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What to Do When a Customer Harasses One of Your Employees


Anyone who’s ever had to work with customers knows the saying “The customer is always right.” While it’s easy to agree with that statement as a customer, it’s different for an employee who sometimes deals with rude customers. Employees are often advised to not lash out at clients, even when people are very rude for no reason.

But what happens when a customer sexually harasses an employee? Well, the employer has a responsibility to investigate the employee’s claim and find solutions to this problem. At the same time, you fear losing loyal customers.

What can you do in this scenario? Here’s everything you need to know.

  • Addressing the Problem with the Customer

One thing you can try is to talk to the customer about the problem. Of course, this is an option as long as the harasser is not someone who could hurt the employee outside of the workplace for reporting the incident.

Sometimes, employees who are harassed will be afraid to say anything to the customer and may simply freeze or just talk nicely to the customer until they leave. If your employee tells you about experiencing harassment, you can be the one to let the customer know that their behavior is unacceptable and inappropriate and that you do not tolerate such things.

  • Find Ways to Separate the Employee and Customer

How you do this will depend on the type of business you run. For instance, if your employees must deal with business customers, you usually know when the customer is going to need assistance. In this case, you have time to swap workers responsible for handling the account so that the harassed employee doesn’t have to face the terrible situation anymore. You could meet clients only by appointment, giving you enough time to help the victim escape before the business customer shows up.

However, this is a bit tricky in a retail setting. It takes a bit more effort and thinking to find ways to work around it, but you can always establish a type of signal that gives the employee time to leave when the harasser is nearby.

Bear in mind that these solutions work when a customer only harasses one or two employees. If they are harassing everyone in the business, you must find other solutions.

  • Talk to the Customer’s Boss

This is the type of thing you can do when the customer harasses one of your employees who works for your real customer, which could be another business. Sometimes, the best thing you can do in these cases is talk to the customer’s boss or reach out to the Human Resources department of the client company.

You will explain what is going on and ask the department to deal with the issue and their problematic employees. Because businesses do not want their images tarnished and do not want to lose their connections, they will most certainly take care of this and deal with the person who harassed your employee.

  • Let the Customer Go

Sometimes, the best thing to do is to simply give up on the customer altogether. When nothing you do seems to work and your employee feels unsafe, you must stop accepting that individual or company as your customer.

Believe it or not, losing a customer is not that bad. You will not lose a lot of money, especially if we’re talking about an individual and not a business. It would just be one client, so it’s not the end of the world. Even if the customer was a business, it’s best to stop working with it if it does nothing to stop the harassment.

Besides, it’s better to lose a client than to have to pay legal fees for a lawsuit.

  • Establish Reporting Methods

If your business does not have proper reporting options yet, now it’s time to establish them. While it’s great to stop a customer from harassing an employee, it’s also essential to prevent similar situations in the future. Your workers must know that they can always rely on you to make the workplace safe and listen to their complaints and find solutions.

So, think about different ways that your employees could report harassment and update your policy.

The Bottom Line

There are many situations when employees can get harassed. For example, Rhode Island had more than 1,000 violent crimes in 2018. Some of these crimes included harassment. If your employee ever gets harassed in this area by a customer, it’s best to find ways to deal with it, even if that means losing the customer. It’s better than having to file a lawsuit and deal with a client’s Rhode Island criminal lawyer.


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