Sexual harassment in the retail industry

Date: May 21, 2018

The retail industry has forever touted 'the customer is always right' but it's this mindset that has led to a particularly troubling culture of sexual harassment.

Study, 'But It's Your Job To Be Friendly': Employees Coping With and Contesting Sexual Harassment from Customers in the Service Sector' has found that unwanted advances are highly prevalent, but largely go unreported and experts find women of colour are most at risk.

A growing issue of sexual harassment in retail 

The report found that 9 per cent of all workplace sexual harassment in Australia is committed by clients or customers – a worrying issue for an industry that largely relies on customer service. The National Retail Association research found that employees within the retail service sector view these sexual advances as a 'routine or regular part of their work'.

As a result, they rarely complain to management about behaviour they would otherwise consider inappropriate. 

An article in Racked spoke with Josie Torielli, the Assistant Director of Intervention Programs at the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, who explained that demographics play a big part in why retail workers are particularly at risk. 

"What we know about all sexual violence is that it is a crime of power and control, and that usually people who perpetrate these crimes will try to use vulnerabilities against the people that they are targeting," she told Racked.

Torielli further explained that those who are committing sexual harassment are looking for someone who either won't report the incident, or won't be taken seriously if they are.

The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 

In 2008, Australia reviewed the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and expanded on the definition of goods and services, specifically so unwanted advances from a customer could fall under workplace sexual harassment.

Retail employers have a legal obligation to provide their employees with a safe working environment. That means they need to tell a customer they are wrong in order to prevent sexual harassment. Further, it's important that retailers provide their staff with information on how to identify characteristics of a situation that constitutes of sexual harassment, as well as what to do should they encounter one.

To learn more about fighting sexual harassment, please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.