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What Is Third-Party Sexual Harassment?


Sexual harassment is a destructive and widespread problem in workplaces all across the United States. While it can seem like this activity exists in a category of its own, it’s actually a form of sex discrimination, which is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In California, it is further prohibited under the California Fair Employment and Housing act.

For all of the laws that forbid sexual harassment, it can and still does happen far more often than it should. Most sexual harassment at work is experienced among members employed by the same organization. This makes it relatively simple (and we use that word lightly) to identify what’s going on and what should be done about it.

But what happens if an employee is sexually harassed by someone who’s not a colleague, supervisor, or business owner? Third parties such as customers, clients, and even people making deliveries can engage in sexual harassment against employees.

Think about a scenario in which a client inappropriately touches a project manager during a meeting or a courier who routinely makes unwanted comments about a receptionist’s appearance. These are examples of third-party sexual harassment, and even if it seems like your employer is powerless to stop it, they still have a responsibility to do so.

How Your Employer Must Respond

If you have experienced sexual harassment at work from someone doing business with your employer, you should report the matter to a supervisor or human resources. Your employer is required to take all reports of sexual harassment seriously and act in a timely manner to investigate the issue and take action to ensure to protect you from future abuse.

Of course, this can be a challenge for many employers because they do not have the kind of control over their clients and customers as they do employees. Still, your employer is not powerless to act in your best interests.

Actions your employer can take may include the following:

  • Demanding that the offending party leaves the property
  • Reporting the activity to the offending party’s employer for punishment
  • Requesting a new representative to visit your employer’s location
  • Removing you from the third party’s account (so you no longer have to interact with them)
  • Dropping the client’s business altogether

No matter what your employer does, however, it cannot pose a detriment to you. In other words, you should be wary of being “punished” or having your situation at work decline because of your employer’s actions to resolve the sexual harassment complaint. Your income, how much you earn in commissions, the benefits you receive, and more shouldn’t be negatively impacted by reporting sexual harassment.

Do You Need Legal Assistance?

If your employer failed to take your sexual harassment complaint seriously when it involved a customer or client, your employer may be held accountable in a lawsuit. Successful sexual harassment lawsuits can result in substantial monetary damages and other legal remedies, or may even settle for an agreeable sum.

If a third party sexually harassed you and your employer did nothing despite knowing something was wrong, reach out to K2 Employment Law Group for help. Contact us online or call (800) 590-7674 for more information.