As an employee, chances are your job involves interacting with your employer’s clients from time to time. And while most clients are generally respectful, it is not uncommon to come across a few unruly ones. If this unruliness turns sexual in nature, you might be wondering whom to hold accountable.
Every employee is entitled to a safe work environment. Specifically, employers are required by law to protect their employees from any form of discrimination or harassment. It is on this basis that you can hold your employer liable for the customer’s actions.
How do you respond to customer harassment?
What you do (or do not do) following a sexual harassment incident at work will determine the outcome of your claim. The first step you need to take after the incident is putting your evidence together.
It is important that you document the harassment to the best of your ability. Was the harassment verbal, written or physical? Do you have any correspondence with the client? When and where did the harassment take place? And did anyone witness it?
With your evidence in hand, you need to review your employer’s policies and procedures for filing a workplace harassment complaint. Next, report the harassment to your employer so it can be formally documented in the incident report and your employer has a chance to respond and take corrective action.
What if your employer does nothing?
Sometimes, your employer may fail to act on your complaint. If this happens, you can seek redress with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. For this, you have up to 180 days from the date of the incident to file your claim with EEOC. If the EEOC believes that you have a case, it will issue you with a right-to-sue letter. And with this letter, you can file a civil claim against your employer.