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Does a customer-facing job mean harassment is inevitable?

On Behalf of | May 15, 2024 | Employment Law |

People are more likely to experience workplace sexual harassment when they pursue certain types of careers. Those working in a field traditionally dominated by one sex may face sexual harassment from their co-workers or supervisors. People working in the service industry could face misconduct from their co-workers and from customers as well.

Customer-facing positions can be relatively hostile jobs overall, as people never know what visitors to a business might demand of them. Additionally, depending on the type of company, customers may come with the intention of mistreating workers or engaging in flirtatious conduct. Many workers in customer service positions have historically resigned themselves to the inevitability of sexual harassment from customers.

Those working in bars or restaurants, for example, often accept unwanted flirting and sexual advances in part because they want to earn as much in gratuities as possible. Accepting unwanted advances, especially if they are particularly offensive or involve physical touching, should not be part of someone’s job responsibilities. Workers should be able to speak up about customers who cross the line and harass them.

Customer sexual harassment is a real issue for service workers

A worker should not have to endure unwanted touching, comments about their physical appearance or flirting that makes them uncomfortable. They should be able to request support when they experience customer misconduct.

Employers should respond appropriately when workers bring up issues related to customer sexual harassment. There are many ways for a business to resolve such complaints. They could assign a problem customer or table to a manager or someone of the opposite sex of the worker experiencing customer misconduct. They could ask a customer to leave or remind them of the standards of conduct within the business.

Companies should generally seek to protect employees from the misconduct of customers even if it means that a patron does not complete a transaction with the business. Unfortunately, some managers refuse to protect their subordinates from customer misconduct and may even punish those who speak up about the inappropriate actions of business patrons.

If a worker does not receive appropriate support from a company when facing customer sexual harassment or if they endure retaliation and punishment for reporting it, then they may have the necessary grounds to pursue a sexual harassment claim against their employer. Understanding that customer sexual harassment is as actionable as coworker harassment may help people feel brave enough to speak up about misconduct in the workplace.