When it comes to harassment of employees by non-employees, an informal discussion letter released by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) serves as a reminder to employers that liability under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 often turns on the reasonableness of corrective actions taken by the employer. The letter concludes that an employer is unlikely to avoid Title VII liability for failing to take reasonable steps to curtail citizen harassment of police officers, even in the face of its limited ability to control such harassment and constraints due to citizens’ constitutional rights.
The EEOC’s letter regarding harassment by third-party members of the public, dated October 1, 2012, is not considered a formal opinion of the commission, but rather is an informal discussion of the issues.
Editor’s Note: We have seen non-employee harassment cases before where the employee of a vendor, customer, or other third party with whom an employee interacts in the course of business harasses an employee. We suggest that members add the underlined language above in their harassment policies.