Sexual Harassment by Customers

Sex harassment attorneys at Leeds Brown Law, P.C. representing clients in New York, hold employers accountable when they don’t protect their workers from unlawful conduct by 3rd parties. Employers are often responsible for the behavior of managers, supervisors and sometimes rank and file workers when they harass or discriminate against another employee. Employers at times may also be responsible for harassment conducted by vendors, clients, suppliers and other non-employees.

The federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII (Title VII) along with numerous state laws and regulations, makes sex harassment in the workplace unlawful. Sexual harassment occurs when a supervisor threatens adverse employment consequences or conditions any term of employment on a subordinate’s willingness to submit to an explicit or implied demand for a sexual favor.  This is the type of sexual harassment called quid pro quo.

It also occurs when the behavior of a worker creates a hostile working environment for another because of their gender or sex. There must be unwelcome conduct that is pervasive enough to make the victim feel uncomfortable or unsafe in the workplace. Sexual harassment can include lewd jokes, unwanted touching or persistent inappropriate comments.

Regardless of which kind of sexual harassment exists, the law requires that employers try to stop it. The failure to take reasonable steps to put an end to the harassing behavior in the workplace can result in a finding of liability against the employer, not just the worker responsible for the illegal conduct. When sexual harassment is carried out by a third party, in certain circumstances, the same may be true.

If a co-worker, supervisor or third party is sexually harassing you, you may be able to file a claim against your employer. Leeds Brown can help. Our sexual harassment lawyers represent clients throughout the entire New York metropolitan area and understand the complexities of filing a complaint, negotiating and pursuing a lawsuit if necessary. We have the skill and determination to prevail in employment discrimination cases and have a proven track record of success. Contact us to discuss your sexual harassment claim against a third party.

How Does Third-Party Sexual Harassment Occur?

Unlawful sexual harassment in the workplace is not limited to the conduct of a colleague or supervisor. When a customer, vendor or client harasses an employee, it is called third-party sexual harassment. Independent contractors that perform work at a place of business on a regular basis are often perpetrators of sexual harassment.

For example,

  • Most mornings, an employee walks past the same maintenance man stationed at the entrance to the building housing the company for which she works. The maintenance man is an employee of the corporation that owns the building. The worker blocks her way into the elevator every morning and requests a kiss before he lets her go past. She refuses and he continues to ask.
  • A male employee visits an important client at their office headquarters several times a month. The client has a definite crush on him, and every time he visits, she asks him to go out for drinks and dancing. The employee protests and with each visit the request become more and more desperate. She asks for his home number and address citing “work reasons,” and he refuses to provide them. The employee no longer feels safe or comfortable visiting this client.
  • A waitress serves patrons at a bar who touch her in unwelcome ways. They also make sexual comments about her body that make her feel threatened.
  • A business hires an independent electrician to do a large project in the office. The electrician makes lewd comments about the women in the room and repeatedly tells sexual jokes to the men who work there.

Employment Discrimination Attorneys Hold Employers Responsible for Sexual Harassment by Vendors, Customers, and Independent Contractors

Employers have duties. One obligation is to keep the workplace safe including free from unlawful sexual harassment. Whether an employee, client or vendor is the perpetrator may not matter.

To determine whether an employer can be liable for third-party sexual harassment depends largely on

  1. Whether the employer should have known or did know about the harassment and
  2. Whether the employer took immediate, appropriate action to resolve the problem.

Proving the first part may be the hardest because harassment by a third party may occur off-site at someone else’s office or workspace. For this reason, it may be critical that you notify someone if you are sexually harassed by someone other than a direct employee of the business for which you work. You may have an employee handbook that requires you report the offensive behavior to a particular person or department and in a specific way, like in writing. Follow the instructions carefully, so it will be difficult for your employer to claim it did not know about what happened to you.

What is appropriate action by an employer to stop third party harassment? As with most legal questions, it varies depending on the situation, especially since there is not always much control to be had over third parties. There are, however, some steps an employer may take such as;

  • Conducting an investigation into your claims of sexual harassment
  • Contacting the third party vendor, customer or contractor and insisting the behavior cease.
  • End the relationship with the offending party
  • Remove the victim from a particular account or take steps to ensure they do not come into contact with the perpetrator
  • Terminate the business relationship with the outside entity or person

Of course, your employer may not retaliate against you for reporting the sexual harassment. If your company simply removes you from an important role, demotes you into a less lucrative position or takes some other negative employment action against you, you may have a claim for retaliation in addition to sexual harassment.

Sexual Harassment Lawyers Help Victims File Claims in New York

Being the victim of sexual harassment by an important customer, client or vendor can cause serious emotional stress. Many employees are reluctant to report such abuse out of fear of losing their jobs or ruining their professional and even personal reputations. But your employer has an obligation to keep your workplace safe from sexual harassment and to take action to understand and help remedy your situation. If your employer instead retaliates against you or ignores you, you may be entitled to recover monetary damages. By filing a sexual harassment claim with the proper administrative agency, you can begin the process of enforcing your employment rights.

Contact Us

Leeds Brown has been handling employment discrimination cases for hard working New Yorkers for decades. You deserve to have attentive, dedicated legal professionals who understand the complexities sex harassment and discrimination cases and the many procedural rules that can apply to any given situation.

Our lawyers possess an ideal combination of passion and skill that has resulted in successful outcomes for thousands of clients. Protect your rights to a safe workplace and call New York sexual harassment attorneys at Leeds Brown today at 1-800-585-4658.