Experiencing sexual harassment on the job can lead to several types of hardship. Yet, some people experience retaliation either because they report harassment to their employer or because they do not acquiesce to unwanted advances made by a supervisor or someone else in a position of authority.
When people talk about sexual harassment, the conversation typically focuses on what companies should do to protect employees from the misconduct of supervisors or coworkers. However, those who work in customer-facing positions could very well face harassment from the people who patronize a business. When a customer is the source of the sexual harassment that an employee experiences on the job, they should be able to expect certain responses from their employer in turn.
Workers should receive support from their employer
Federal laws prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace do not include exceptions for situations involving customers as the perpetrators instead of coworkers. Businesses are still responsible for the protection of their employees even when a customer is the one touching them inappropriately, making unreasonable demands or otherwise sexually harassing them.
A worker experiencing such misconduct should be able to report it to the manager on duty and receive support. Having someone else deal with those customers or asking them to leave the business are both reasonable ways to respond to customer sexual harassment. Businesses should not tell workers enduring significant misconduct from patrons to ignore that harassment.
Additionally, workers should not have to fear retaliation if they refuse to turn a blind eye to the harassment of customers. Businesses should not change when they schedule workers, reduce their hours, reduce their wages or demote them because they spoke up about the mistreatment they have suffered from certain customers. Employees should not have to worry about losing their jobs for pushing back against sexual harassment either.
How can workers protect their interests?
People often feel anxious and unsure of themselves when responding to harassment at work. Those who know their rights may have an easier time speaking up for themselves. Keeping a personal record of what kind of misconduct that a customer has engaged in and how management responded could help establish a pattern of a company ignoring or even tacitly permitting sexual harassment.
The more documentation someone has that supports their claim that the harassment occurred and that their employer did not intervene and/or punished them for speaking up, the better their chances of holding the business accountable. Pursuing a sexual harassment lawsuit is a reasonable response to a scenario in which an employer has failed to protect its workers from the unlawful misconduct of customers, so seeking legal guidance is often appropriate in the wake of experiencing mistreatment of this kind at work.