Employer Liability for Non-Employee Behavior

01.06.2017

The state and federal anti-discrimination laws are quite strict in requiring, among other things, that employers take reasonable action to prevent discrimination against employees based on a broad range of protected categories, and to remediate quickly any discrimination that does occur. Discrimination under the law includes harassment based on any such protected categories.

On occasion an employee may be subjected to illegal discrimination or harassment from a non-employee such as a delivery person, vendor or independent contractor.  Sometimes employers are under the impression that their lack of complete authority over a non-employee eliminates their obligations to take reasonable steps to prevent and/or remediate such discrimination.  That is not the case, as the employer's duty of reasonableness never goes away, though it is affected by the circumstances of every situation. For example, if a delivery person is illegally harassing or discriminating against an employee, and the employer cannot require or convince the delivery company to re-assign that person, the employer is obligated to protect the employee in some other manner, probably by keeping the employee away from the delivery area.  

Of course, there are many other possible permutations on this issue, so we encourage you to contact us immediately if you are faced with this dilemma.