Third-Party Sexual Harassment

If you suffer sexual harassment, the perpetrator may not be the only person you can hold civilly liable. A third-party sexual harassment claim is a case against an employer for crimes committed by nonemployees, such as clients or customers. In certain situations, you may be able to hold your employer accountable for sexual harassment committed by someone who was not a company employee.

What Is Third-Party Sexual Harassment?

Third-party sexual harassment in California refers to sexual harassment committed by an outsider in your workplace – not an employee of the company. It is different from an employer’s vicarious liability for sexual harassment committed by an on-duty employee. Third-party sexual harassment specifically involves outsiders who interact with employees, such as clients, customers, patients, vendors, suppliers and subcontractors.

If one of these parties commits any type of sexual harassment against you while you are performing occupational duties, you could have grounds for a third-party sexual harassment claim against your employer. The definition of sexual harassment remains the same in these types of cases. It can refer to sexual touching, discrimination or harassment based on sex or gender, and unwelcome and inappropriate sexual remarks in the workplace. It can also refer to a hostile work environment.

Employer Responsibility & Liability

In California, all employers have a legal responsibility to maintain safe and productive workplaces. This means employers must take reasonable steps to ensure the protection of their employees in all scenarios, including when workers have to interact with nonemployees. For example, an employer may have to supervise in-person meetings with customers or conduct background checks on hired subcontractors.

If an employer negligently fails to take appropriate action to reasonably prevent sexual harassment or other forms of misconduct by a nonemployee, that employer could be legally responsible for a victim’s related losses. An employer could also bear liability for third-party sexual harassment for negligently failing to prevent known misconduct from recurring.

If an employer learns about third-party sexual harassment against an employee, the employer has a responsibility to investigate the issue promptly. The employer must then take reasonable corrective action to prevent future sexual harassment, such as enforcing physical separation between the perpetrator and the victim. It is the employer’s duty to continue monitoring the situation to make sure the remedy is effective.

What to Do If You’re Being Harassed By a Third Party

The steps you should take if you’re being harassed by a third party are similar to the steps to take if you are being harassed by a coworker. First, report the incident to your employer or the human resources department right away. Explain what happened in detail and list the names of anyone who witnessed the incident. Ask for a copy of the incident report and write down a description of the events for your own records, as well.

Know that if your employer fails to fulfill its responsibility to protect you and respond appropriately to a third-party sexual harassment claim, you have legal rights. A sexual harassment attorney in Los Angeles can help you understand and protect them.

A lawyer can help you file a liability lawsuit against your employer for third-party sexual harassment, for example, and seek compensation such as lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering. A lawyer can also help you file a claim against your employer with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Remember, sexual harassment does not necessarily have to be sexual. Any type of harassment or discrimination against you based on your sex, gender, gender identity or gender expression constitutes sexual harassment in California. If you believe you are the victim of third-party sexual harassment, contact an attorney as soon as possible for a free and confidential consultation. You may have grounds to file a civil claim against your employer and/or other parties.