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Can a business face sexual harassment claims over a customer’s conduct?

Sexual harassment is one of the things that federal law prohibits in the workplace. It is pretty well-know that a business could face legal trouble over sexually harassing conduct committed by a supervisor against a worker. But what about conduct a customer engaged in against a worker? Can a business face legal claims over such behavior?

Under federal law, a business can, under certain circumstances, be held liable for sexual harassment an employee was subjected to by a customer on the business’ premises. Specifically, a company would have liability for such harassment if the business both:

  • Had, or should have had, awareness of the customer’s behavior.
  • Didn’t take proper corrective action against the behavior in a timely manner.

So, a business can be in a very difficult legal situation when one of its workers accuses it of failing to take proper steps to protect them from sexual harassment from a customer. It is a situation that could have big financial ramifications for the business. Good legal guidance can be a critical thing for a business owner to have when such a situation arises for their company.

As one can see, employment laws, including federal employment laws, put a lot of requirements and responsibilities on employers when it comes to protecting employees from sexual harassment. Understanding the nature and extent of these responsibilities can be important when a company is developing and enforcing its policies against sexual harassment. It could help keep holes from developing in such policies and practices that could spell legal trouble for a company down the line. So, when a business owner has questions on their responsibilities on this front, they may want to promptly go to a skilled business lawyer with their questions.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “Harassment,” Accessed Sept. 28, 2017

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