All too often, our view of sexual harassment in the workplace is a picture of a male employer and a female employee. However, it’s important that we widen that view to the reality that many people experience. Harassment can involve any genders and any role.
In many workplaces, harassment from customers is prevalent. While in this case the perpetrator is not employed by the company, employers still have the responsibility to protect their employees.
What counts as harassment
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), harassment is any unwelcome conduct that can be based on race, skin tone, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, disability or genetic information. Sexual harassment can include unwelcome comments or advances, requests for sexual favors or physical harassment that addresses sex, sexuality or gender.
As harassment persists in the workplace to the point that it becomes a condition of employment or creates a hostile work environment, it is illegal.
How employers must protect employees
Employers are responsible for the work environment in which employees function, which includes sexual harassment from customers. This means that they must provide ways for employees to report harassment as well as preventative and corrective procedures.
Employers are responsible for their response to sexual harassment of their employees if they reasonably should have known about it or if they were informed. They must then take steps to prevent and correct the behavior.
If you are experiencing sexual harassment in your workplace, first notify your employer. If they do not take proper steps to rectify the issue, you should talk with an employment law attorney and file a complaint with the EEOC.