I worked in retail, to be exact a cashier at an upscale grocery store, I had a situation where I was asked by a customer for help finding a product for him, I went to show him where the produce was on the shelf and the customer leaned forward and grabbed me, by giving me a tight hug, and said he would see me at my check out line I was shocked and scared, I was not sure how to respond in the moment so I just walked away and went back to my register, turned off my light and went to my manager.

I was crying and shaky, and I told my manager what happened. I asked if I could just bag or do something, so the customer would not come to check out in my line, unfortunately, my manager did not think the sexual harassment by the customer was a big deal, and told me to go back on my register. The customer came to my line, horrified, he reached across the conveyor belt, and grabbed my breast, and asked me to close my eyes, I moved quickly away, and called for help. I was crying, and my manager still didn't get it. He just stood there and assisted the customer, and then afterwards asked me if I wanted to write up a report.

I was the victim, my manager acted as if the customer was right, and I should have kept serving the customer, I was so shaken up that I didn't know my legal rights here in the U.S. and I wished I had asked them to call the police to write a report. As this same customer came in a week later, and did the same sexual harassment to a coworker of mine. This happened 3 years ago, and still has bothered me a lot. I only have a store report, which might have been destroyed or tossed by now, but part of me out of anger still from what happened wants to pursue legal action. But many have told me its impossible as it has been three years, and there is no evidence other then just one report, which may no longer exist.

Any suggestions, or rather if not legal action, I could pursue any sort of non-profit work to make others in the retail industry aware that sexual harassment is not just from other co-workers but can also be from customers?

  • 1
    hello, consider editing the question to make it better fit site topics laid out in help center. In particular, this guidance may help to learn what is expected of questions here. Good luck!
    – gnat
    Aug 16 '15 at 23:52
  • I believe others in the retail industry are aware of this. Whether it's actionable, and whether the store owner wants to take action, is another question.
    – keshlam
    Aug 17 '15 at 0:06
  • 18
    You could have filed sexual assault charges against that customer, and probably still can. Sadly what you can/should do here is really legal advice which has been declared off topic Aug 17 '15 at 1:49
  • 16
    I'm pretty sure what you describe is technically assault, and thus illegal. If your manager refuses to help you, you should report to someone higher up. If still nothing is done, find on the internet where/how to make an official complaint to the government's labor department. Your employer is legally obligated to provide you with a safe work environment, and that certainly does not qualify as safe.
    – Kai
    Aug 17 '15 at 14:15
  • 8
    You handled it just fine; you're manager's response was inexcusable. Sep 20 '15 at 12:03

I would suggest you Google around for information and support groups. I searched for "sexual harrassment by customer support retail" and found (this question and) several interesting resources.

In legal terms, pages such as the one at this link state that "Employers are liable for sexual harassment by customers." This was also my immediate thought and gut reaction when reading your account: Your employer violated your trust and failed completely to provide a safe working environment for you, and that person (and probably the company policy) needs some re-education, because you were abused just as severely, if in a different way, by your apathetic numbskull manager. And, you have legal rights. You may have a very strong case against them, even though it's been three years, if you can get statements from other employees or witnesses. As an "upscale grocery store", they would also have vested interest in you not mentioning this in public, to the media or advocacy groups or on-line petitions.

On the other hand, going any of those routes might burn bridges with the store and possibly make your own name fairly infamous. Our legal system is often a gamble and isn't great at delivering justice to women or children versus male perpetrators with jobs. But still, the company should be smart enough to get that they should be trying to take good care of you so it doesn't get ugly for them. (And sometimes it works out pretty well - from that same link: "Recent Case Results For Sexual Harassment By Customers: $225,000 for verbal and physical sexual harassment in a retail environment")

If your main goal is to have a safe workplace for you and others, and shift the culture we have that has people be numbskulls like the two clods in your story, then you might want to be looking more for organizations which already have that goal, possibly sharing with them on condition of anonymity and giving them information about your specific workplace so that they can approach your company with concerns.


This is clearly sexual harassment and it should not be swept under the rug. File a formal complaint ( 3 years later it is more about your managers response than the customer ) through the company system or through your union (if there is one). Since the manager did not respond appropriately you can go to the next level up or the HR dept. You are not only looking after yourself, but hopefully helping the next employee that has a similar experience. Good luck.

  • 2
    This is bordering on assault in my opinion. Sexual harassment is a bit mild considering the ordeal described above. Jan 2 '17 at 12:43
  • 3
    @BurhanKhalid This is not bordering. This is sexual assault.
    – Peter M
    Jan 2 '17 at 17:42

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