Handling Third-Party Sexual Harassment

Most people think that workplace sexual harassment can only be done to an individual by their workmates, subordinates, or bosses. However, did you know that workplace sexual harassment can also be committed by individuals from outside the company, such as vendors, customers, clients, and independent contractors?

This is what is known as third-party sexual harassment – and it is something that an alarmingly large number of employees have experienced.

Third-party sexual harassment can take many forms, such as lewd and sexist jokes, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors in exchange for a promotion or raise, remarks about a person’s sex or gender, and inappropriate physical contact.

Whatever form it might take, third-party sexual harassment and abuse hurts the well being of workers: it can put them under severe stress, make them less productive, and cause them to leave their jobs.

Therefore, it is important for employers to prevent third-party sexual harassment from ever happening in their workplace.

How can a workplace be free of third-party sexual harassment?

More than ever, employers are expected to create a safe environment for their employees, free from any and all manner of harassment.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Regularly conduct seminars and workshops for everyone in the company.
    • Define what constitutes harassment.
    • Enumerate the steps that an employee can take should they encounter or experience abusive behavior in the workplace.
  • Draft clear-cut company policies about sexual harassment in the workplace from colleagues and managers and third parties the company does business or interacts with.
  • Consult with employment attorneys, as well as sexual harassment lawyers for best practices.

What should I do if a visitor in the workplace harasses me?

Being harassed at work can be especially distressing and traumatic for any individual.

Here are some of the things that you can do when subjected to workplace harassment:

  • If you are in a public area, and you feel safe and comfortable enough to do so, tell the harasser to stop.
  • If the harasser refuses to stop, announce your intention to report the incident under the company’s anti-harassment policy.
  • If there is no policy in place, report the harassment to a supervisor or Human Resources immediately.
  • If your employer does not take immediate action to investigate and stop the harassment, consult with an experienced employment or sexual assault attorney so you can discuss your options.

What should I do if I see a visitor harass an employee?

Sexual assault attorneys and other legal experts often advise employers to act swiftly once an employee informs them of any instance of abuse and harassment. This is largely for the company’s benefit, given that employers can be held legally responsible for the sexual harassment of their employees by a third party if they are found to have had prior knowledge of the incident and yet did not take immediate and appropriate action to address it.

Here are some of the things that an employer can do to address third-party sexual harassment in their workplace:

  • Immediately investigate all employee complaints and take swift action against the harasser.
  • In the meantime:
    • Tell the offending party, in no uncertain terms, to immediately leave the office and to stop subjecting the employee to any form of harassment or abuse.
    • If possible, change the employee’s official email, phone line, and other contact details. Or block the offending party’s access to the employee.
    • If the harasser is a client’s official representative, send their company a report and then ask the client to assign a new representative. If the client does not respond or if they refuse to cater to any of your demands, you can ask them to drop your company from their account.
    • Check in with the employee regularly to find out how they’re coping and to ensure that they are no longer being harassed

Consult with Hogue & Belong for legal advice and remedies

If you are someone whose employee has been a victim of sexual harassment in their workplace, we encourage you to seek professional help for them immediately.

Hogue & Belong is a San Diego-based law firm that can help individuals who have been subjected to sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace.

Our success in obtaining full justice for our clients over the years stems from listening to the client’s needs and desired results, and working tirelessly to achieve those results. Our attorneys at Hogue & Belong are extremely experienced in sexual harassment and sexual assault cases, as well as employment discrimination and wrongful termination cases, employment class action suits, and antitrust violation class actions.

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