January 2015 HR Brain Teaser

Brain Teaser Courtesy of EPLI Pro™

Third Party Discrimination

Employers often deal with customer complaints ranging from slow service to under cooked food. But what happens when you receive a customer complaint claiming discrimination?

You receive a letter in the mail that states:

We came in on Saturday for a special dinner celebrating our 10 year anniversary. We were pleasantly greeted and seated right away. The server was very knowledgeable and gave us great meal recommendations. When she asked us if we were celebrating a special occasion, we told her about our anniversary. She looked stunned, nodded and walked away. The rest of the evening she rarely came by our table. It took her 30 minutes to come back and take our order and it took over an hour for our food to arrive, which was cold indicating it had been sitting for a while. When we tried to ask about the delay she was very short and rudely replied, “If you don’t like it here, why don’t you go somewhere else”. We noticed that other parties she waited on were treated well and were given excellent service. I’m not sure why we were treated this way, but I can guess it is because my partner and I are a same-sex couple. I don’t wish for anyone else to be treated this way and hope the issue is addressed.

What do you do with this complaint?

A.  It’s just a letter expressing this person’s experience. Put it in the circular file.

B.  This may be a discrimination complaint, but this person is not your employee. You can’t do much about the issue. Just send him a coupon for his next meal.

C.  Anti-Harassment laws protect customers, clients, and vendors from harassment and discrimination. You will need to investigate, make a determination and take any necessary remedial action to ensure discrimination stops and does not continue.

Answer:  C     Third parties (e.g., customers, vendors, contractors, or any third party associated with the company) are protected from discrimination and harassment. Employers must take all complaints seriously and should handle complaints from third parties the same way a complaint made by an employee is handled. An investigation should be conducted immediately, in which all parties are interviewed and questioned about the incident. If you determine discrimination occurred, remedial action should be taken to stop the harassment/discrimination from happening and keep it from happening again. Remedial action can be disciplinary action, up to and including termination for the individual that acted unlawfully. In any case, anti-harassment and discrimination training should be provided to your employees on a regular basis to ensure they understand what kind of behavior constitutes prohibited harassment and discrimination toward co-workers and third parties. It is also important to note that employees can be harassed by a third party and these situations must be handled in the same manner.

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