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What’s my legal liability when a customer harasses my employee?

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Q. I own a themed restaurant where some employees dress in costumes to entertain the children. Last week, an employee complained that a “regular” grabbed her breasts through her mouse costume. Am I correct that I don’t have any responsibility because the groper wasn’t one of my employees?

A.
Actually, you very much have responsibility for this misconduct, and may put yourself in a legal pickle by ignoring it.

When an employee complains of harassment by a nonemployee such as customer, vendor or contractor, the employer has the exact same obligations as if the alleged perpetrator had been an employee.

In fact, Ohio has a specific regulation that addresses this scenario. Admin. Code 4112-5-05(J)(5) provides: “An employer may also be responsible for the acts of nonemployees (e.g., customers) with respect to sexual harassment of employees in the work place, where the employer (or its agents or supervisory employees) knows or should have known of the conduct and fails to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.”

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