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Employers held accountable for third party sexual harassment

Not all sexual harassment in the workplace involves coworkers or supervisors. In some instances in Minnesota, the harassment comes from a third party, such as customers, clients, vendors, consultants or other outsiders. However, no matter who performs the harassment, it remains the employer's role to protect the employee.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment is illegal, whether it comes from an outsider including clients and customers or from a co-worker, a supervisor, or another employee within the company. This harassment might include making misogynistic comments or other general negative and offensive remarks about a gender, especially when it occurs in such a way as to create an offensive or hostile work environment.

Other actions constituting sexual harassment include any unwelcome sexual advances, physical or verbal harassment involving sexual content, asking or demanding sexual favors or any type of harassment regarding a person's gender. Any decisions regarding hiring, firing, demotion or other aspects involved with sex also would also constitute sexual harassment.

According to AOL, several cases in court have upheld the decision that it is the employer's responsibility to provide a safe place free of any sexual harassment, even from outside sources.  Employers are accountable for any act of sexual harassment occurring on the premises when no corrective action is taken despite knowledge of the incident. However, this only applies if the employer is aware of the incident and failed to act; it might not apply if the employer had no knowledge of the incident. If in an effort to retain a client, an employer fires or otherwise punishes an employee after a sexual harassment claim, then the employer would also be liable for the harassment. 

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