Last week, various Connecticut newspapers reported on a judicial marshal who allegedly sexually harassed four women, including a DCF worker.
Whether the charges have merit or not is a something we’ll have to leave to the judicial system itself, but it raises a point that I haven’t seen often raised.
An employer’s duty to stop sexual harassment of its employees extends beyond supervisors and co-workers, but also to non-employees, such as vendors as well.
The EEOC has a regulation on this issue that you may not be aware of. 29 C.F.R. 1604.11(e) states:
An employer may also be responsible for the acts of non-employees, with respect to sexual harassment of employees in the workplace, 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 non-employees.
In practical terms, what this means is that if you are aware that your employees are being harassed by a third party, such a vendor, the employer has an obligation to take steps immediately to get the harassment to stop.
Update: Talk about coincidences. The Michigan Employment Law Advisor also has a great post on the subject today too.