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What Do I Do About The Porter Who’s Undressing Me?

Q. OK not literally, but this porter creeps me out.  I’ll call him Harvey (not his real name).  He’s the relief doorman, not the regular one, so I don’t see him that often. It’s not that he’s done anything exactly wrong to me – except be nice, maybe too nice.   He runs to open the door, last time practically knocking down poor Mrs. Rosenblatt who must be close to ninety.  He gets me my packages without my asking, only when he hands them to me I feel like he’s undressing me with his eyes so I take my stuff and run.  I talked to a few women in the building, and they agreed he smiles a little too salaciously, but they just laugh it off.  I figured maybe I should to.

Then this weekend I went to the basement to put something into my storage bin, and on the way I passed the staff locker room and the door was open and there was Harvey eyeing a sexy looking photo of Ms. X from the seventh floor that was taped to the inside of his locker.  He must have taken it from the trash because I’m sure she didn’t give it to him.  This is getting a little too creepy for comfort.  I think Harvey has to go.  What do you think? Creeped out on Central Park West

A. As you know, having lust in your heart is not by itself a punishable offense.  So the real question is whether Harvey crossed the line from mere thought to inappropriate and actionable act, and whether there is sufficient evidence to prove it.

As a general proposition, it’s not easy to terminate building personnel, unless they’re still within the probationary period under the union contract, in which case the board can get rid of him without a reason, though that doesn’t mean they will.  After that you almost need a smoking gun to fire a staff member, and from what you’ve described of your interactions, there isn’t one, which is not to minimize your concerns.

The photo of Ms. X in his locker room is potentially in a different category. It seems as if Harvey has swiped the picture from the trash, which might not only be a violation of building policy, but also of his specific conditions of employment.  Some buildings require employees to sign statements acknowledging that garbage is not really garbage till it’s removed from the premises, and making is a punishable offense to take anything that’s been discarded.  Except one violation isn’t likely to get him tossed off the job any more than one strike gets you out of the game.

Going forward it would be difficult to catch him in the act of taping another photo of Ms. X, or anyone else, to his locker door because the law prohibits employers from videotaping employees in their changing rooms. That doesn’t mean you’re without .recourse.  He can be surveilled via video cameras in public areas like the vestibule when he’s on relief doorman duty.  Recently, in one building I know, those cameras caught a porter in the act of taking more breaks than doing work, resulting in his suspension for a  week.

Chances are if Harvey took that photo from the trash, he’ll take other stuff, like a fan or a space heater, which may be caught on tape, as I know happened in another building.  Or if he’s more into residents’ personal lives, he may repurpose discarded mail, which I agree is totally unacceptable.

If your board is clever it may take a cue from all those mafia cases where the prosecutors couldn’t get the bad guys for murder so they went after them on tax evasion.  Maybe it can’t go after Harvey for having lust in his heart, but it can discipline – and potentially terminate – him for going fishing in the trash. The key is to gather and document the evidence, creating a paper trail in his file.

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