26 Jun How should you respond if a client harasses an employee?
As an employer, how should you respond if a client harasses an employee? A vital part of an employee’s job is to make the client happy. Establishing a workplace that values customer experience is critical for building a network of regular and loyal clients. However, not every client will be as warm and welcoming of an employee’s help as others. These experiences can create greater challenges for employees, but what if a client’s poor attitude develops into discrimination or harassment?
In Ontario, it is the legal responsibility of the employer to respond to all harassment and discrimination claims. This means that even if the harassment comes from a client or customer, the employer must take the reasonable steps to make the workplace comfortable and safe for employees. Examples of an employer taking action could be speaking directly to the client, providing a formal document addressing their behaviour, or finding a space for the employee that avoids interaction with this particular client. However, there is one action that is legally mandatory for all employers to practice, which is initiating an investigation once a harassment claim has been made.
When an employer reacts to one of these claims, it cannot be retaliatory. A “retaliatory” response from an employer are actions that negatively impact the employee and/or their job. For example, the employer could reduce shifts, change work roles, change wages etc. that all damage the employee’s work environment.
To limit this behaviour, it is important to create a policy that functions well in the workplace. If there is a method that satisfies everyone in the workplace, there should be less issues when attempting to resolve these matters. According to Ontario, there are certain key components to a workplace harassment policy that should be included. These characteristics involve how important a harassment-free workplace is to the employer, attention to harassment initiated by any party (clients, employees, strangers, managers, employers etc.), and everyone’s role in maintaining the policy.
What if the employer’s system to approaching these incidents has been ineffective? Sometimes employees can feel uncomfortable or unsupported when filing these claims within the workplace. There are other methods, external from the workplace, where an employee can report their harassment claim. For example, the employee can reach out to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, Human Rights Legal Support Centre, or KCY at LAW for legal counsel.
If you are an employer who would like to create a harassment policy that works best for your company, please contact KCY at LAW by filling in an online consultation request or contact us by phone at 905-639-0999 to book your consultation today.