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What Should I Do About an Abusive Client?

If you are abused in the workplace you have a right to take action. If a co-worker or supervisor says or does something inappropriate, your employer is responsible for disciplining that person and taking action to make your work environment non-threatening. If the abuse continues, you can pursue legal action against the company. But what happens when the abuser is not employed by the company? What should you do if a client treats you inappropriately?

Despite the inability to discipline or terminate an abusive client as they would an employee, your employer is still responsible for protecting you against abuse or harassment. Unfortunately, when clients are valuable to a company, some companies are reluctant to take action.

Report the Harassment or Abuse

First, be sure your employer knows what is happening. Unless you report the abuse, your employer might have no way of knowing how you are treated when you are with the client. Sometimes meetings with clients are private or off-site, so your employer only knows as much as you share.

Unfortunately, off-site meetings put you at greater risk for certain types of abuse because the environment seems less professional. Employees sometimes find themselves walking a thin line between closing a deal and sending out signals that could be misinterpreted.

Once something has occurred that makes you uncomfortable, report the events to your employer. They are obligated to keep your workplace safe and free of harassment no matter the circumstances. It does not matter whether the abuse or harassment is perpetrated by an employee of that company or a client or customer, nor does it matter if the issue took place on company property or not.

What Should You Expect from Your Employer?

Standing up for your rights and expecting your employer to do the same can be a frustrating experience. When a customer or client is valuable, your employer might be tempted to try to smooth things over. Harassed employees have even been given instructions to ignore inappropriate behavior or “keep clients happy” in situations where employers were responsible for protecting their employee. Victims have even been wrongfully terminated after reporting incidents with poorly behaved clients.

Your employer must protect you from an abusive client. Whether that means severing the relationship with the client or arranging for you to no longer interact with that client, something must be done to remedy the situation. Some employers won’t tolerate poor behavior, while others understand it is difficult to expect clients to follow company policies, but know they have a responsibility to their employers. As long as you are no longer at risk, your employer has done their job.

If nothing is done or you are disciplined or reprimanded for reporting the behavior, you can take legal action. An attorney specializing in employment law or workplace harassment can explain your options and help you decide what action to take. If you need assistance protecting your right to a safe work environment, contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. to discuss your case.


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