Former retail clerk sues Urban Outfitters for sexual harassment

Posted in Sexual Harassment on August 18, 2014

We have previously written that employers have a legal duty to respond to complaints of sexual harassment and protect employees who have been harassed. It ultimately does not matter if the harassment is perpetrated by another employee or a customer.

Unfortunately, there are countless examples of employees who have been repeatedly harassed by customers and had their complaints fall on deaf ears. In some cases, victims are even made to feel as though the sexual harassment was their fault or that they are overreacting.

A particularly egregious example is a lawsuit filed against the clothing retailer Urban Outfitters. The plaintiff is a Los Angeles woman who relocated to New York and worked in the high-profile Urban Outfitters location on Fifth Avenue.

In her lawsuit, the 25-year-old woman alleges that she was sexually harassed by customers on numerous occasions, with harassment sometimes rising to the level of physical assault. Despite the fact that the store has fulltime security guards, they allegedly refused to call police and did little to stop the harassment save for ushering customers out of the store.

For complaining about the harassment and the lack of response to it, the plaintiff was allegedly reassigned to a cold stock room in retaliation. One guard also began searching her before she left at night, claiming he needed to “avoid internal theft.”

Things became so bad that she eventually felt compelled to quit. In employment law, this is referred to as constructive discharge. It is generally understood (by reasonable people) that although the employee quit, their decision to do so was more forced than voluntary.

Each of us has the right to feel safe at work. We should not have to fear harassment from coworkers or customers. When companies fail to protect their employees and respond to sexual harassment claims, they may be held liable in court.

Source: New York Daily News, “Former Urban Outfitters clerk said hipster shop turned blind eye to sexual harassment,” Rikki Reyna and Dareh Gregorian, Aug. 11, 2014