Employer Pays for Employee Harassment by Customers

August 4, 2010 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – An Oklahoma City, Oklahoma-based truck stop company has agreed to a $75,000 out-of-court settlement of a lawsuit alleging it failed to stop customers in its Buckeye, Arizona, store from sexually harassing two female cashiers.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced the deal with Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores, Inc. as part of a lawsuit it filed on the two cashiers’ behalf.

According to an EEOC news release, the two women were sexually harassed “frequently” by truck drivers “some of whom were regular customers of Love’s.” The women were 18 and 20 years old at the start of their employment.

The agency alleged Love’s knew about and tolerated the sexually hostile work environment caused by its customers and not only failed to take reasonable steps to stop the harassment, but at least one manager laughed about it, and another said the harassment was to be expected because it is a truck stop.  The EEOC said in the news release that managers also told the victims to “deal with it” and in particular to tolerate the misconduct of one repeat offending customer because “he’s always like that.”

Under the agreement, Love’s also must investigate complaints of sexual harassment, provide training for managers and supervisors on conducting sexual harassment investigations, and post a warning that harassment of Love’s employees will not be tolerated, the news release said.

“Employers are liable for the harassment of their workers by non-employees on their property, when they knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take corrective action,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill of the Phoenix District Office, in the news release. “This settlement agreement sends a message to Love’s and other companies that they must promptly address the harassment of employees by their customers.”