Friday, April 08, 2005

Sexual Harassment by Non-Employees - Are You Liable?

HR Matters

As an HR professional, you are no doubtedly well-versed on your organization's sexual harassment policy. You've read all of the articles and have participated in the are ready if a case of sexual harassmant occurs among your employees. But what if the harasser is a customer or vendor? Or worse yet, a client whose business is vital to the future of your organization?

From HR Matters...

Both the courts and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have found that an employer may be held liable for sexual harassment of its employees by someone outside of the organization, such as a customer or vendor.

Unfortunately, there is little guidance as to the extent of your duty in this area. Clearly, you may have a particularly difficult time addressing the problem if you depend on the harasser's organization for a large part of your business.

Still, you have an obligation to protect your employees by investigating the complaint and by attempting to resolve the situation satisfactorily with both the employee and the alleged harasser.

According to the EEOC Guidelines on Discrimination Because of Sex (found in 29 C.F.R. §1604.11(e)), an employer may be responsible for sexual harassment by nonemployees, such as customers or vendors, if two conditions are satisfied. First, you must either have actual knowledge of the harassment or reasonably should have known about the problem. Second, you must have failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.

The HR Matters article includes case studies, a free sexual harassment policy download, and suggestions on how organizations should handle violators while protecting their employees. Check it out here.

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