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Man reports pregnant coworker for trying to 'feed him' at work. AITA? CRINGEY & SAD UPDATES

Man reports pregnant coworker for trying to 'feed him' at work. AITA? CRINGEY & SAD UPDATES

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When this man reports his coworker for feeding him, he asks the internet:

"AITA for reporting a coworker to HR for trying to feed me?"

I (24M) am a small man. 5’4 and 103 lbs as of my last physical. I’m well aware I’m at an unhealthy weight. My entire life I’ve been small- mostly due to illnesses and myriad allergies- and it’s admittedly a sore spot.

I am working with my doctor to gain weight while still fitting in with my dietary restrictions (no meat, dairy, gluten, or nuts) and honestly I’m so much better than I was a several months ago and proud of myself for the progress I’ve made.

A coworker (Peg, 30~F) got pregnant and recently returned to work late Nov. She’s been increasingly overt and uncomfortable in her concern for me.

Peg made and brought in cupcakes for her return, and when I thanked her for thinking of us but refused, citing my gluten allergy, she was visibly upset. She didn’t shout or complain much, just sighed heavily and said that she would put this one in the break room with the rest. I felt awful.

Then, she brought me a steak sandwich the next day, on gluten free bread. Again I thanked her, but I had brought in my own lunch and needed to focus on that. Peg told me it was in the fridge for when I finished. Ended up bringing it home so she wouldn’t feel bad and gave it to my BF.

Next day, she approached again. I refused again. She insisted. By now we weren’t alone in the break room. She joked that it was rude to refuse a home cooked meal in favor of “that” (my lunch). At that point I just took it and thanked her. BF ended up eating it.

Then she just started leaving bagged snacks on my desk. She would approach with a snack or a portion of whatever she made for dinner the night before, and not leave me be until I had taken it.

I went to our boss and explained that I felt uncomfortable and was told that she was probably feeling maternal and it would negatively impact morale to discourage her. So, been taking notes since then, what days Peg has given what, when, who witnessed it, etc. From 12/8 to now she’s done it 23 times.

Yesterday I took Peg aside and explained that while I was touched, I would appreciate if she wouldn’t bring in anything else. She said that I should have said something sooner, she was only trying to help, have I seen myself in a mirror, does your boyfriend like you starving yourself? Among other phrases.

Livid, I told her that maybe I didn’t feel like sharing my personal medical history with her just so that my wishes were respected. “For God’s sake we work with a hospital, don’t you know anything about HIPAA?” We parted from there, me childishly storming off and her in tears.

Have I already been a huge ass and would a report to HR just be the icing on the asscake?

To address a few commonly raised points... I said “No thank you”, repeatedly, to her face when she gave the food. She in turn would refuse to leave my desk or to stop talking to me, in the break room or halls, until I took it.

She returned to work late November (before Thanksgiving) and started this behavior almost immediately. I waited until 12/8 to speak with our boss (who is a woman, if that matters) and only then started counting the incidents. She is also no longer pregnant, rather I should have said that she returned from maternity leave.

I’m aware I misused HIPAA but was referencing it in the context that she should know better than to pry into medical history to satisfy her curiosity. Also I wasn’t thinking clearly when I said that to her.

Before we give you OP's updates, let's take a look at some of the top responses:

moredinospeech writes:

NTA, go to HR just to give them a heads up about the situation to cover your own ass though. Tell them you don’t want anything done about it unless the situation escalates and let them know you’ve talked to your coworker twice.

You don’t want her side of the story to be the first version that gets to them - “I bring food for OP now and then because he loves my cooking and today he flipped out on me and it was extremely unprofessional!”

I would also absolutely mention that you raised the issue with your supervisor on DATE and professionally relay his response.

You literally followed protocol and approached her first, went to your boss when that didn’t work, and then went back to her when it didn’t stop. This was a softball issue for all involved but no one wanted to listen to you and respect your wishes.

realwheeatking writes:

ESH. She should not have been trying to feed you as it made you uncomfortable and was inappropriate but she obviously is concerned about you. You should have approached her much earlier and squashed your beef. Instead, you came out of nowhere and shocked her with a huge confrontation.

You've definitely burned your bridge with this woman and possibly your other coworkers. If it were me, I would sit down and have a chat with her and smoothe things over before you start an office war. Also, keep HR out of it. Completely unnecessary and you may find that if you go to HR, she'll file a "disrespectful workplace" against you.

sudewin writes:

YTA, not because youd be wrong in wanting it documented, but because you will have to double down on it to explain why you didnt accept your boss's decision to not intervene . and once you do that and it does get past the stage of your boss saying its not a big deal, HR is not just going to not follow through with disciplinary action and let it lie.

so, consider well wether this is worth her job or not. your boss being most at fault of all here.

but i see no way to escalate without it ending up with everybody losing. unless you think im very wrong about that and have high regard and trust for your HR team., youd be the asshole for doing it anyway. well intended transgressions without dire consequences dont deserve that kid of punishment.

nderhs writes:

NTA. My first thought as a queer woman who has an eating disorder is that there may be some homophobia going on here. You are a gay man who is underweight and small and seen as ‘unmanly’ for this.

Peg may be dealing with some eating disorder stuff so tread carefully re HIPAA and ADA provisions there in how you approach this with HR.

Any mental health issue on her part would not excuse this boundary stomping which disregards your own medical privacy and makes you feel harassed and objectified. She is wrong in all ways after you stated your boundary.

BUT somewhat unfairly you as a gay man are going to have to approach HR ‘just right’ and to a higher standard than Peg will be held to because of perception and prejudice.

Gay man versus pregnant woman in the traditional female dominated field of HR after your male boss basically disregarded your discomfort? The optics here will count to get taken seriously even though they should not.

I’d advise speaking to an LGBTQ+ org and a professional versed in the ADA before you take this further. You have allergies which count as a disability so check your ADA rights and speak to someone who understands how much homophobia plays out as an out gay man in a workplace but is just on the side of deniability if you allege it.

They will help you approach HR to prove it isn’t ableism or homophobia instead of deny that it is. As a queer disabled person that is the only tack I’ve ever found that gets results.

That said it often gets the ‘correct’ result in that in the face of a potential legal issue action will be taken but it doesn’t come from willingness, understanding or compassion and is accompanied with grudges and resentments.

Most unfair but it helps to be prepared for the fallout so as not to be blindsided by a new problem after the original one is fixed.

I’d also suggest going over to Ask A Manager’s blog as Alison gives fantastic advice generally to a specifically American work environment which is educational AF. It will also probably help you to read how often food/allergies/weight crop up as a workplace issue and how to handle it.

There is also a wealth of resources for LGBTQ+ employees hearing a lot of dogwhistles where they work.

Plus sometimes the utter next level WTF of some of the letters can make you feel less alone in your own workplace hell by solidarity or ‘thank god I don’t work there!’ style comparison.

Good luck. I hope this thread doesn’t turn into a continuation of some of the patriarchal bullshit about gay men and short guys or a fest of allergy bashing. You have my sympathies if it does.

For me the worst part of severe food intolerances isn’t shitting myself if I eat the wrong thing but dealing with the constant stream of bullshit about allergies and intolerances from other people, well meaning or hostile. Eye roll emoji.

And now, OP's cringey update:

Honestly, I’ve never more immediately regretted something. This exploded. Spectacularly. I went to HR, saying that the matter was settled, but I wanted it documented; subsequently was told that there would be an investigation and the incidents would be corroborated with witnesses...

because as is the full record I claim is “severe enough to warrant potential action” for Pey and several other coworkers who also engaged in her behavior. HR started the process, apparently immediately, because I walked in yesterday to a shitstorm.

This plunged the department into civil war. Many agree Peg was out of line, some told me I should’ve kept the status quo, some said I was ungrateful and entitled. One said I should have handled this “maturely” and “who could blame her” when I look “like that”, and I should be ashamed of myself.

Another coworker suggested I work from home. Another told me he was sorry for not stepping in. I went to go get my lunch out of the fridge only to find someone had disposed of it and left behind the empty Tupperware. Nearly everyone has an opinion. The people in my corner have advised me to keep my head down and to take care.

My boss held a meeting, first with Peg and me, then a second with just me. During the one with Peg, I was told to apologize for my part and Peg likewise. (“I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable by caring about your health.”).

My boss asked if I was “satisfied now”. I brought up Peg’s comments and my boss said I invited them, no one would call that harassment, and I need to work on myself. Together we went through each of the 23 events. She excused each of them until I was left to feel like I‘d been harassing Peg.

The next meeting was even worse. Effectively Boss said, “I told you not to retaliate and instead you searched Peg out to harass her” and “your actions have expressed a worrying lack of cooperation with me and your team.”

She was also disappointed that instead of explaining that I needed her to resolve things, I “escalated the situation well beyond the point of reason” and cruel to someone who only wanted to help.

She said I won’t get far in life and I’m not likely to get anywhere vocationally if I can’t be a team player and “actively sabotage a happy workplace”. She hoped I will learn from this “teachable moment” how to behave in a collaborative environment as it’s inappropriate to involve HR for “small misunderstandings”.

BF is spitting mad. I’m just... tired, confused and hurt. HR seemed sympathetic. Boss is very clearly on Peg’s side. The office is split and tense. Currently updating my resume and job searching. It really does feel like a nightmare. Haven’t felt good going in to work for a while, and this just made it times worse.

OP's second update (trigger warning, tragedy):

It's been a long time since I even thought about this account. The 1 year anniversary of its creation passed not too long ago. When Ben mentioned having gone to reddit about "Peg", I somewhat dismissed that as useful and kept on supporting him in the real world. Life goes on.

I happened to check his email recently and saw the notification of the anniversary, & a few folks looking for an update. He had given me the password a while back and open permission to check out what people were saying.

I read up recently. Most of the comments and advice and well wishes were sweet. Others were harsher as they gave their take. Many people wanted an update. Over 30+ people messaged him.

My husband Ben passed on August 21st 2021 from complications of esophageal cancer. He was diagnosed in early May. We married a few weeks after, basically just the legal portion of it and a romantic dinner to mark the occasion.

He promised me a wedding with the whole kit and caboodle for after he beat cancer. I think we both knew better, even then, but pretending and planning gave us something to look forward to and focus on instead of his sickness. It took him very quickly.

Ben's boss was first suspended, then let go. So was Peg and a few others who collaborated with her. Ben received a settlement from the owner of the hospital and an admittedly generic apology for how everything was handled.

I'd put money on the fact it just got too big to ignore, with too much being exposed and people speaking up. The boss's reaction ((the meetings, removing Ben from group work emails and project updates...

not responding to calls or emails and refusing meetings, all of which was documented by the automated message saying his emails were deleted without opening, even taking his work when he sent it to her for review and presenting it as someone else's)) & Peg's behavior

((sending out mass texts to others in the office about a hypothetical situation about an ungrateful friend forcing her to cook for him but then not eating it...

or the group emails spanning months before things went down, discussing Ben's food & how he just has no taste because he wouldn't take what Peg offered. The exact phrasing was lewd, more than just food was implied))

Ben's new boss was accommodating of his medical leave when the time came, promised that he'd have his job back when he returned.

His medical bills were covered partially by the owner and a collection from some of his coworkers & our friends, but there was a huge chunk we still had to pay. I had to file a restraining order against Peg after her firing as she continued to try to contact us and stalk Ben especially.

Sorry this update isn't comprehensive. I just feel he would have wanted to put a bow on things & give an ending. Thanks to everyone who was kind to him, it meant a lot.

Poor OP! What do YOU make of this strange story? Any advice for him?

Sources: Reddit
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