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Third-Party Harassment and Discrimination: Employer Liability for Acts of Customers, Clients, and Vendors

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A

This program is included with the Strafford CLE Pass. Click for more information.
This program is included with the Strafford All-Access Pass. Click for more information.

Conducted on Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Recorded event now available

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This CLE course will inform employment counsel of a company's liability for sexual harassment and acts of discrimination committed against its employees by its customers and clients. The panel made up of both attorneys representing employees and management will provide an in-depth look into the legal protections afforded employees against third-party harassment and standards of care applied to a business when its employees do not cause the alleged misconduct.


The actions of third parties such as customers, clients, and vendors can expose a company to claims of harassment and other forms of discrimination.

The EEOC has made clear that, concerning sexual harassment, an employer can be responsible for the acts of non-employees where the employer knows or should have known of the conduct and fails to act [29 CFR 1604.11(e)]. In EEOC v. Costco Wholesale Corp., the Seventh Circuit recently emphasized the fact that a non-employee was involved "does not get [the employer] off the hook." The law in this area is evolving, and familiarity with the latest court decisions is an integral part of counsel's knowledge base.

Armed with this knowledge, employment counsel can provide valuable guidance to clients looking to provide the best possible work environment for their employees. Encouraging employees to report offensive behavior--even from perceived outsiders--is a vital step. Once aware of the situation, companies should address it by, for example, removing the employee from the troubling situation, addressing the issue with the outsider, or ending the relationship with the outsider.

Listen as our panel of counselors and trial attorneys demonstrates how the actions of people who are not controlled by the company can still make the company liable and present approaches to avoid liability--or better yet--the offensive behavior altogether.



  1. Sources of law
    1. Statutory
    2. EEOC guidelines
    3. Expansion of case law
  2. Litigation
    1. Nature of claim
    2. Defenses
    3. Distinctions between "third-party" claims and employee claims
  3. Actions to lessen exposure
    1. Employee awareness
    2. Employer response to third-party misconduct


The panel will review these and other relevant matters:

  • Liability that can be brought about by non-employees/non-agents
  • How such claims can be brought and defended
  • Steps to prevent adverse outcomes


Beranbaum, John
John Beranbaum

Beranbaum Menken

Mr. Beranbaum has spent the better part of three decades advocating for the rights of employees to work in an...  |  Read More

Stoneburner, Christina
Christina A. Stoneburner

Fox Rothschild

Ms. Stoneburner counsels clients on complying with applicable federal and state employment and labor laws and...  |  Read More

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