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How should you handle sexual harassment by a customer?

Maybe you work at a popular hotel bar, and there is a businessman who comes every month and makes inappropriate advances like leaving his room keycard as a tip. Perhaps you work at a restaurant and have a table of drunk people making comments about your appearance or trying to touch you.

When the people sexually harassing you are customers, not your co-workers, you may feel like you don’t have the option of standing up for yourself. However, your employer should protect you against harassment even if it comes from regular customers. How can you protect yourself from customer sexual harassment?

Tell your supervisor about the issue

Rather than trying to cope with misconduct from customers, the best approach is usually to inform your employer about the issue. After all, they can’t take steps to protect you if they don’t know about your experience.

Speaking up while dealing with the issue means that your supervisor can see it occur when you return to the customer in question. You should be able to rely on management to intervene and either replace you with someone that the customers won’t harass or ask them to leave because of their misconduct. You should not face any sort of retaliation from your employer for speaking up about how these customers mistreat you.

If your employer does not take steps to protect you or if they punish you for reporting customer sexual harassment, the best way to protect yourself may be to create a written record of each incident, as well as your attempts to report the matter to management. That way, you can either make a convincing case to your employer or pursue sexual harassment claims because the company did not protect you.

Understanding you have the right to fight back against customer sexual harassment can empower you to advocate for yourself at work.

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