Workers often understand that inappropriate conduct by their manager or other team members is illegal sexual harassment. They know that they can report these issues to a supervisor or human resources and expect their employer to protect them.
However, many employees fail to understand that the same sorts of rules apply to customers as to co-workers. It is not fair or legal for your employer to demand that you tolerate sexual harassment from customers in a retail or restaurant environment. Service workers should be able to rely on their employers to protect them from customer sexual harassment.
What are some examples of customer sexual harassment?
Just like your co-workers, your customers and clients can contribute to a hostile work environment. Aggressive or unwanted advances and flirting, especially after you make it clear you are not receptive, can be a form of harassment.
Some customers might take things even further, trying to touch you inappropriately or making overtly sexual comments. A customer might also engage in quid pro quo sexual harassment, threatening to file a complaint or withhold your tip if you don’t allow their sexual misconduct.
You should be able to count on your employer for protection
Businesses have an obligation to provide a harassment-free workplace regardless of who initiates the harassment. If a worker informs management about misconduct by customers, that worker should be able to trust that they will receive protection and support rather than career-damaging consequences for speaking up about what they’ve experienced.
Fighting back against sexual harassment in the workplace requires that you recognize it and refuse to tolerate it.