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What should an employer do if an employee alleges sexual harassment by a client?

The employer must also protect the employee if the harasser is a client, patient, a renovation worker on the working premises, a partner or another person related to the performance of the employee’s duties.

The circle of persons who can be harassers has not been specified in the definition of sexual harassment (clause 3 (1) 5) of the Gender Equality Act).

If the harasser is a client, the employer has the same obligations they have when they become aware of sexual harassment by a colleague.

An employer is responsible for failure to perform the duty of care if the employer was aware or should have been aware that gender-based harassment or sexual harassment occurred and failed to apply the necessary measures to terminate such harassment (clause 6 (2) 5) of the Gender Equality Act).

The fact that the employer should have been aware that sexual harassment was taking place means that the employer must have an overview of what is going on in the working environment and must ensure the safety of employees through its organisation of work. If harassment occurs, measures must be taken to stop it.

In the case of some professions, sexual harassment may occur more frequently than usual, e.g. waitresses, customer service staff, nurses and flight attendants are at higher risk. In order to protect such employees, the employer must take additional measures and organise the work in such a way that sexual harassment will not occur. For example, in a pub where customers are often drunk and the employer requires the staff to follow the principle ‘the customer is always right’, it can be very difficult for a waitress to assert herself in some situations. In this case, the employer must provide a way for the employee to contact the employer’s representative or another person (such as a shift supervisor or security guard) who will defend the employee, call the customer to order and stop the harassment when necessary. Staff need to know who to contact and what to do to get help.

If the situation cannot be resolved, you can turn to the Equality Commissioner, the Labour Inspectorate or the police. If sexual harassment is confirmed, the victim has the right to receive separate damages for discrimination.

This explanation does not constitute legal aid in a specific case. Therefore, if you feel that you have been treated unequally, but you did not find a solution to your problem in this article, or if you have a question, please contact the Equality Commissioner by e-mail at avaldus@volinik.ee or telephone +372 626 9059. The anonymity of the person is guaranteed when contacting the Commissioner.