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Employee Discrimination by Customers in the Workplace


Your Employer Is Responsible for Protecting You from Racist, Sexist, or Discriminatory Customers or Clients

Discrimination from customers in the workplace is very common. It occurs when a customer makes negative comments against you or chooses not to work with you because of your race, religion, color, gender, or any other protected class status. When customers and clients discriminate against you at work, your employer must take appropriate action or be held accountable under the law.

What Is Employee Discrimination?

Employee discrimination occurs when an employee receives negative treatment or gets harassed at work based on specific characteristics, such as:

These characteristics are known as protected classes. Several federal and state laws protect employees from discrimination based on protected classes.

How Does Your Employer Know You Are Facing Discrimination in the Workplace from a Customer or Client?

Most times your employer does not know your clients or customers are harassing you. Many times, it is done quietly and occurs between you and the client. Therefore, you must usually report the incident to your employer. Sometimes, your employer may see the incident for themselves. Other times, your coworker may report the incident if they witnessed the discrimination or harassment. Once you make your employer aware of the situation, they must act to protect you from continued hostility and discrimination.

What Is Third-Party Discrimination in the Workplace?

Third-party discrimination occurs when a customer, client, or other non-employee discriminates against an employee based on protected class status. This type of discrimination is also known as employee discrimination by a customer.

What Are Examples of Third-Party Discrimination in the Workplace?

Examples of this discrimination by a customer at work include:

  • A client refuses to work with you because you are black.
  • A customer wants a new doctor who is not Asian.
  • A client insists you answer her calls on Yom Kippur. She states she doesn’t care that you want to celebrate your “little Jewish holiday.”
  • A customer complains that he wants to speak to a man because women know nothing about electronics.
  • A customer yells at you to speak English or get a new job.
  • A client refuses to allow you to work on his project because you are pregnant.
  • A customer asks for a different manager because you are “too gay.”
  • A customer makes sexist remarks about you and the other women in your workplace. He claims they all need to know their place. He claims they should all be in the kitchen like obedient women.

What Is the Employer’s Responsibility Regarding Third-Party Discrimination?

Your employer must provide a safe work environment. A safe work environment includes an environment free from discrimination and harassment. Once you report the discrimination from a customer to your employer, he must investigate the claim. However, in the meantime, he can address your concern by setting boundaries within the workplace. Your employer must take proper measures to stop the behavior.

Some ways an employer may stop discrimination from a client include:

  • Your employer can set clear boundaries with the customer regarding acceptable behavior.
  • Your boss can offer you the opportunity to remove yourself from contacting and working with the client.
  • If the customer works for your employer’s colleague, he can report the incident to the client’s employer.
  • Your boss can fire the client or customer.
  • Your employer can prohibit the customer or client from entering the business in the future.

No matter how much money the client brings to your company, your ability to work in an environment free from discrimination is worth more. If your employer does not protect your rights against discrimination from a customer at work, contact a discrimination lawyer to help you speak up and fight for your rights.

What Are Your Rights If Your Employer Does Not Act on Your Complaint of Third-Party Discrimination at Work?

If your employer does not act on your complaint, commits wrongful termination, or otherwise retaliates against you, you have the right to seek compensation under federal law. However, you must work for a company with at least 15 employees. You may file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 to 300 days of the discrimination.

You may choose to file your claim under state laws. State laws can sometimes protect employees in companies with as few as one employee. They also may provide more time to file your complaint.

How Long Will Your Lawsuit About Discrimination from a Customer at Work Last?

Your case may take several months to several years to settle. If your employer wants to negotiate early, you may reach a settlement within the first few months of filing the claim. However, sometimes settlement negotiations can take months or even years to complete. Therefore, it is best to work with an experienced discrimination lawyer to help you negotiate for a fair settlement from the moment you file your claim.

How Much is My Case for Discrimination from a Customer Worth?

When you file a discrimination claim with the courts, you likely want compensation for your hardship. When you successfully win your third-party discrimination case against your employer, the courts may offer the following forms of relief:

  • Reinstatement of employment
  • Lost Wages
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Emotional Distress
  • Punitive Damages
  • Attorney’s Fees
What Laws Protect You Against Discrimination from Customers in the Workplace?

Several state and federal laws protect employees from discrimination by customers in the workplace. Some of the federal laws that protect your rights include:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII protects employees from discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, and sex or gender. Title VII protection includes protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The ADEA protects employees from age discrimination. Customers cannot discriminate against employees over age 40 for any reason.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA prohibits all forms of discrimination based on disability.
  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). The PDA protects pregnant employees from discrimination from customers and clients because they are pregnant.
  • The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Customers cannot discriminate against military service members based on their past, current, or future military services.

These laws (and more) also prevent your employer from punishing you or committing acts of retaliation, such as demoting you, firing you from work, and giving you a poor review because you reported customer acts of discrimination. If you get fired from work or face other punishments in the workplace, contact a discrimination attorney to help you stand up for your rights.

Do You Need a Discrimination Attorney to Help You Fight Against Third-Party Discrimination?

Many employers mistakenly operate on the concept that the customer is always right. They will fight vigorously to defend that concept. When you file a claim for discrimination from a customer, you are battling this belief and fighting against their team of qualified attorneys to do it.

Working with a dedicated discrimination lawyer can help you stand up for your rights when your employer is pushing so hard against them. Your lawyer can help you file your claim under the laws designed to protect you in the time frame the law allows. They can advocate for you against your employer and their team of attorneys, reminding them employees have rights to a safe work environment, even when it means losing a customer.

Contact Our Experienced Discrimination Attorneys for Your Free Consultation.

Your employer must protect you from discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Whether the behavior comes from a supervisor, coworker, or client, your employer must put your rights first. If your employer did not protect you from third-party discrimination, the Derek Smith Law Group’s dedicated lawyers can help.

Did Your Employer Ignore Your Complaint About Discrimination from a Customer or Client? Do You Want to Know More About Your Rights? Please Call Us at 800.807.2209 with Your Questions.

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