Both women and men who work in service-based positions may find themselves subject to sexual harassment by customers. Unlike harassment by other employees, which many companies are quick to address, this kind of harassment is often ignored. Many times, managers will shrug off even physical assault, such as unwanted touching of arms, butts or chests as flirting or otherwise harmless behavior. Service workers who repeatedly complain about this kind of treatment could be ignored or even punished by their employers for trying to protect their bodily autonomy and personal safety.

Employers are supposed to provide a safe work environment. That includes taking steps to prevent staff harassment, both from other workers and from customers. Customers who repeatedly harass or abuse employees should not be excused. Management should step in and protect the staff members. Failing to do so is effectively giving permission to customers to continue disrespecting and abusing the service workers. If your employer isn’t addressing customer harassment, you should speak with an experienced sexual harassment and workplace law attorney as soon as possible about your options.

Starbucks helping to set the standard for protecting employees

Recently, a Starbucks in Washington state took steps to protect a young barista from a regular customer. This 37-year-old man made increasingly inappropriate comments to and about workers and patrons of the business. It culminated with him handing a 16-year-old barista a note asking her out to dinner and providing the address of his disturbing website. This harasser had a specific desire to seduce young women under the age of 18, and his website discussed these views in depth. Given his history of taking creepy photos at the location, management made the decision to ban him to prevent further issues.

Starbucks made the right decision when it stood up for a young service worker, even though it cost them a loyal customer. The young barista deserves a safe and harassment-free workplace. Failing to take proper action could have left Starbucks open to a civil lawsuit if the harassment had continued. Working with an attorney is sometimes necessary to get employers to take this kind of harassment seriously. Your attorney can help you document what is happening, as well as your attempts to get your employer to stop it. If an employer continues to fail in that regard, a lawsuit may be necessary.

Financial penalties could be the best way to motivate employers

Sadly, too many businesses that depend on customers and regulars expect their service workers to ignore and tolerate regular sexual harassment. In these cases, the employer considers the money brought in by abusive customers as more important than the safety of their workers. A civil lawsuit may be the only way to change that attitude. If you’re facing harassment by customers and management won’t take it seriously, you should speak with an experienced Missouri employment attorney as soon as possible.

Source: Nov. 30, -0001