Rights in defending one’s dignity versus providing customer service

| Feb 3, 2021 | Employment Law |

Employment laws are supposed to protect workers from sexual harassment and discrimination on the job. Legislation’s primary aim focuses on employer responsibility. Yet, could customer engagement potentially create a hostile work environment?

A former Umpqua Bank employee, Jennifer Christian, allegedly made multiple reports about a problematic customer’s behavior during her tenure. Despite personal rejection within a professional atmosphere, Christian’s reports referred to discomfort caused by the patron’s:

  • Notes
  • Compliments
  • Date invitations
  • Flowers
  • Soulmate references

After multiple complaints from Christian, the bank closed the customer’s account and encouraged him to handle his banking elsewhere. However, transferring Christian to another office may have been an unnecessary response to her concerns.

Who’s responsible for inappropriate client behavior?

According to Umpqua’s website, diversity & inclusion is imperative.

The financial institution has offices in California, Oregon, Idaho, Washington and Nevada. Throughout the organization, “everyone is welcome and valued.” Despite the former worker’s forced relocation, the organization touts its efforts to place women in key leadership roles.

Whether the bank took adequate action in this case remains unknown, though it’s possible problem-solving was primarily left to the previous employee. Since gender-based discrimination can affect an individual at work, the corporation may be accountable for its lack of corrective action.

Corporate responsibility should be the same on paper and in practice

It’s too soon to say how a court will rule in Christian’s sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit against Umpqua. It may stand to reason that businesses have a responsibility to protect the dignity of their employees, as well as their safety.

It’s one thing for a company to develop sound written policies. However, implementing internal best practices shouldn’t work in opposition to the best interests, or the rights, of its employees.