Vigilant Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law, HR, safety & workers' comp

Apr 23, 2013

Discrimination or harassment by customers is just as illegal


Q: A representative from a major customer recently was overheard making racist comments about one of our minority employees. What is our obligation to address this situation?

A: You have the same legal obligation to address this incident with your customer and affected employees as you would if it was a coworker who had made the comments. Underemployment laws and regulations, your employees have the right to be free from harassment and discrimination from any source, whether internal to your company or external (see Piety v. City of Sweet Home, D Or, Mar. 2013). The same goes for a customer’s discriminatory preferences—for example, a customer prefers a male service technician because he or she believes that a man will make a better “fit” with its employees or that he will do a better job than a woman. These situations can be tough because you want to make your customers happy, but remember that customer preference never justifies discrimination on your part, as the employer. If a situation arises, contact your Vigilant staff representative for help or contact us to learn more about the benefits of working with Vigilant for legal consulting regarding your employment law issues.

This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult legal counsel.