Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Do you know? Harassment by a non-employee

Last week, an Orlando, Florida, jury convicted a Pennsylvania tourist of groping Minnie Mouse. Apparently, the man thought it was okay to grab Minnie’s breasts and bottom through her costume while visiting the character at the Magic Kingdom.

Do you know what an employer’s obligations are when an employee complains of harassment by a non-employee such as customer, vendor, or contractor? The obligations are exactly the same as if the alleged perpetrator was an employee. In fact, Ohio has a specific regulation that addresses this exact scenario: Admin. Code 4112-5-05(J)(5):

An employer may also be responsible for the acts of nonemployees (e.g., customers) with respect to sexual harassment of employees in the work place, where the employer (or its agents or supervisory employees) knows or should have known of the conduct and fails to take immediate and appropriate corrective action. In reviewing these cases the commission will consider the extent of the employer’s control and any other legal responsibility which the employer may have with respect to the conduct of such nonemployees.

At the end of the day, a harassment complaint by an employee against a non-employee should not be treated any differently than an intra-employee complaint:

  1. Separate the complaining employee from the alleged harasser.

  2. Promptly and fully investigate the allegations.

  3. Evaluate the evidence and make a reasoned conclusion as to what happened.

  4. Take prompt and effective remedial steps, if necessary.

  5. Use the complaint as an opportunity to retrain employees about your sexual harassment policy.

[Hat tip: Employeescreen IQ Blog]

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus.

For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or jth@kjk.com.