"Come on, sweetie. Lemme see that pretty face under there. Take it off for me, will you? Just a quick flash."
"I can be covid and make you short of breath."
"I don't wear a condom; I sure as hell aren't going to wear a mask!"
"Social distancing? My pocket rocket can still reach you."
"I'll take your mask off and stick my tongue down your throat."
These are just a few of the hundreds of awful and offensive comments to which service industry workers reported being subjected while working during COVID (report here).As I recently pointed out, unlawful harassment is unlawful harassment, regardless of the alleged perpetrator. An employer cannot treat sexual (or other illegal) harassment of an employee by a non-employee any differently than harassment between employees. Indeed, in the words of the Ohio Administrative Code:
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.
- Separate the victim from the alleged harasser.
- Promptly and fully investigate the allegations.
- Evaluate the evidence and make a reasoned conclusion as to what happened.
- Take prompt and effective remedial steps, if necessary.
- Use the complaint as an opportunity to retrain employees about your anti-harassment policy.