Woman Says Employer Didn’t Protect Her From Creepy Customers
Sales clerk secretly photographed and attacked at work
Is your employer responsible if a customer sexually harasses you on the job?
That’s the question one young woman raised when her employer allegedly refused to take action against a customer who had a history of inappropriate behavior.
Finally, the woman quit and sued her employer. Let’s take a look at what happened and then discuss what the law says about sexual harassment at work by non-employees.
Tatiana Swiderski was excited to take a new job as a sales associate at an Urban Outfitters store in New York City.
However, Swiderski became less enamored with her job when she found out that a male customer had been secretly taking photographs up her skirt. She was even more shocked to find out that it wasn’t the first time the man had been caught doing this.
A security employee assured Swiderski that he had made the man delete the photos. However, that assurance was allegedly followed by a lewd comment about Swiderski’s undergarments.
Swiderski wanted to report the incident to the police, but the security guard refused to give her the man’s name.
After speaking to some managers about the situation, Swiderski learned that the peeping Tom was a regular visitor to the store. In fact, all the managers seemed to be aware that the man had a habit of hanging out below the open staircases in hopes of taking photos of the women above.
Several weeks later, Swiderski was attacked by a different customer, who bit her on the face and attempted to rip her shirt. After that, Swiderski was resassigned to a stock room. She claims that she felt she was being punished for complaining.
Finally, suffering from extreme stress, Swiderksi quit. She sued the company for allowing a hostile work environment.
Company blames customers
Swiderski’s lawyer pointed out that management had been well aware of the “peeping Tom” customer and failed to take steps to address the situation.
The company argued that it couldn’t be held responsible for predicting customers’ behavior. It contended that it took appropriate measures to protect employees.
The company lost. The court ruled that because the company was aware of one of the customer’s inappropriate behavior, it may have been under obligation to better protect its workers.
The case was allowed to proceed.
(The case discussed here is Swiderski v. Urban Outfitters.)
What it means to you
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 directs that most employers must provide a workplace that is free from discrimination and harassment. That obligation extends to protecting employees from non-employees who may be engaging in inappropriate behavior.
If you have complained about harassment at your workplace and your employer has failed to adequately address the situation, you may have a legal claim for unlawful sexual harassment.
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If you believe that your rights have been compromised, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney.
Call or email us today to discuss your unique situation.