Over the last several years employers have started to recognize that sexual comments, lewd jokes and other types of sexual behavior may make employees uncomfortable and efforts should be made to eliminate offensive behavior. Allowing unwelcome conduct to continue may create both a bad working environment and lead to sexual harassment lawsuits.
But what about when a client is the harasser? Are employees supposed to put up with crude behavior for the sake of a company?
A recent third-party harassment case out of the 4th Circuit Court said “no,” finding that an employer may be liable for sexual harassment if it allows a client to harass an employee.
In EEOC v. Cromer Food Servs. Inc., the job of Homer R. Howard, an employee of CFS, a food-stocking company, was to go to clients’ businesses and stock their vending machines. On a daily basis while at a client’s business Howard was stalked, called names and questioned about his sexual orientation.
Howard complained to CFS – including three supervisors, a manager and chairman of the board of directors of CFS – but nothing was done. CFS called Howard a “cry baby” and said that they couldn’t do anything about the harassment because the harassers weren’t under the control of the company.
The appeals court disagreed, determining that “CFS is liable if it
knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take appropriate
actions to halt it.”
Harassment should not be allowed in any context. If you are being subject to unwelcome conduct at work by a supervisor, co-worker or client, as dedicated Atlanta employment rights attorneys, we urge you to complain to a supervisor. If your employer fails to take remedial actions, you may be able to file a claim against them.
For more information, please contact the experienced Georgia sexual harassment lawyers at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP, LLC. We are committed to protecting employees from harassment and discrimination.