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Do you have to accept flirting and touching from customers?

If you work in a customer service or sales position, having a good disposition is crucial to career success. You need to be friendly so that people want to work with you and so that customers come back to the business.

Whether you wait tables, sell phone plans or help cut and style people’s hair, you still deserve to be treated with dignity on the job. Unfortunately, some customers feel like if they can mistreat the people serving them.

Even worse, some businesses have models that seem to endorse this kind of abuse. Do you have to endure aggressive flirting, unwanted touching or other misconduct from customers that makes you uncomfortable?

Sexual harassment from customers is still workplace sexual harassment

Although companies can certainly profit off of convincing their workers to ignore mistreatment, those workers may suffer long-term emotional issues and career setbacks because of the experiences they have had on the job.

When a customer crosses the line and touches you inappropriately, makes repeated degrading or demeaning comments, or makes you feel unsafe, you should be able to tell your manager about your experience and rely on them to help you. Employers have an obligation to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

Customers could easily engage in common kinds of sexual harassment. They might offer a bigger tip or some kind of job benefit for a worker complying with their misconduct, or they might create a hostile work environment that makes a worker feel like they should leave and find a different job. In either case, you should be able to rely on management to remove you from the situation or remove the customers from the business. 

How do you fight customer sexual harassment?

The first and most direct way to fight customer sexual harassment is to tell the people bothering you that you don’t appreciate their behavior. However, you may not feel fake doing so, or you may worry that they will then complain about you or deny you a gratuity after you’ve already done your job.

It may be better to go directly to a manager or supervisor and explain the situation. You could ask to have someone else continue serving that table or to take over handling that client in the future. If your supervisor or manager won’t intervene or they tell you to get over it and get back to work, then you need to start documenting the issues.

Recording the details about each incident will help show that you have to endure a hostile work environment and that management does not protect you. You may then be in a position to take legal action against the company for their contributions to the sexual harassment you’ve endured on the job.

Understanding that customer behavior can constitute sexual harassment may be the first step toward defending yourself against this kind of workplace misconduct.