rude which is much different).

IMO, ada initiaive is not above lying, but theirs lies are in exactly the same category as claiming the above means "Linus Torvalds was targeted."

Linus Torvalds is an arsehole who cannot behave as an adult and control his emotions.

If he was my boss, I would sue my company for allowing abusive behavior happening in the work place.

There's no excuse to do what he does, and it saddens me that a lot of good developers may choose not to work on Linux development just not to have to deal with him.

But I guess that this is what he wants. He built his little "kingdom of terror" and that way he can make sure that in his team there will never be developers who can diminish him.

I don't know, I sometimes hear of people avoiding or leaving Linux because of him and more often than not it's somebody I'd never want involved in my project.

So you mean that what you want in your project is submissive people who tolerate abuse?

No, that is not what I mean.

SJW - Social Justice Warrior I'm guessing?


" You are making some woman uncomfortable."

So what? nobody makes you feel uncomfortable at your job?

If nobody is accusing him of sexual harassment, what is he being accused exactly?

It seems like an important point that they forgot to tell him. The guy don't even know about what he is being accused.

When that started to be OK?

My perception is that the woman complained about him, he is not important in the company and HR don't want to deal with the mess, specially in the current climate of political correctness. So they inflicted an injustice on him.

How I know it was an injustice? because they punished him but they didn't tell him what he did wrong.

I'm not sure I would consider your advice on never initiating non-business related small talk to be so bullet proof, particularly when we get into issues of "creepiness", which is a term that isn't often well defined or viewed in the same light by differing people.

Now there are definitely behaviors that I think can easily be labeled as creepy(leering at people, making inappropriate physical contact, asking too many unwanted personal questions, etc) but there are other behaviors that are harder to automatically equate as such. As an example, I tend to be relatively introverted, and extremely private when it comes to discussing my personal life, this is especially true at work or with people I don't know well. As a result, I typically don't engage in small talk at work, and seeing as I rarely ever bring up my personal life, I very rarely ask about others. This isn't to say I'm not cordial, but when at work I prefer to simply focus on getting stuff done.

At one prior job, I worked with an extremely extroverted and talkative group, not gossipy or inappropriate, but simply gregarious. I would obviously join in when directly asked but I was always hesitant to initiate this kind of discussion. I did over a long period of time end up becoming close friends with one of my coworkers, at which point he let me know that when I first started some of my coworkers thought it was somewhat creepy that I never talked much about my private life.

I only relay this situation to point out how difficult it can be to navigate these kinds of interpersonal relationships, particularly in larger groups. One person's reluctance to discuss their weekend plans, which to me was completely benign, can be another person's creepiness. Just to be clear though, I absolutely think there are behaviors that are very unequivocally creepy or unwarranted, I'm not trying to argue that this is always, or even mostly, a matter of personal interpretation.

> Try to first believe what they said instead of getting paranoid.

If he wouldn't believe it then he wouldn't be paranoid, the whole paranoia angle only exists because of the complete vagueness of the accusation.

It's literally telling somebody "You did somebody wrong, we won't tell you what you did or to whom, but consider yourself on notice", how is anybody supposed to react to that except with complete paranoia?

> If the other people in the office start doing small talk to you, then you answer, don't engage the other way around.

Sorry for putting this frankly, but why? It's either the same rules for everybody or no rules at all. Why are other coworkers allowed to initiate private small talk while he is not?

What are you basing this difference of rulesets for different people on? On the mere existence of an anonymous accusation that doesn't even detail what exactly he did wrong? Or maybe even superficialities?

Don't you think that whole setup is quite one-sided and could just as well be considered as bullying?

> Just accept what they said and try to take this a learning a experience that your behavior does not come out as professional where you are working at the moment.

Again: How is he supposed to learn anything from this when he isn't even told what he did wrong or to whom? What part of his behavior? In what exact situations? As is, it's such a generalizing statement that it might as well just be a personal insult.

> Try to pay attention to that on your next job.

Remember that thing you did wrong and nobody ever told you about? Don't do that wrong the next time! Much has been learned, very educational.

> That sometimes you might think you are being friendly and people see you as creepy.

And what you might think is creepy I might consider funny in a friendly odd way. There are always two parts to communication of any kind: A sender and a receiver. Getting the right context across, and preventing misunderstandings, involves effort on both ends, not just the sender.

The only thing anybody learned here is that he's considered a horrible creepy person, with exactly zero context or reasons given as to why he's supposedly such a bad person.

Thanks for your comment: This is my outlook: I try to be the best person I can be and when I make mistakes, I try to know what I did so I can learn from them. I agree with you that in this case, I do not feel I have even a chance to really learn from it, other than to be very cautious. While I am trying to move forward, I don't want this to haunt me. I do not want to "creep out" people, or repulse them since people are how I will make my living, hopefully one day get married, etc. I guess its a fine line one must walk to be friendly to others while not offending/creeping out people and not talking to people.

Your very much welcome, as somebody on the spectrum I can relate quite a bit to your situation but can only imagine how frustrating this must be right now.

Don't let your head down too much and just keep in mind that we can't get along with everybody, it's not always all your own fault. Sometimes personalities just clash and it's best for everybody to just stay out of each other's way and do their own thing.

This does not mean that somebody is a "bad person" and the other a "good person", it simply means they just don't vibe with each other with no particular fault of anybody involved. So don't feel too guilty about this whole mess, at least as long they can't even be bothered to offer you any specifics about your supposed misbehavior.

What about the professional social skills of the person that made the complaint? Couldn't she have raised the matter personally instead of going straight to a manager? And how toxic is a workplace where you can be accused of unspecified behaviours by some unknown co-worker and be automatically on the wrong side, without any clue as to know who accused you and why?

I understand that somebody may not want to raise such a matter personally.

The real problem is that OP wasn't even given the details of the accusation. Because even assuming that the accusations are correct, there is likely no malice involved here (not by OP, taking his word on this, and probably also not by the other person, given that he's in an internship). Without the details, OP has no opportunity to correct his behavior and might make the same mistake in the future, whatever it was. That way, everybody loses.

After sleeping on it, this is sort of how I feel. I would have personally gone to see someone who is bothering me to let them know before going straight to management. And if I felt extremely uncomfortable, then perhaps I would ask if management could be present in a meeting between me and the person who I feel bothered by.

This is rich: "Believe that you're an awful person although we all know you aren't. Some delusional moron has decided they don't like you and wants to ruin your reputation. Just accept it, they are more important than you. And don't you even dare to get actual justice for you, we have this power over you now and resistance won't be tolerated."

I honestly didn't expect to see something like this in this thread. But, in hindsight, I'm not surprised, the narrative requires everything to be made about you (and with you I mean SJWs in general, not you in particular).

With all that public justice today, motorhead's life's a bitch makes a lot of new sense. Take it as an official advice.

The World is full of technology at your disposal. Use it! Do not Fear the HATERS If you are that uncomfortable One DOCUMENT everything especially when you feel threatened you have right too! This sounds like a personal Vendetta against you by someone who does not like you ? Stay friendly and Cordial, but quick in your Hi and Bye. RECORD with your phone any unrelated uncomfortable incidents. And find a New JOB but before you leave that Job so those sexual harras. Charges do not follow you! One week before you leave Press charges against that Company for Violating your Rights Its all he say she say and its just someone higher up thats got it in for you someone kbows someone who knows someone who doesnt like you Get some Legal Advice feom a Shark then Harpoon The problem and 9 times out of 10 you will find out who was hating on you When you go public with a problem and go corporate the Loser Will show themselves ashame and guess what Now there JOBLESS for lying and now the HARRASEMENT cases belongs to them and its another win for THE GOOD GUYS! WHO SAYS WE FINISH LAST Might take you some time to get there tortoise, but You can out think the HARE! Plot, Plan, Apply, Record! And DOCUMENT , DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT USE that CELLPHONE i know you keep it close Now Apply And im almost certain you will see that SNAKE SLITHER out the high grass! SHES watching You! And tell No one what your doing They will try to Stop you But Keep recording them. VERBAL VIXENS! TRICK BITCHES get on my Nerve Ok i hope i was a help to you and GOOD LUCK L.L.L.

Wow, that reads like Francis Dec.

It actually sounds more like Donald Trump. I was reading that with his voice in my head after couple sentences

I don't know what you MEAN, I read it just FINE.

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