Everyone deserves a safe and dignified workplace. Unfortunately, despite years of sensitization and countless state and federal legislation, sexual harassment remains one of the major problems in most California workplaces.
While most sexual harassment incidents are perpetrated by people who have direct ties to the organization like your employer, supervisor or co-workers, it is important to understand that this vice can also be perpetrated by third parties like clients. So what happens if you are sexually harassed by a client?
Understanding third-party sexual harassment
Third-party sexual harassment happens when the vice is perpetrated by non-employees like clients, vendors or partners. They can also be independent contractors or employees from other companies who are around to perform specific work.
For the client’s actions to amount to sexual harassment, they must be intrusive and pervasive enough to make the workplace hostile for you. For instance, the client asking you out for coffee after work may not amount to sexual harassment. However, if they grope you or routinely make suggestive comments about your sexuality every time they come to your place of work, then these will definitely qualify for sexual harassment.
Holding the employer liable for third-party sexual harassment
Regardless of the perpetrator, if you are sexually harassed at work, you need to act. Thus, if a client sexually harasses you, it is important that you bring the matter to your employer’s attention. Upon receipt of your complaint, your employer has a duty to investigate and satisfactorily resolve the matter. Additionally, they should take steps to prevent future harassment from happening.
However, if your employer fails to investigate your complaint and/or instead, decides to retaliate against you following your complaint, then you can hold them liable for third-party sexual harassment. Also, you can hold your employer liable for third-party sexual harassment if they knew or should have known about the situation but took no appropriate steps to investigate and address the matter.
Workplace sexual harassment hurts both employers and victims. Find out how you can protect your rights and interests if you are sexually harassed at work.