BREAKING NEWS Decatur Police look for capital murder suspect wanted in Danville triple murder Full Story
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

When a sexual harasser is a customer

Bosses. Coworkers. Strangers.That's who we usually think of as perpetrators of sexual harassment.But in...

Posted: Jun 13, 2018 9:20 AM
Updated: Jun 13, 2018 9:20 AM

Bosses. Coworkers. Strangers.

That's who we usually think of as perpetrators of sexual harassment.

But in certain roles and industries, women face another kind of harasser: the customer. Someone who doesn't even work at the company, but is still making the work environment uncomfortable or even unsafe.

Retail and restaurant workers are particularly vulnerable. Employees often rely on tips or store commission, and in small stores or family-run businesses there are no human resources department to take complaints.

Related: When you're a teenager worker and you're sexually harassed

Fareeha Rehman, a recent graduate of George Mason University, sometimes felt harassed at her college job at a menswear store, with men occasionally making rude comments as she helped them. One customer made her feel so uncomfortable that she felt "frozen," but she says didn't know what to do beyond continuing her work, ringing up his purchase.

"You are put in a position with people interacting with you that's beyond customer service, beyond professional, in a place where you're getting paid to be nice to people," she says. "So I do feel like there are people that understand this and then take advantage. They walk into stores knowing that these young girls are required to talk to them and then they take advantage of that."

In many workplaces, the recourse for coworker or supervisor harassment is spelled out in orientation trainings or employee handbooks. In workplaces that deal with customers and harassment from third parties, the process for dealing with such incidents should also be conveyed just as clearly to employees, says Sunu Chandy, legal director at The National Women's Law Center.

"So many of the workplaces right now have this interaction between temp workers, independent contractors, vendors, clients, customers, all kinds of people who may not be 'employees,' but are still in your workplace and could be abusing you," she says. "If someone is in your workplace harassing you, that is something the employer needs to deal with."

Related: Are older generations more tolerant of sexual harassment?

Tipping and store commission can create work environments where harassment is ignored, or in worst-case scenarios, even encouraged, Chandy says. But the legal standard for harassment from customers is the same: the employer has a duty to keep employees safe.

If this means adjusting floor assignments, reorganizing shifts or making other accommodations, that's a duty the employer is legally required to take on.

"You may have employers saying 'We're not even the boss of that person,' [but] you have control over your work space, if you're the boss," Chandy says. "You can change someone's route, you can switch the interactions, you can fire a vendor, you can get rid of a client."

If employees don't know that they can complain about a customer's behavior and see results in the same way they would if they complained about a colleague's behavior, Chandy points to faulty training. Employers should offer their workers comprehensive training that represents situations they're likely to encounter on the job.

"It's about letting people know what the law is and also what the expectations are, and that really needs to be set by the top," she says.

Rehman says she's shared stories from her job with her younger sister and friends, hoping they learn something from her experience.

"I hope that I would be more reactive if it happens again, but I really can't be sure, honestly," she says. "I definitely learned from it. I was in a different mindset at the time that it happened, like more naive I guess."

Huntsville
Few Clouds
81° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 83°
Florence
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 84°
Fayetteville
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 81°
Decatur
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 81°
Scottsboro
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 84°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 14478

Reported Deaths: 551
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile1996109
Jefferson161488
Montgomery118630
Marshall6499
Tuscaloosa50512
Lee49832
Franklin4476
Shelby43319
Tallapoosa39662
Butler34411
Chambers33623
Madison2964
Baldwin2749
Elmore2637
Etowah23610
DeKalb2213
Coffee2001
Walker1981
Dallas1973
Sumter1916
Lowndes18610
Houston1644
Morgan1621
Autauga1593
Calhoun1413
Choctaw1414
Pike1360
Colbert1362
Marengo1336
Hale1293
Russell1280
Lauderdale1282
Randolph1257
Wilcox1187
Marion11310
Bullock1111
Barbour1101
Clarke1022
St. Clair1021
Pickens934
Talladega912
Greene894
Chilton871
Dale830
Cullman760
Limestone740
Jackson692
Covington651
Washington645
Winston620
Macon602
Bibb591
Crenshaw582
Henry562
Blount491
Escambia433
Lawrence420
Coosa331
Geneva330
Cherokee332
Perry310
Monroe282
Clay272
Conecuh251
Lamar200
Cleburne131
Fayette110
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 20111

Reported Deaths: 336
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Davidson451857
Shelby433694
Trousdale13934
Rutherford99822
Sumner81145
Bledsoe6071
Hamilton55214
Williamson51210
Tipton4263
Lake4090
Putnam3775
Robertson3711
Wilson3558
Out of TN3394
Knox3315
Bedford2654
Montgomery2403
Rhea1950
Hardeman1890
Madison1652
McMinn13413
Loudon1320
Cumberland1091
Fayette1072
Cheatham1040
Dickson1010
Macon1003
Bradley931
Blount823
Maury780
Unassigned750
Washington730
Sevier722
Coffee650
Wayne630
Sullivan612
Gibson611
Monroe572
Hickman540
Lauderdale511
Greene482
Dyer480
Franklin461
Anderson391
Marion361
DeKalb330
Hawkins312
Grundy311
Smith301
Haywood292
Henry290
Marshall281
Jefferson270
White270
Carroll271
Hamblen262
Lincoln260
Weakley260
Meigs250
Obion241
Lawrence240
Overton200
Cocke200
Carter191
Warren190
Morgan170
Cannon170
Campbell171
Jackson170
Crockett151
Roane150
Johnson150
Polk140
Perry130
McNairy120
Henderson120
Chester120
Giles120
Humphreys121
Hardin112
Scott110
Sequatchie100
Fentress100
Stewart90
Claiborne80
Houston70
Benton71
Clay70
Grainger60
Decatur50
Van Buren40
Union40
Lewis30
Moore30
Pickett30
Unicoi30
Hancock10

 

 

Community Events