Jeffrey H. Ruzal, Member of the Firm in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the firm’s New York office, was quoted in Law360, in “3 Tips to Help Protect Workers from Customer Harassment,” by Braden Campbell. (Read the full version – subscription required.)

Following is an excerpt:

While companies may want to abide by the conventional wisdom that the customer is always right, employers who fail to protect employees from harassment by patrons are inviting lawsuits. …

Figure Out Who’s Most Vulnerable

The first step to protecting service workers from customer-based harassment — and to avoiding suits — is to know which workers are most vulnerable to it …

These workers include housekeepers, hotel room attendants and spa workers, who often interact alone with customers, some of whom may be in states of undress. They also include servers, bartenders and golf cart attendants, who have ongoing interactions with customers and who may not complain because of the “customer is always right” mentality. …

Jeff Ruzal, chair of Epstein Becker Green’s hospitality service team, said harassment suits stemming from customer interactions are an “ever-present” threat for service employers, even if they’re generally less common than suits over employee interactions. The risks are higher in certain environments than others, he said.

“A lot of what drives discrimination claims really deals with the type of customer base one has, and the type of establishment one runs,” Ruzal said.

Because hotel guests are fixtures on properties during their stays, there’s more risk for the sort of ongoing harassment that can lead to legal claims. These risks may be even higher in restaurants, country clubs and private clubs, where workers may see the same customers daily, Ruzal said.


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