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16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence: Clara’s story of sexual harassment at work

November 28, 2022

This week we are marking 16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence by shedding a light on the widespread issue of sexual harassment in the workplace, sharing the experiences of some of the women in low-paid and insecure work who have been involved in our research and calling for better protections against sexual harassment at work.

Clara’s story

TW: sexual harassment

Clara, one of our youngest research participants, had already experienced sexual harassment in two different jobs despite being only 18 years old. The first perpetrator was a chef at a restaurant in central London where she worked when she was 17.

One day I was in the kitchen, getting some food, and one of the chefs touched my bum. I felt really bad. I was really quiet all day, so one of the managers asked me what happened. 

Clara told the manager, who spoke to the chef. The chef made excuses, saying the kitchen was small and that he had not touched her intentionally and the matter was left there. However, the manager then started sexually harassing Clara.

After telling my manager about the touching, he then started asking me, “When will you be 18 so we can go out for dinner?”. I was very uncomfortable, always saying no, no, no. 

After six months, Clara left the job, but the manager continued harassing her. He would send her text messages insinuating things and claiming that everyone thought they were in a relationship. Things were no different at Clara’s next job, where the sexual harassment – once again perpetrated by a direct manager – started before she had even had her first shift.

When I just arrived to [the restaurant, a well-known fast-food chain], the manager was about ten years older than me. He had been working in the company for three years already and had the highest rank. I went to the interview, and he said that he was happy about me, that I was very pretty. 

He then followed Clara on Instagram, two weeks before she was meant to start working.

I followed him back and didn’t pay much attention to it, but then he was always unfollowing me and then following me again. He did this many times. He was always doing it, and I never understood why. He would sometimes comment on posts: “You look very pretty”, “You used to look better here”, and things like that, so I ended up blocking him.

At the time of the focus group, Clara was still working at the fast-food restaurant and the harasser was still her manager.

He makes me feel very uncomfortable at work. When he sees me standing, he comes to see me. I have been there for four months, and he’s been doing that since I started […] I always feel bad at work. I feel like the new person. I’m always quiet. […] It’s really hell, I just want to leave.

Read more about our work on sexual harassment in the workplace here.