Employees who work with the public often face irate customers. The issue isn’t that customers don’t have a right to be upset when things go wrong, it is that employees can’t be subjected to discriminatory or harassing behavior while they are on the clock.
Some people might not think that businesses are responsible for how customers behave. Even though this seems like a tough spot for a company, it is responsible for ensuring that employees aren’t harassed while they are at work. This is true even when the harasser is a customer.
There is a fine line
Of course, the focus of almost any business is to make the customers happy. This happiness can’t come at the expense of employees. It is imperative that the company has clear policies that outline what is acceptable behavior and what is forbidden. There should be concise information about what will happen if a customer is found to be harassing anyone while in the business, including workers and other customers. This is a difficult distinction for companies to make but it is necessary to keep employees safe and to ensure compliance with laws that prohibit harassment.
When harassment occurs
There are some instances in which an employee might be subjected to harassment despite the employer’s policies. In these cases, how the employer reacts to claims of harassment can have an impact on what happens next.
Typically, employers won’t be aware of harassment until the employee files a complaint. At this point, the claim needs to be investigated. Because it has to do with a customer, it might be necessary to move the employee to another position just so that no contact is made with the customer again. If this isn’t possible, other workers might need to jump in to help if the customer does return.
Some businesses will opt to forbid the customer from coming back pending the outcome of the investigation. This must be handled carefully because of the risk of alienating a customer who might not have done anything wrong.
Retaliation is forbidden
In no instance of a factual complaint should an employee be retaliated against by the employer. If an employee is moved to another position or schedule while the investigation is ongoing, the employee should be told why this is occurring. Employees who feel they have been retaliated against and those who have an employer who doesn’t take harassment complaints seriously might need to take legal action against the employer.