I work in the reception area of a prestigious firm, and a client has started asking me out. I keep making up excuses but he doesn’t seem to get the hint. Now he’s calling or stopping by “just to chat”. I tell him I’m busy but he doesn’t stop. He keeps me from my work and he makes me uncomfortable. I asked my boss to speak to him, but he’s one of our biggest clients and she doesn’t want to offend him. I know it’s not sexual harassment because he never says anything suggestive, but he’s really become a pest.
A.Sexual harassment isn’t about lewd behavior. It’s about discrimination based on gender, and it’s about power. Let’s break it down: Would this client be hitting on you if you were of the opposite gender? Probably not. Is this behavior making you uncomfortable and interfering with your ability to do your job? Yes. So, because of your gender, your ability to do your job is being undermined, even if it unintentional on the part of the client. And your supervisor (who has more power than you do) is allowing the offensive behavior to continue. The law is very clear that the employer must protect employees from harassment whether it is caused by other employees or by customers, clients, vendors, etc. Your supervisor has a legal responsibility to ensure that harassing behavior stops, even if it means losing a client. But, let’s be fair. Sounds like the guy has a crush on you and so far, you’ve given him no reason to think you’re not at least flattered by his attentions. Before you run to HR with a sexual harassment complaint, stop making up excuses and dropping hints, simply tell the client that you are not interested in dating him. It’s the mature and respectful thing to do.