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Sexual harassment from customers or clients isn't acceptable

There are often complex human components to many jobs that require compromise and people skills. For example, if you work as a customer service representative, you will need to maintain a positive rapport with the individuals whom you assist. If you work in sales, being friendly or outgoing can improve your chances of a bigger commission check.

However, the desire to do your job well or make more money at work should end at the point when a client or customer subjects you to sexual harassment. Although most people don't realize it, workers are protected from sexual harassment, including from customers and clients, not just managers and co-workers.

You have the right to ask a customer or client to stop if they make you feel uncomfortable and to report the issue to management to ask them to intervene if that does not resolve the issue.

What does customer or client sexual harassment look like?

Sometimes, sexual harassment by customers or clients is blatant and overt. Someone working in the service profession, for example, could find themselves subject to sexually explicit commentary about their appearance or even inappropriate touching by customers. Customers could threaten to withhold tips from servers that refuses to flirt or who disdain disrespectful treatment.

Those who work in sales could find that a client or potential customer attempts to negotiate a sale by demanding some kind of sexual flavor or a date. It could even just be individuals who constantly make inappropriate jokes or comments in your presence that leave you feeling uncomfortable.

How can you prove the harassment issue?

If the issue takes place at work, your co-workers or the in-house security system can help verify your complaint to your employer. You should also make a point of writing down information about harassment from clients or customers, including the date it happened, the people involved, who else was working, what happened and how you responded.

Provide a copy but not the original of those records to your employer when you ask for management to intervene and assist you. Whether they move you to a different client account or sever the business relationship with the offending individuals, they should take action to protect you from harassment. Unfortunately, some companies will lash out at employees who demand fair and reasonable treatment in the workplace. They could even claim that harassment is just part of the job.

If your employer punishes you or refuses to take action to protect you from sexual harassment by clients or customers, you may need to sit down to talk about your rights with a North Carolina employment law attorney. If you don't stand up to a culture that condones sexual harassment and abuse at work, it simply won't get better.

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