Ask the Legal: Can an employer be liable if an outside vendor harasses one of its employees?
Courts are split on this question. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects employees from being subjected to a hostile work environment which is predicated upon one of the categories protected by law such as race or gender. Many courts have extended the protection to harassment of one employee by another. However, currently, only some courts have been willing to hold an employer liable for acts of a third party such as an outside vendor, contractor, etc. The courts that have extended the employer’s liability have found liability where the evidence demonstrates that the employer was, or should have been, aware of the harassment. Employers should train their supervisors to take appropriate action any time they become aware of conduct that may be construed as harassment.
As appeared in: Pittsburgh Business Times, 5/16/2014