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Bryant Whitten, LLP

Harassment in customer service should not be the standard

There’s no field that is completely immune from harassment in one form or another. Though it seems that the more people you deal with on a daily basis, the more likely you are to be the victim of harassment.

It seems no matter how much management declares a “zero tolerance” policy, there are always people who think the rules don’t apply to them.

Being part of the team does not include putting up with harassment

You count on your coworkers, just like they’re able to count on you. There are plenty of times when the stress of dealing with customers can be a common foundation for developing friendships. But then there are times when one person simply isn’t interested.

Sometimes it even seems the more casual environment of working in customer service makes the unwelcomed comments more frequent. But just because you are able to help each other out in stressful situations doesn’t mean you need to be subjected to unwanted advances.

Fear of retaliation

Customer service positions are known for the grueling hours and low pay. This is one reason people in this field are more reluctant to speak up when something happens. Often customer service employees are seen as “dispensable” because the positions are so easy to fill with low-skilled workers.

The other reason is a fear speaking up will be held against them when there’s an opportunity to move up. There’s an implication that to succeed in customer service fields, there are things that you have to put up with and employees get scared to talk about incidents when they happen.

Moving forward

There are some things that are always going to be seen as sexual harassment, but more often than not, the situation will fall into a grey area. The important thing to know here is that it doesn’t matter if the other person was intending to harass, it comes down to whether you felt harassed.

Suffering in silence doesn’t help anyone. There is a good chance that you aren’t the only person being harassed at work and the person doing the harassing isn’t going to tell on themselves.
Speak up as soon as possible. Depending on the situation and your comfort level, this could be immediately when the incident happens, or later with a supervisor or HR representative you’re more comfortable talking to.

As difficult as it may be, the earlier you talk to someone, the easier it will be to find a resolution.

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