Could You Be Liable If a Customer Harasses Your Employee?
Employers must address sexual harassment by customers in addition to harassment by other employers. Courts can hold employers accountable if they fail to take reasonable actions to prohibit a hostile work environment and protect an employee. While the “customer is always right” is a maxim that people in business try to follow, under these circumstances the customer is not right.
EEOC v. Costco Wholesale Corp.
A case in point is the EEOC v. Costco Wholesale Corp. case. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reviewed the case and in 2018 ruled in favor of the EEOC.
A customer stalked a Costco employee for over a year. The employee reported the stalking to her managers. However, because the managers did not believe the harassment was severely sexual in nature, they did not take stronger actions quickly enough to prevent it. After some time, Costco did tell the customer to leave the employee alone. In fact, Costco eventually banned the customer from the store where the employee worked. However, these actions were taken after constant encounters that lasted over more than a year where the customer repeatedly stalked the employee. He constantly asked her personal questions, touched her on several occasions and then came in disguise to observe her and later on, even took a video of her.
After her third interaction with the customer, the employee filed a police report about the stalking. Subsequently, the police called the Assistant General Manager about the report, and as a result he yelled at the employee and told her to be nice to the customer. The police interviewed the customer but did not charge or arrest him. Even so, a report was filed about the customer’s stalking. More than a year later, after numerous encounters, the employee secured a Stalking No Contact Order against the customer that prohibited him from approaching her at her residence or place of employment for 21 days. When the order expired she renewed it, and the order was in effect for a year.
After more than a year of stalking, the employee went on medical leave, at which point the general manager investigated and sent the customer a notification that they were aware of the employee’s complaints. The general manager directed the customer to shop at a different Costco store, one that was equidistant from his home.
The Appellate Court’s Finding
Under the Illinois Stalking No Contact Order Act, the appellate court concluded that the customer had violated the act through his behavior and had caused “emotional distress” and “significant mental suffering, anxiety or alarm.” The customer had in fact also violated the no-contact order. (Keep in mind that New York also has a stalking law that prohibits stalking.)
Costco did not argue that it failed to take reasonable steps to bring the harassment to an end, and therefore, the court did not address it.
Our attorneys at Stephen Hans & Associates have decades of experience representing employers in work-related issues.
Avoiding Scams that Target Seniors
With a new wave of technology, scamming is at an all-time high, especially for senior citizens. In what has become known as an “imposter scam” or a “grandparent scam,” cons pretend to be a loved one in need, such as a grandchild. As any good grandparent knows, they will immediately help a loved one in need, usually sending cash via mail. However, it is just a scam. According to the Federal Trade Commission, up to 25 percent of people over 70 sent cash to loved ones when they were in need. Furthermore, the median amount of money sent was an astounding $9,000. However, this can be avoided. The first step to ensuring the safety and actual needs of your family members is to call them back, immediately. Call their direct phone number and simply ask “Are you actually in trouble.” This might seem easy, but it is often difficult to think rationally when you believe a family member is in trouble. Thus, you should look out for red flags associated with scams. These red flags include the scammer asking for personal information, i.e. credit card or Social Security numbers, passwords, or account logins. There are many forms of scams these days, such as Phishing Scams, Prescriptions Scams, Email Fraud, and Lottery Scams. We have outlined these for you so you can best safeguard yourself from dangerous financial situations.
The first and most common scam is known as a phishing scam. Phishing scams are usually fake calls made to seem legitimate, such as posing as a representative of a bank or Medicare. For instance, scammers pretend to be health insurance representatives, but they’re really fishing or “phishing” for your personal information, such as your Social Security number or Insurance ID. By gaining your information, scammers are able to bill various services, such as Medicare, for fake purposes and then keep the money that is sent. One way to combat these phishing scams is simply by hanging up. By hanging up, you can then contact the service that is allegedly contacting you to verify it is the actual company. Furthermore, it is imperative you hang up on any individual who is asking for personal information over the phone. There is virtually no situation in which you will receive a call from a legitimate company and must provide your login passwords or social security number.
Prescription Drug Scams
Another common scam involves fake prescription drug scams. These have become rampant on the internet with the rise of medicine prices throughout the country. Read More
As previously stated, the rise of technology has created a multitude of new ways for scammers to operate. One of these ways involve email scams. Email scammers often try to scare you by saying something was stolen or that you have won a prize. They will even provide links for you to find out what was “stolen” or what you have “won.” In order to avoid this scam, you should never click a link provided. Rather, you should go to the actual company’s website and sign in how you normally would. Some common signs of a scam email are a blank “to” field, bad grammar, or poor spelling. Finally, be wary of emails that simply say “Hello.” The majority of genuine emails will include your name, not just a blanket statement saying “Hello.” Additionally, you should consider installing an antivirus software on your computer. This will help prevent damage in case a malicious email is opened by mistake.
Finally, everyone, senior citizens and millenials alike, should be wary of lottery scams. This scam usually involves a mailing, via email or traditional mail, saying you have won the lottery and by submitting a flat fee of x dollars, you can claim your money. Read More
Information obtained by an article written by Kristen Castillo; Castillo, K (2018) ‘How to outsmart scammers’, Creators, Special-Sections, Golden Years
Selling Links from High Profile Websites and Other Unethical Practices
Internet ethics is coming into the media spotlight as an increasing number of deceptive practices have arisen. There’s no question that the Internet is a new frontier. Just as the Old West had gunslingers and lawless characters, you find the same thing happening today with the worldwide web.
One of the most recent scams is selling links from high profile websites to boost SEO value for a customer’s website.
BuzzFeed News recently published an article about underground marketers selling high profile links. In fact, the article gave some shocking examples.
Patricia Disney’s Memorial Site
A former Walt Disney executive, Roy Disney, had a first wife named Patricia who passed away in 2012. In recognition of her philanthropic activities, her memorial site at WeLovePatty.com enabled viewers to make charity donations in memory of her. While the domain still exists, Patty’s memorial page is gone. In fact, after her family quit paying for the domain name, unscrupulous marketers bought the domain and sold it. The domain now forwards to blaze4days.com where you see a cannabis site promoting its products.
The same thing has happened with other prominent links from Forbes, The New York Times, The Guardian, CNN, BBC and well-known news media sites.
Using a former site’s domain in this way is an example of black hat SEO.
What Is Black Hat SEO?
Black hat SEO is a coined word that describes unethical SEO practices. More specifically, a developer or web marketing company engages in practices that violate search engine guidelines. They do so with the purpose of boosting SEO rankings.
The article also gave an example of an unethical web practice that created fake websites or wrote false content to cover up a client’s criminal background. A company did this for Adrian Rubin, a convicted payday loan scammer. They used his name and created numerous fake online personalities to help him hide his criminal conviction online.
This, however, is not the same tactic as redirecting links.
An even more nefarious practice, designed to ruin a web company’s marketing is redirecting the domain to a web page containing malware. Malware is software designed to harm or access a computer system without the owner’s permission. When web viewers arrive at the page and see Google’s malware warning notice, they can’t click away fast enough.
A specific malware example is unauthorized use of keylogger software. Keylogger is spyware that captures the computer user’s keystrokes. Installing a keylogger without the user’s knowledge or consent is illegal. Even worse, criminals can use a keylogger to capture logins and steal the person’s identity.
White Hat SEO
It’s our firm policy at Web Perseverance to educate and warn clients against black hat SEO and help them understand its opposite — what white hat SEO is. White hat SEO is a term that refers to SEO practices, which are in compliance with search engine rules and policies. We can help you attract website visitors through white hat, or standard SEO, web design and development practices. We can also effectively market your site by writing engaging web content.
Web Perseverance is a web marketing company. We help businesses create strategic and productive marketing on the Internet
Directing the Website Viewer’s Attention
Negative space refers to the space surrounding the main subject/object in an image, picture or photograph. Artists have long known that negative space can make the subject stand out or get lost.
On the other hand, positive space refers to the space the subject/object occupies.
Achieving a balance between positive and negative space that is aesthetically pleasing is what graphic designers and artists typically aim for. Also, when marketing your product, there are main images and text that you want as the main focus. They should grab most of your viewer’s attention.
Positive Space to the Extreme
Some puzzles, such as the game “Where’s Waldo?” are great examples of positive space taken to the extreme. Below is an example where you can see how the items the girl is trying to find have gotten lost in the pile of objects occupying the positive space.
How Negative Space Can Create a Dramatic Effect that Draws Attention
In contrast, putting a solid dark background around the subject/object can make the object stand out and completely engage the viewer’s attention.
Here’s an example:
You can almost taste the chocolate and ice cream melting in your mouth.
Variation Can Break Up a Sea of Text
Have you ever opened up a website that was a sea of text? Paragraphs and paragraphs of text or long paragraphs with little to no variation are what we’re referring to here. The amount of text is overwhelming and sends viewers clicking away to other websites.
Through the use of different paragraph sizes, subheads, bullet points and varying fonts, interspaced with images and empty space you can transform a boring sea of text. The page can evoke emotions in the viewer that they will associate with the product.
Colors can also add variety that makes a design element stand out. The call to action “Contact Us” button created in a different accent color creates a contrast with other elements on the page and can jump out at the viewer.
How Cramming in a Few More Messages Can Ruin the Layout and Focus
All too often, clients want to cram in one more money making message. They see “wasted” space and want to be sure all of it is used. Unfortunately, when a boatload of messages hit a viewer all at once, viewers feel bombarded. They typically click away without grasping any of the messages. Hence the saying: “Sometimes less is more.”
What website is in your world of imagination?
Web Perseverance is a web marketing company. We help businesses create strategic and productive marketing on the Internet.
Breaking it Down – the New Sexual Harassment Laws in New York
As of October 9, 2019, Employees are more protected from discrimination in New York than ever before, and Employers are subjected to new standards of which they must be familiar to protect themselves from the flood of litigation that will surely follow. How so? Thanks to a number of broadly protective legislative changes, anti-harassment laws in New York State now encompass all protected classes under the New York Human Rights Law, not only sexual harassment cases. These protected classes include discrimination based on an employee’s age, race, color, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, criminal record, amongst others.
The Burden of Proof for a Hostile Work Environment Has Changed, and it is Decidedly Pro-Employee
The Old Standard – Severe and Pervasive
In the past, to succeed in a claim based upon a hostile work environment, an employee suing an employer for discrimination had to prove that harassment was “severe and pervasive.” Under any stretch of the imagination, this was a touch standard to satisfy in a Court of law. An unwanted sexual attack or repeated discriminatory comments made over a period of months to an employee based on their protected class would be obvious examples of severe acts sufficient to satisfy this old standard. Read More
The New Standard – Petty Slights and Trivial Inconveniences
Now that the new anti-harassment laws are in effect, the burden of proof has changed from this old standard of “severe and pervasive” discriminatory conduct to the new standard of “rising above petty slights and trivial inconveniences.” An affirmative defense for an employer is to prove that “the harassing conduct does not rise above the level of what a reasonable victim of discrimination with the same protected characteristic would consider petty slights or trivial inconveniences.” This is a huge change in the burden of proof that will invariably open the floodgates of litigation in cases that were historically brought under the Federal anti-discrimination statute, Title VII. Now, employees will be empowered to bring their claims under the new laws in New York State without the necessity of first exhausting their administrative remedies with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a prerequisite to commencing an action in Federal Court. Read More
As always, we at The Van De Water Law Firm is your local resource for all your legal needs, including prosecuting and defending claims of discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace. Call now for a free evaluation and consultation at (631) 923-1314, or email us at Chris@VDWLawFirm.com. You can also visit us on the web.