Employee Sues Employer for Client Sexual Harassment

The Ninth Circuit Court recently found in favor of an employee who was suing her former employer for sexual harassment perpetrated by a client of the company. This case is important for workers who may be facing sexual harassment not from a supervisor or other employee but from clients or customers that they are forced to interact with as part of their job. If you or someone you know is facing sexual harassment in a California workplace, talk to an experienced employment law attorney in your area today.

Christian v. Umpqua Bank

In the case of Christian v. Umpqua Bank, a former bank employee was sexually harassed by one of the customers at the bank, in violation of state and federal law. The harassment included a number of different interactions that took place over the course of many months. The customer began by dropping off notes for the employee with unwanted compliments and requests for dates, and the interactions increased after the employee informed the customer that she was not interested with lengthy letters to her, flowers being sent to her workplace, and references to them being soulmates.

The employee reported these instances to her supervisors and others in the workplace but was only told to be careful. After a substantial period of time, the bank finally closed the customer’s account and transferred the employee to another branch. However, the employee ultimately resigned based on her doctor’s advice that her employment at the bank was harmful to her health.

The case went to federal court based on the claims of gender discrimination and retaliation in the workplace. The district court granted the bank’s motion for summary judgment, and the employee appealed. The circuit court reversed the ruling and found in the employee’s favor, holding that the incidents of sexual harassment and stalking were pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment even though there was a seven-month gap between some incidents. The federal appellate court also found that there was a triable issue of fact as to whether the bank ratified the harassing behavior with its glacial response to the harassment of its employee when it took over six months to take any legitimate action.

Impacts on California Workers

This case affirms to workers that they are not required to be subjected to harassment or stalking by clients and customers of their employer. Furthermore, an employer has a duty to step in when this type of behavior occurs in a timely and appropriate manner. Employees have the right to feel and be safe in their workplace, and this case puts employers on notice that they may be held liable if they allow the sexual harassment or discrimination of their workers by customers in order to preserve that relationship.

Call or Contact a Lawyer Today

Do you have concerns about sexual harassment or other discrimination in the workplace? If so, call or contact a California employment law attorney today to learn more about your legal options.