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Should my company be concerned about harassment by non-employees?

By Ashley Kaplan, Esq. on 9/30/2014

Absolutely! As an employer, you have an obligation to protect employees from harassment committed by non-employees, such as customers, vendors, couriers, independent contractors and sales representatives. Examples include:

a favored customer asking you to terminate an employee because she rejected the customer’s sexual advances
an independent contractor making racial slurs in front of an employee
a vendor ref​using to do business with a particular employee because of his or her disability
a client unwelcomely hugging an employee each time he visits the establishment
an important client propositioning an employee for a date, stating that he could “put in a good word” to her boss if he could only get to know her better

If an employee reports an incident involving a non-employee, you must take steps to prevent the harassing behavior from continuing. This may mean ending the business relationship with the harasser, confronting the harasser’s boss about the behavior, keeping the harasser from further contact with the employee or any other measure that effectively shields the employee from additional harm. ​

Workplace Harassment
About the Author

Ashley Kaplan, Esq.
Ashley Kaplan, Esq., is an employment law attorney and HR consultant who develops innovative compliance solutions for employers. Ashley has practiced labor and employment law for over 20 years and has represented employers of all sizes regarding claims such as immigration, civil rights, breach of contract and wage and hour matters.
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