What can an employee do if a member of the public regularly sexually harasses her?  For example, suppose the person regularly makes sexually suggestive comments, perhaps touches the employee on the arm or shoulder, or even bumps against her.  Is the employee’s only alternative to demand her supervisor protect her?  Nope!

If the employee notifies her supervisor and the supervisor fails to take effective action she can file an EEO complaint against the supervisor and agency and demand compensation for having been subjected to repeated harassment by a member of the public. A particularly graphic case was reported in the news, which is a good example.

It was a private sector case but the principles apply the same. Three female employees experienced precisely the kind of improper comments and touching described above.  They asked the employer to keep the offending member of the public off the premises, but it did not.  The creep only stopped when the women went to the police and had him convicted of assault.  Up to that point, management said it could not do anything to a prospective customer unless the security force witnessed the improper conduct.

So, the women went to EEOC.  It filed charges and then a lawsuit before the company realized how wrong it was.  It then paid the three women $487,000 for the trouble they had to put up with.

If you are ever in this situation yourself or while representing the employee, remember that the employer is obligated to make the offensive contact stop no matter who the member of the public is.  If management does not, don’t just leave it up to the police to do management’s job for it.  File a charge and pursue money damages for your troubles.

Check out the story about the Fred Meyer Company in the Oregonian.

About AdminUN

FEDSMILL staff has over 40 years of federal sector labor relations experience on the union as well as management side of the table and even some time as a neutral.
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