Failure To Stop Customer Harassment Of Workers May Consitute Employer Negligence

Can your employer be held liable for failing to adequately respond to offensive conduct by customers towards workers? The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has ruled yes. In Freeman v. Dal-Tile Corp., the court ruled that a black female former employee had triable sexual and racial harassment claims under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The claims were based on the failure of her employer to adequately respond to persistent offensive remarks and conduct by a customer.

Sexual and race harassment claims are forms of employment discrimination and may arise where unwelcome or offensive conduct and/or comments create a hostile environment that “alter the terms and conditions of your employment.” If you believe you have been subjected to workplace harassment it’s critical to consult with an experienced Atlanta employment discrimination lawyer as soon as possible who can advise you concerning your rights, and your next steps.

In this instance Lori Freeman, a receptionist at Dal-Tile Corp., was subjected to repeated racial and sexual epithets, along with other offensive conduct, by a sales representative for one of Dal-Tile’s customers. The sales rep had daily contact with Freeman. Freeman complained to her supervisor about the conduct, but it took more than three years for the company to eventually take action banning the man from the premises and barring him from contacting Freeman.

The court reasoned that the employer’s actions took too long – specifically Judge Dennis W. Shedd wrote, “Although the harassment eventually stopped after the communication ban was put into place, the harassment had continued unabated for three years prior to that … While a communication ban may have been an adequate response had it been put into place sooner, Dal-Tile’s failure was in not responding promptly to the harassment.”

He concluded that Dal-Tile knew, or should have known, the conduct was occurring and acted to stop it sooner. The failure to do so could be grounds for employer negligence.

This case is significant because for the first time, the Fourth Circuit held in a published opinion that negligence standard applies to third-party harassment claims under Title VII, joining several other federal circuits in embracing that rule.

For more information, or if you are concerned that you may have suffered employment harassment, please seek help immediately and call the experienced Georgia employee’s rights attorney at the Buckley Law Firm, LLP for an immediate case evaluation.