One dad-to-be's experience with a colleague is a reminder that sexual harassment is never OK.

By Beth Ann Mayer
April 19, 2021
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An image of a baby shower on a colorful background.
Credit: Getty Images. Art: Jillian Sellers.

Our co-workers can feel like family. It makes sense—we spend about one-third of our lives at work, meaning we sometimes see our colleagues more than we see our families.

But not everyone sees it that way, particularly when it comes to the whole "work-spouse" thing. If you're not familiar, a work spouse is someone with whom you have a special relationship. You finish each other's sentences and maybe bicker like an old married couple in between meetings. Think Elliott Stabler and Olivia Benson from Law and Order: SVU, but without all the Internet fan fiction.

Both people should consent to being called a work spouse. That wasn't the case for one dad-to-be and one of his co-workers, and he got so mad at her he kicked her out of his actual wife's baby shower. He felt a little guilty about it, so he turned to Reddit to ask if he did the right thing.

Here's the story, in his words:

"I work in a pretty tight workspace," u/coleeatspeas posted in the AITA subreddit. "There's one co-worker 'Eva' who started working here a few months back. I learned some weeks ago that she was calling herself my 'work wife.' The sentiment wasn't shared, and I've expressed as much. I'm also a happily married man, and my co-workers, including Eva, know this."

That should have been the end of it, but it wasn't.

"I thought I had done a pretty good job nipping things in the bud after our conversation, so I didn't think it would be an issue to invite her to my wife's baby shower," the Dad-to-be continued. "At one point, Eva was telling people she would be our baby's second mom…I had pretty much had it by then and took her aside and told her that the jokes weren't funny and that she could either apologize to my wife right now…or she could just leave. She chose to leave."

His co-workers thought he was a little harsh, telling him, "She obviously likes you." He wanted to know if he was in the wrong. Most Redditors not only told him he did the right thing by asking her to stop but that the dad-to-be should type another message out—not on the forum, but in an email to his employer.

"Send HR an email about the behavior to get it on the record," one of the top comments read. Another Redditor agreed. "THIS THIS THIS. Get to HR first thing in the morning, and tell them everything, starting with the previous jokes and you having asked her not to say that," the poster advised.

Others were disgusted with his co-workers. "'Obviously she likes you,' makes the whole thing worse… she obviously has a crush on a married man with a pregnant wife and isn't shy about it. The fact that all the co-workers seem ok with that is troubling too," someone commented.

Agreed. Workplace sexual harassment—or any sexual harassment—is inexcusable. But about 72 percent of workplace sexual harassment goes unreported, according to a recent Careerbuilder.com survey. A few years ago, in the wake of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements aimed at bringing awareness to and reducing sexual harassment, particularly in the workplace, the Girl Scouts urged parents to start talking to their kids about the topic early.

How can you help lessen the chance your child will violate consent like "Eva?"

  • Teach all children about boundaries and respect, regardless of their gender identity.
  • Keep the terms age-appropriate. You don't need to use the words "sexual harassment" for pre-school-aged kids. Instead, use words like "our bodies" and emphasize using words instead of hands to communicate.
  • Don't dismiss your child's concerns. "They're only doing XYZ because they like you," as the Redditors' co-workers said, isn't an excuse.

We can be a part of the change so that our kids—and OP's kids—grow up in a better, more respectful society.