Eight Tips for Coping with Third-party Harassment

April 6, 2001
Here are some ways of dealing with this kind of harassment:

  1. Address third-party harassment in your sexual-harassment policy, making it clear that such harassment is prohibited. Emphasize that employees who experience it should submit harassment complaints, and that these complaints will be investigated like any others. The types of third parties with whom an employee would typically interact should be named, such as suppliers, vendors, customers, clients, independent contractors and the general public.

  2. Inform independent contractors and other outside parties (such as leased or temporary employees) that you prohibit sexual harassment at your workplace. Explain what the consequences of harassment are, and what they should do if they experience harassment from someone in your company.

  3. Explain to all employees what third-party harassment is in your sexual-harassment training.

  4. Investigate allegations of your employees harassing outsiders while performing their jobs.

  5. If a temporary or leased employee complains that one of your regular employees has harassed him or her, conduct your own investigation-as opposed to permitting the temporary help or leased employer to conduct the only investigation. This ensures that the investigation is conducted effectively.

  6. Just as with disciplinary action against employees who have been found to be harassers of other employees, the corrective action you take with outside harassers should be appropriate for the offense and sufficient to immediately stop the harassment. It can range from an oral warning to severing a relationship.

  7. When a major customer or client is alleged to be the harasser, conduct an investigation and take corrective action in a way that is the least likely to undermine the business relationship while still being effective. This may require consultation with the employer representative who is the closest client contact.

  8. If your employees are repeatedly harassed by customers or the general public, develop and implement a proactive strategy that lets outsiders know you expect them to treat your employees with respect.

Personnel Journal, July 1995, Vol. 74, No. 7, p. 46.