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Lynne Curry: Can worker sue ex-boss/ex-lover?

Lynne Curry

Q. I had an affair for two years with my boss. We kept it secret because he told me if others knew, he would lose his career and they would have to let one or both of us go. He told me I was the best thing that had ever happened to him.

For his birthday, I gave him what I thought was the best present ever. I let him know I had accepted a job elsewhere and we could openly be a couple. He did not even pretend to be happy.

You may have guessed what happened then. He broke up with me soon after I started my new job and did not return my calls. I trapped him at the gym, where he did not want to make a scene. It was horrible. He said he'd had no interest in me for a year but continued our relationship so I could not charge him with harassment.

He thought he would devastate me but I am no longer hurt; I am angry. Can I still sue for sexual harassment? I do not have a lot of money.

A. Contact the Anchorage Equal Right Commission or the Alaska Human Rights Commission and ask them. Their intake personnel can let you know whether or not you have a situation meriting investigation. Then you can move forward with a complaint -- without a monetary cost. You can also seek attorney advice and file a lawsuit.

You may not get the "yes" you seek. If your supervisor forced you into a romantic or sexual relationship, it may constitute harassment because of the unequal relationship between supervisor and employee. When two consenting adults have an affair, however, it is legal. Raising the harassment flag after the affair ends because of hurt feelings does not turn mutual consent into harassment.

If you initiated the relationship or willingly continued and even moved it forward, your supervisor may be guilty of being a cad but not of harassment. At the same time, a complaint may stop him from doing to others what he did to you.

Q. I live and work in rural Alaska. I have worked in a grocery store, two restaurants and collected census data. I am a great clerk and waitress.

I'm more than that. I'm the best fundraiser my community has. I've raised more money than anyone else in town for my church, my kids' school and the family of a firefighter who died. Despite this, no one seems to realize I have talent enough to be hired for a more "professional" job.

When I apply for one of the few non-entry-level jobs that come available in town, the employers hire someone from out of town with a degree I don't have. Employers see me as a clerk, waitress and housewife. What I've done as a volunteer doesn't seem to count.

I can't move to Anchorage to get a degree or a better job but I'm tired of waitressing and go-nowhere jobs. What do you suggest?

A. You've got options.

If there's a product or service you can create or develop, you can start your own Internet-based home business. If this idea grabs you, use your fundraising skills in your own business development.

If lacking a degree holds you back from a job you want, investigate the many universities that offer degrees online. One of the best resources is "Bear's Guide to Earning Degrees Nontraditionally."

Next, rewrite your resume so it highlights your accomplishments and not your jobs. Right now, you appear to be a waitress, clerk, census taker who's helped her community through volunteer efforts. It should focus on your skills and what you've accomplished in both your paid and unpaid work, rather than your chronological work history and job titles.

Finally, broaden your job search and seek remote employment. Many companies now hire virtual employees. You might land the job you long for -- regardless of where you live.

Dr. Lynne Curry is a management/employee trainer and owner of the consulting firm The Growth Company Inc. Send your questions to her at lynne@thegrowthcompany.com. You can follow Lynne on Twitter @lynnecurry10 or through www.workplacecoachblog.com

 


Lynne Curry
THE WORKPLACE