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Customer Harassment is Unlawful – and the Employer is Liable

In December 2016, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) won a major victory for employees in EEOC v. Costco Wholesale Corp., especially those working in the service industry.  Importantly, the case underscores the fact that all employees are entitled to a safe, secure and fair workplace free of sexual harassment, including harassment by customers that an employer is aware of and fails to remedy.

In EEOC v. Costco Wholesale Corp., the EEOC alleged that the employer, Costco, violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by failing to prevent a male customer from stalking and harassing a female employee.

For over a year, Dawn Suppo, the employee, repeatedly complained to her managers about a male customer’s harassing behavior, which included intrusive questions, touching and stalking. Costco asked the customer to leave; however, it waited for over a year before banning him from Costco stores. Based on Costco’s failure to take action sooner, a jury found in Ms. Suppo’s favor and awarded her $250,000 in compensatory damages.

Although this case involved sexual harassment, covered employers have a duty to remedy any harassment prohibited under Title VII, including harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex and national origin.

If you have been subjected to sexual harassment and your employer has failed to remedy the situation, the attorneys at Lebau & Neuworth may be able to help. For more information, contact Lebau & Neuworth at 888-456-2529 or lebauneuworth.com/contact-us.

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