When people talk about sexual harassment, they often focus on scenarios where a supervisor mistreats an employee. However, many other scenarios could also potentially constitute sexual harassment.
For example, workers may sexually harass each other even though they have a similar degree of authority at the company. Additionally, workers may sometimes face sexual harassment that comes from customers rather than other employees.
What rights does a worker have if they experience sexual harassment from customers?
Businesses should protect the workers involved
Customers often have a sense of entitlement regarding their interactions with service workers. Particularly at retail establishments and service-based businesses, like restaurants, customers often think that they can mistreat workers. Their conduct may quickly veer into overt sexual harassment, and no worker should have to accept mistreatment to keep their job or receive a tip.
Unwanted flirting, inappropriate comments and even non-consensual touching could all constitute customer sexual harassment. A worker facing mistreatment or assault should not have to accept that misconduct to make the company money. Management should intervene when a worker reports sexual harassment from a customer. They might ask the individual to leave, require that they change their behavior or assign an employee of the opposite sex to take over caring for that customer.
All too often, supervisors overseeing those in customer-facing roles fail to protect workers from customer sexual harassment. They may even penalize someone for reporting an incident by scheduling them less frequently or firing them. As a result, filing a sexual harassment lawsuit can sometimes be an appropriate response when a business fails to protect workers from the misconduct of customers.