As an employee, chances are you interact with your employer’s clients on a regular basis. And while most customers are generally well-meaning, it is not uncommon to come across a problematic one.
Most people know what to do when they are harassed by an employer or a co-worker. But what happens if you are harassed by the customer you are hired to serve in the first place?
You have a right to a safe and harassment-free workplace
Employers have a legal duty to protect their employees from any form of work-related discrimination or harassment from any quarter. It is upon this precept that you may hold your employer liable if you are harassed by a customer.
To file a successful workplace harassment claim, however, it’s important that you take certain steps. First, you need to gather evidence. It is crucial that you document the specific incidents of harassment, exactly when, where and how they happened and if there were any witnesses. If you can obtain CCTV footage of the incident, be sure to get a copy. And if your co-workers witnessed the harassment, be sure to take their statements too.
Armed with your evidence, report the harassment to your employer. Ideally, they should take concrete steps to address the matter.
What if an employer fails to act?
If the employer fails to act, you can take up the matter with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). For this, you have up to three years from the date of the harassment to file your civil lawsuit against your employer.
You may also file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). And for this, the time period for filing your claim is slightly shorter. Typically, you will have up to 180 days to file your claim. This deadline can be extended to 300 days if your claim is also covered by local and state anti-discrimination.
Being harassed by a customer can be just as unsettling as being harassed by your co-workers. If this happens, be sure to look into your legal rights.