I'm being harassed and stalked at work by a customer. Is my employer supposed to help stop this?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency responsible for enforcing the employment discrimination laws, recently won a jury trial in Chicago where this was an issue.
A woman worked on the floor at Cosco when she began to be harassed and stalked by a customer at work. What did the customer do? She said:
she was subjected to harassing behavior by a customer for more than a year, including ominous staring, unwanted physical touching, unwanted requests for dates, and overly intrusive personal questions..... [The customer's] insistence on interacting with her continued to escalate, even though he had been counseled by Costco managers and Glenview police to avoid her... These events culminated in [the customer] allegedly videotaping [her] without her permission and her obtaining an order of protection against him in court.
According to a judicial opinion during the litigation, the customer "repeatedly stared at her, commented on her body, told her she was beautiful, touched her face, tried to hug her, and asked her out on dates multiple times." This was in addition to attempting to video-record her, as mentioned above.
The employee repeatedly notified her store managers over the course of the year in which this was taking place. While they reportedly spoke with the customer initially, it didn't stop him and they didn't follow up.
Ultimately, the employee sought a retraining order from the police, and stopped being able to come to work due to fear. Cosco then terminated her.
An 8-person jury concluded unanimously that Cosco violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 -- the primary federal employment discrimination law -- by failing to take reasonable steps necessary to maintain a workplace free from harassment based on one's sex.
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