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What can you do when customers sexually harass you?

Most people know that when they're sexually harassed at work by a co-worker or boss that there are ways to hold those people accountable for their actions. What do you do, though, when the person that sexually harasses you at work happens to be a paying customer or client?

Third-party sexual harassment at work is a big problem, especially for people in service-oriented industries, like restaurants, but it can occur in essentially any industry. One common problem involves clients who have to be visited on-site by company representatives. A single representative can easily be subjected to harassment by an unscrupulous client.

If you're being harassed by a customer or client, you don't have to accept that kind of behavior. In fact, it's your employer's job to put a stop to it once he or she becomes aware of the situation.

Treat sexual harassment by a customer or client the same way that you would if it were coming from a co-worker. Regardless of the situation:

Report the harassment to the proper person in your company

Even if the harasser is an employee of a client company, you should report the harassment through your own employer -- not the harasser's.

Put the information in writing

That helps your employer with his or her investigation and it gives you a good way to remember exactly what happened -- just in case the issue drags on and ends up in court months or years down the line.

Tell your employer what you want to do

You have a right against any retaliation for making the complaint. You also have a right to be free from a hostile work environment. If you want to continue working with the customer or client, but just want the harassment to stop, let your employer know. If you prefer a new assignment of equal value, tell your employer.

Ultimately, you have every right to expect to go to work in the morning without being worried that you'll be subject to any kind of sexual harassment. If your employer fails to protect you after you make a complaint, or retaliates, you also have a right to take legal action -- no matter how important the client happens to be.

Source: Workforce, "When Your Employee Complains About Being Sexually Harassed by a Customer," accessed April 26, 2018

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