How You Can Protect Employees from Customer-Based Sexual Harassment?
Customer-based sexual harassment of employees can be a problem, and employers may not know what to do about it. It is vital to protect their employees’ rights. Also, employers could be at risk for liability, and they should consider taking responsible actions to protect their own rights.
The National Law Review featured an article that discussed what employers could do to protect against liability in situations where customers harass their employees. The same standards apply for sexual harassment of employees by customers as for sexual harassment by other employees.
What Actions Should Employers Take to Deal with Customer-Based Sexual Harassment of Employees?
The first step, and you must do this immediately, is to conduct an investigation of the alleged customer-based sexual harassment. According to Lapka v. Chertoff (7th Circuit, 2008),”Employers are liable for third-party harassment if they ‘unreasonably fail to take appropriate corrective action reasonably likely to prevent the misconduct from recurring.’ ” In the Lapka case, the court stated, “The hallmark of [appropriate] corrective action is a prompt investigation.”
Steps to Take After Investigation
Based on the findings of their investigation, employers should take corrective action to prevent future harassment. They should also follow up to see whether their corrective actions have been effective.
Some corrective actions you can take may include:
- Issuing policies that cover and prohibit customer-based harassment
- Advise the customer of the complaint and tell them the behavior must cease immediately
- Prevent the customer from entering the company’s property
- Consider contacting the customer’s employer if a work relationship also exists between employers
- If it is to no disadvantage to the employee, change their work location so they are no longer exposed to the customer
- If necessary or appropriate, contact law enforcement for a protective order
Seek Legal Advice
If you believe you are legally at risk, it is wise to seek legal counsel for guidance. At Stephen Hans & Associates, our attorneys advise employers regarding work related issues. We also represent employers in employment litigation.