Whether you are a customer care agent responsible for answering customer calls or a cashier at the local grocery store, just about every job involves interacting with people in one way or another. Some of these people could be your co-workers. Others, however, could be your customers or independent contractors.
Customers are a crucial part of pretty much every business, and meeting their expectations is key to the success of the organization. But what happens if a customer sexually harasses you?
Your employer has a duty to create a safe work environment
Basically, your employer is responsible for creating a work environment that is devoid of all forms of hazards to the employees, and this includes emotional hazards too. Specifically, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act requires employers to create and maintain a harassment-free workplace. And this includes protecting employees from harassment by co-workers and non-employees (like customers).
So when is your employer liable for the customer’s actions?
Your employer will be held liable for sexual harassment perpetrated by a customer if the incident in question happened at work or was work-related and they knew about it.
But how do they learn about it?
When you report the harassment, of course. If you are sexually harassed by a client, you need to report the incident just as you would if you were harassed by a co-worker. Your employer has a duty to listen to your complaint and take appropriate action. Remember, your employer is legally required to deal with the harassment complaint as soon as they know about it. This means that they should investigate the harassment, document their findings and take appropriate steps to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future. If it is established that your employer knew about the harassment but did nothing to address the issue, then they can be held responsible for what transpired.
Sexual harassment hurts everyone – the employee in question as well as the employer. Find out how you can safeguard your rights and interests when dealing with sexual harassment from a customer.