Allowing one of your customers to sexually harass your employees is just as illegal as when the employee’s co-worker or supervisor does it. So warehouse retail giant Costco finds itself in hot water with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which charges in a Title VII lawsuit that the company fostered a sexually hostile environment in which it failed to protect a female worker from being stalked by a male customer.
According to the lawsuit, the alleged stalking occurred at the company’s Glenville, Illinois store. The women complained to store managers about pursued, approached and confronted by the man. She even got a protective order against him.
“The employee’s efforts weren’t enough for Costco,” said EEOC;s John Rowe, director of its Chicago office . “One of her managers apparently told the young woman that he agreed the man was ‘not right’ and that Costco would monitor the situation. But what actually happened was that when the situation persisted and the employee complained to the police, Costco management allegedly yelled at her and told her to be friendly to the customer.”
“No employer gets a pass because it is a customer targeting its employee, rather than a manager or fellow employee, said John Hendrickson, EEOC’s regional attorney in Chicago. “That’s particularly true when the harassment is especially egregious. If the employer permits the harassment to continue, it’s compounding its liability and troubles.”
Read more about the case.
And here’s information from the EEOC’s website about preventing sexual harassment of workers by customers. Scroll down to the bottom of the page under the heading Employer Liability for Harassment.