When people talk about workplace sexual harassment, most people think about employers and managers harassing staff. While this form of harassment is common (and illegal), it is also very common for service workers to get subjected to harassment by customers or clients. Many businesses intentionally hire attractive, younger people for highly visible positions to entice more customers.

Service workers feel like they need to be outgoing, even flirty, just to make a living wage. A smile, a wink or a little innuendo could go a long way to a big tip. That doesn’t mean it’s okay for customers or clients to stalk, harass or intimidate workers for being nice. Workers in number of service-related fields, from medical massage professionals to servers at restaurants, are often subject to harassment or even sexual assault by customers who touch them without consent.

Many times, workers are expected to ignore this behavior, which can create a hostile work environment.You deserve to be protected from harassment while at work.

Some companies take a firm stance against customer harassment

While a business can not control how a customer treats service staff, they can help by having a proactive response to harassment by customers when it happens. Doing so not only creates a safer and better work environment, it may also protect the business from legal liability related to the harassment. Ignoring or downplaying complaints of harassment or even unwanted touching could leave workers with no recourse when they are abused by customers.

Starbucks recently set an excellent example for other service-based businesses to follow. When a 37-year-old man left a disturbing note for a teenage barista, local Starbucks management took steps to protect the worker. The note included a link to a website advocating for teenage girls to sleep with much older men, run by the man who left the note. His blog included rants about age discrimination against him by younger women and a lot of pseudo-science intended to back up his insistence that dating older men was preferable for teenage girls.

Management chose to ban the customer in question permanently to ensure that this barista, and others who work with her, won’t have to deal with harassment in the future.

An attorney can help you if your employer will not

If you have complained about customer harassment and abuse, your employer should take steps to protect you. Failing to do so could create a hostile, even dangerous work situation for employees. When your employer fails to provide a safe work environment by ignoring worker complaints, talking to an experienced Missouri sexual harassment and workplace law attorney is your best option. Your lawyer can review the situation and help you determine what the next best step should be. From documenting ongoing harassment to filing a lawsuit, a lawyer can help you push back.