There have been several cases under which an employer has been found liable for sexual harassment perpetrated by third parties. In the 2012 case of Ryan v. Holie Donut, Inc., an employee was sexually harassed by a frequent customer. The employer knew of the harassment and did nothing to report the incident to law enforcement officials or to stop the sexual harassment from occurring. The employer terminated the employee once she filed a report with law enforcement officials, afraid it would do more harm than good. The employee failed to file a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) within the 300 day requirement, so her suit for wrongful termination and tolerance of sexual harassment was barred.
While employers may be liable, they are not held strictly liable for sexual harassment perpetrated by nonemployees. The standard that is used is the negligence standard, which is one of reasonableness. Therefore, when an employer realizes or should have realized that one of its employees is being subjected to harassment by a third party, the employer must ask themselves “did I take prompt, effective, and remedial action, or immediate and appropriate corrective action?”
If you think you have any questions regarding potential liability for sexual harassment by a third party, please contact a qualified attorney to discuss your legal rights.
Image credit: *Ann Gordon under Creative Commons license