What Is Third-Party Sexual Harassment?
Third-party sexual harassment is harassment committed by someone else who is not an employee of the company. Perpetrators of this kind of harassment include customers, clients, vendors that come on-site or interact with employees, independent contractors working for the company, employees of a different company that come to offer different services to your company, for example caterers who cater for company events or security guards who are responsible for the security of the building where your company does business.
Examples of third-party sexual harassment
Third-party harassment is defined as sexual harassment if it is severe or persuasive creating an abusive or hostile work environment for an employee. These are many examples of third-party harassment that can happen to employees in the workplace.
- For instance, a delivery man who asks the company receptionist for a date and she declines but the same delivery man keeps asking the receptionist for a date repeatedly and does not want to be content with the no answer, and every time he comes to bring a delivery he keeps commenting on the appearance of the receptionist, that is seen as sexual harassment.
- Also if a client intentionally touched an employee inappropriately during a business lunch meeting and despite the employee requesting the client to stop touching them inappropriately, this is considered sexual harassment.
- A customer constantly flirting with a sales person and always asking inappropriate personal questions. This leaves the sales person feeling embarrassed and this is sexual harassment.
Employers should create a harassment-free workplace by ensuring that their employees are aware of third-party harassment and what employees should do in case they encounter inappropriate behavior from vendors, clients or customers. As an employer, you are legally responsible for sexual harassment of your employees by a third party if you had prior knowledge of the harassment and you did not take immediate and appropriate action. For example, when an employee complains of harassment by a client, the employer should immediately investigate and know what is going on.
If an employer finds out that inappropriate behavior took place, the employer should act immediately. Of course, what constitutes appropriate and immediate action will depend on the situation and an employer can be required to;
- Change the employee's assignment
- Move the employee's desk so that they are not responsible with receiving deliveries
- Tell the client or customer to stop sexually harassing the employee
- End business relations with the client
Employers should also be careful not to penalize an employee who has been sexually harassed. Penalizing employees that report sexual harassment by clients, vendors or customers is illegal retaliation. An employee should not be punished for coming forward to report a third-party harassment.
Whether you are an employer or an employee, claims of third-party harassment can be tricky. An employer needs to carefully protect their employee as you try to maintain good work relations with outsiders. Employees also need to know how to exercise their rights, including a right to work freely without being penalized for reporting sexual harassment. At EasyLlama we train employers and employees on how to deal with third-party harassment in the workplace. We aim to help you as an employer to develop a better workplace environment and create a better culture for your employees.
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