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Is your employer liable if you are sexually harassed by a client?

On Behalf of | Jun 12, 2023 | Workplace Harassment |

As an employee, you deserve a safe and harassment-free work environment. Most employers make every effort to make this happen. However, an employment situation can get tricky when it isn’t employees who are engaging in unacceptable behavior.

While most sexual harassment incidents are committed by individuals with close ties to an organization (like the employer, supervisor or co-worker), it is not uncommon for a third party like a contractor or a client to engage in unacceptable behavior. What happens if you are sexually harassed by your employer’s clients?

You are entitled to a safe workplace

By law, your employer has a duty to create a safe work environment. To achieve this, they are required to put in place measures to protect employees from any form of harassment at work (including sexual harassment). If they fail to do this, they may be liable for any harassment that happens to their employees within the workplace or while advancing their interests. However, this is not always the case.

When can your employer be explicitly liable for sexual harassment that is perpetrated by a client? Generally, this depends on how and where the incident happened. If the alleged sexual harassment was perpetrated by someone within the organization like an employee, then your employer will certainly be liable regardless of whether they were aware of the harassment or not.

Things are a little different if you are harassed by a client. In this case, your employer may be held liable if they knew or must have reasonably known about the incident but failed to take steps to stop it. To hold your employer liable for sexual harassment that is committed by a client, you must prove the following elements:

  • You were harassed while at your place of work or while advancing your employer’s interests
  • You made the employer aware of the incident
  • Your employer failed to take steps to address the incident

Learning more about California employment laws can potentially help you to safeguard your rights and interests if you are sexually harassed by anyone in the workplace. Seeking legal guidance is a good place to start.