Corporate Responsibility: Sexual harassment of non-employees

Non-employee harassment falls under the hostile environment category of the federal law governing harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

Hard to believe, but yes the government expects you to protect your employees from outside harassment. Non-employee sexual harassment is exactly what it sounds like.

Employees who are harassed by customers, suppliers, temporary workers, external contractors, etc. still retain their rights to a harassment-free workplace.

As an employer, you cannot ignore the situation. The courts have upheld your responsibility in this area.

Remember: an employer must investigate and respond appropriately to the claim, even if it appears to be trivial or pursued.

It is also in the employer’s best interest to take some steps, whether the claim has substance or not. Documents the incident, requires additional training, etc.


In California, a plaintiff filed a non-employee sexual harassment claim because her employer, International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), pressured her to resume a sexual relationship with a Department of Defense official who had the authority to award IBM millions of dollars in project funding.

Award: $ 65,000 in monetary damages

For more on other types Sexual harassment, read about Quid Pro Quo or Sexual favoritism.

Protect your business from this type of harassment. Make sure your employees are well-trained in harassment and prevention of discrimination and attention.