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What is a Third-Party Harassment Claim? Is My Employer Liable?

Coworkers bullying their colleague at work

California and federal laws protect you against sexual harassment in the workplace. Your employer is directly liable should you be sexually harassed or be subjected to hostile workplace harassment committed by a supervisor. If you are harassed by a coworker, your employer may also be liable under certain circumstances. But what happens if you are harassed while on the job by someone who does not work for your company? What if the electrician, a subcontractor, a customer, or a client harasses you? What is your recourse, and can you hold your employer liable? Read on to learn about third-party harassment claims in California. If you have been the victim of harassment or discrimination of any kind at your workplace, call a dedicated Riverside workplace harassment lawyer for advice on what to do next.

Third-Party Harassment Claims

In the employment context, a “third-party” claim refers to a claim regarding the conduct of someone other than a supervisor or co-worker. After a workplace injury, for example, you might have a third-party personal injury claim if your accident was caused by someone who does not work for your company (e.g. a contractor or a negligent driver). In the case of personal injury, your third-party claim would be brought against the party at fault for your injuries, rather than the workers’ compensation claim you’ll have with regard to your employer.

In the context of harassment, a third-party claim is one that is brought against your employer but that concerns the conduct of a non-employee. Most often, a third-party harassment claim is based on the conduct of a customer, a client, a visitor, a patient, a vendor or supplier, or a subcontractor. If you have experienced sexual harassment during the course of your employment and it was committed by one of those parties or some other person who does not work for your company, you could have grounds to file a third-party harassment claim against your employer.

When is Your Employer Liable for Third-Party Harassment?

Employers are not always liable for third-party sexual harassment. The person who committed the conduct was an outside party, and there’s an argument to be made that their conduct was unexpected and entirely outside of your employer’s control. Whether your employer can be held liable turns on whether that argument holds water.

Employers have a duty to provide their employees with a safe environment free from harassment and discrimination. They must take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent harassment in the workplace. Employers must, for example, train employees on harassment and discrimination and which sorts of conduct are and are not permissible, and what recourse employees have should they experience unlawful harassment or discrimination. This obligation of employers extends beyond their own employees, however, and includes taking reasonable steps to protect employees from the conduct of third parties visiting their premises or who otherwise interact with their employees.

Employers can be held liable for third-party harassment when they fail to take reasonable steps to protect their employees and harassment occurs as a result. Employers may also be held liable when they are apprised of sexual harassment that has occurred and fail to take any steps to make sure it does not happen again. For example, if an employee is tasked with visiting a client and the client sexually harasses them, the employer should take steps to remedy the situation–either by discontinuing the relationship with that client, speaking to the client about the matter, speaking to higher-ups at the client’s company about the individual representative’s behavior, or taking other reasonable steps.

What Should You Do After Harassment by a Non-Employee?

If you are harassed by a third party, report the incident to your supervisor and/or Human Resources (HR) department. Write down your recollection of the matter, get a copy of the incident report, and wait for your employer’s response. If you have reason to believe your employer is not taking proper steps to remedy the situation, speak with a knowledgeable California workplace harassment lawyer.

Call a Seasoned Labor Law Attorney for Help Dealing With Workplace Harassment

For help protecting yourself and recovering compensation after experiencing sexual harassment or a hostile work environment in Southern California, call Ochoa & Calderón to discuss your case with a thorough and passionate California labor and employment attorney. Call 951-901-4444 in Riverside or 844-401-0750 toll-free throughout Southern California.

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