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Customers can be a major source of workplace sexual harassment

On Behalf of | Jan 19, 2023 | Sexual Harassment |

Those who work in a customer-facing position have probably repeatedly heard the phrase that the customer is always right. Some managers use that term as part of their training to help their employees retain the right attitude toward customers. Others may hear the claim that customers are always right when someone is angry about the service they received or wants to return an item in violation of company policy.

Customers frequently are wrong about what should happen in a situation and can also do things that are a violation of a worker’s rights. Those who work in retail environments or in the hospitality industry, as well as sales professionals, are at risk of customer-related sexual harassment at work.

What does customer sexual harassment entail?

Sexual harassment comes in several forms. It may involve someone making offensive remarks about your body or repeatedly flirting despite you asking them to stop. Sexual harassment could also involve unwanted touching and the creation of a hostile work environment.

With customers, there could also be some degree of quid pro quo harassment, where a customer promises a tip or threatens some kind of job-related penalty if the worker does not tolerate their abuse. You should not have to put up with flirting or touching just to earn a tip or close a sale for your employer. When customers or clients harass you, you have the right to report it to your employer and ask for their support.

Your manager could take over that client account, or a different coworker could finish serving the table for the rest of the meal. The business could also stop serving certain problematic customers. When the company does not protect you from the sexual harassment of customers or clients, the business could have some liability for that failure.

You will typically need records supporting your claims

To prove that you endured customer sexual harassment on the job and that your employer did not protect you from it, you will need evidence.

Maintaining a written record of each incident, including all of the relevant details from the time, date and location to exactly what occurred, can help. So can the testimony of coworkers who experience similar conduct from the same people. Attempts to reach out to your employer should also be part of your written record, as the company’s inaction is as important as the customer’s misconduct to your claim.

Discussing what you have endured that you believe could lead to a sexual harassment claim with an employment law attorney can help you decide what step to take next.