Third-Party Sexual Harassment: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:03 Third-Party Sexual Harassment
  • 0:23 Examples
  • 1:26 Conflicting Interests
  • 1:52 What to Do
  • 2:34 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley
Workplace sexual harassment doesn't always involve supervisors and co-workers; sometimes it involves an individual outside of an employee's organization. In this lesson, you'll learn about third-party sexual harassment.

Third-Party Sexual Harassment

Third-party sexual harassment is perpetrated not by employees of your employer but rather by individuals outside of your organization. The sexual harassment may involve unwelcomed requests for sexual favors and verbal or physical harassment that creates a hostile work environment. Let's take a look at some examples.


One source of third-party sexual harassment may be from vendors or suppliers. This group pretty much includes anyone that provides a good or service to your organization who has some form of contact with an employee that provides an opportunity for sexual harassment. Examples may include delivery people, repair persons, outside trainers, and consultants.

Another source of third-party sexual harassment is clients or customers. The type of customer or client or the type of business is of no consequence. An accountant or attorney can be sexually harassed just as easily as a waitress at a truck stop. It also doesn't matter if the harassment takes place on the employer's premises or at a client or customer worksite so long as you are engaging in a work-related activity.

Sometimes employers can create a situation that may lead to third-party sexual harassment. For example, a restaurant that issues a mandatory uniform that is one-size-fits-all and appears skimpy on certain women may result in lewd and sexist comments from its customers towards waitresses.

Conflicting Interests

A maxim in business is that the customer is always right, but this principle creates serious problems in the case of third-party sexual harassment. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and courts may find an employer liable for failing to act upon third-party sexual harassment in the workplace. Consequently, when it comes to third party sexual harassment, the customer is not always right.

What to Do

Employees being victimized by third-party sexual harassment should report the harassment to their employer. Any evidence of harassment, such as emails and names of witnesses, should be presented to the employer.

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