Many hospitality-based businesses will say that the customer is always right. Management may bend over backward to try to keep people happy with their experience at the store or restaurant. Often, there is a lot of pressure on employees working in retail and hospitality environments to cater to a happy customer. They need to be pleasant and outgoing, regardless of their actual personalities or current mood.
However, sometimes customers will really push boundaries in these settings. They might touch a waitress or repeatedly and aggressively flirt with the bartender. But when a customer crosses the line between pleasant conversation and abusive sexual misconduct, employees shouldn’t have to endure it just to avoid causing a controversy.
Sexual harassment from customers is a common issue
Employees should know that they do not have to put up with sexual harassment from customers. And management should never ignore complaints from workers dealing with unpleasant patrons and should intervene when necessary to protect workers from abusive customers.
Appropriate steps might include informing the customer of the company’s expectation for behavior or having someone else assist the customer. Management could also make the decision to ask someone to leave or, in unique situations, permanently ban them from the premises.
Many companies promote or ignore customer sexual harassment
In some employment environments, employees may be required to wear very revealing outfits or companies use racy slogans to advertise the company brand.
However, neither should be an active invitation for harassment from customers or be an excuse for management to look the other way when they witness an inappropriate exchange with a customer and employee.
Options for employees in these situations
It’s important for employees to know that they don’t have to keep quiet about sexual harassment from customers. A business can’t retaliate or fire an employee who speaks up.
Keeping records of the misconduct, exchanges with management, and how the company responds to complaints is important for employees who wish to seek legal recourse. The guidance of an employment law attorney can also help.