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Can your employer be responsible for harassment by a customer?

We have come a long way when it comes to standing up against harassment in the workplace and holding harassers accountable for their actions. Unfortunately, despite the progress, many employees still experience harassment today.

Anyone in a workplace can be a harasser, including your supervisors, colleagues and third parties like customers. Your employer can be liable for harassment made by your co-employees, but can they still be responsible if it is a customer who harassed you?

Yes, under certain circumstances.

While a customer is primary responsible for their misconduct toward an employee, there are instances when they share liability with the harassed employee’s employer.

Compared with employees, it is more difficult for employers to prevent harassment made by their customers since they are not under the company’s direct supervision. However, employers remain responsible for protecting their employees by creating a safe working environment and taking appropriate actions against any offensive conduct made by customers. This includes taking harassment complaints seriously, investigating each incident thoroughly and assisting harassed employees with available actions against the customer.

If your employer fails to promptly apply reasonable measures to prevent and address customer harassment, then they can be responsible for failing to protect you as their employee.

Guidance toward your protection

The law ensures that your rights as an employee remain protected, regardless of who your harasser is. However, the specifics of legal liability can vary depending on state laws and the circumstances of each case. If you are under a similar situation, you can consult with a legal professional to better understand your rights and the possible courses of action.