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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

When Do Insults Become Harassment?

Dear Sue: I am pregnant and have just found out I am considered high risk, and that there is a good chance I will deliver by cesarean. I shared this with one of the partners of the firm I work for and told him that the recovery may be longer with a cesarean and that I may need additional time off. His response was so offensive to me that I am having a hard time putting it past me.

He said, "Oh suck it up, how hard can it be? My wife had three of them; besides you can schedule when you go in." He may have been joking and trying to make light of the situation, but I felt his comment was discriminatory, and it is not the first comment of that kind uttered by him. What constitutes discriminatory comments, and what should I do?


Sue Says: Comments that denigrate a person based on one's sex are considered to be harassment. The best way to handle what you perceive to be a discriminatory situation in the workplace is to confront it directly, according to Portland attorney Peter Bennett. If you can, he suggests you complain about the situation to your immediate supervisor.

If such a complaint is not appropriate -- either because your supervisor is the problem or because you would be uncomfortable -- then you should complain to the human resources department or officer in your company. Cooperate with any investigation these people conduct.

Be prepared to share what you expect from a resolution of your complaint. If you are not satisfied with the result, appeal the decision to the next level of management. It is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for a complaint made in good faith.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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