There is only one boss. The customer. But what if the customer or another outsider is harassing one of your employees? Can your organization be held liable?
The case: Lori, who is black, was a receptionist for a North Carolina manufacturer. She had daily contact with another company’s sales rep who was a real piece of work. He often made comments to Lori’s boss about “black b_____s” and he would use the “N word.” Lori overheard all this and asked the rep to stop. However, it continued.
Similar shenanigans lasted three years until Lori complained to HR. The rep was banned from Lori’s location, but was eventually allowed back on the premises. This so upset Lori that she eventually resigned.
Then she sued for third-party harassment.
The verdict: Lori won because the company failed to take effective action when it learned of the harassment. The court noted, “An employer is liable under Title VII for third parties creating a hostile work environment if the employer knew or should have known of the harassment” and failed to stop it.
The lesson: Train managers to keep an eye out for and put a stop to third-party conduct that violates your harassment, discrimination and retaliation prevention policy.