Human Resources Compliance: When Customers Cross the Line

by | Sep 16, 2009 | Blog, HR Compliance

  • Amy Letke

    Amy Newbanks Letke, SPHR, GPHR, is the Founder of Integrity HR, Inc. Amy provides workplace solutions to improve performance, reduce liability and increase profits. She is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and business owners achieve success. Contact us for more insights - 502-753-0970 or

It’s been a normal day at the First Bank and Trust.  You are getting ready to wait on your final customer and he is one of your favorites.  Dr. Jekyll comes in every Friday and asks you to deposit his check.  He is always friendly and likes to engage in small talk.  Today he is particularly cheerful.  He lays his paycheck on the counter and when you reach for it, he grabs your hand and tells you what beautiful eyes you have.  Ok, a little weird, but flattering, and you write it off to your excellent customer service skills.  While you are making the deposit, he continues to talk about how lonely he has been since his divorce and asks if you are currently seeing someone.  Then he does the unthinkable – he asks you out on a date for tomorrow night!  What do you do?

Employees are frequently faced with the dilemma of how to deal with customers who cross the line.  On the one hand, they want to retain their valued customers, but on the other, they don’t want to be subjected to inappropriate or unwanted comments.  Here are some helpful hints for employees and managers alike when good customers go bad:

  1. Speak up!  One of the first things an employee should be encouraged to do is speak to the offender and let him/her know that the behavior is unwelcome.  In the above situation, the teller could tell the customer that although she is flattered by the offer, she is not interested in a romantic relationship with him and would appreciate it if he would not ask again.  The employee should also inform the manager right away to make them aware of the situation.  This way, the manager can use their position in the Company to address the situation on behalf of the employee and can provide protection to the employee against reoccurrences or escalation of the situation.
  2. Managers: Take Action.  As agents of the company, managers need to understand that anything they know, no matter how it is learned, is considered organizational knowledge.  For example, if an employee tells his/her manager about a situation such as the one above, the manager is obligated to do something about it.  Failure to do so could mean trouble for the organization.  A manager can intervene with a customer and let them know that the behavior must stop or they will be forced to close their account.
  3. Have a Policy.  Every company should have a zero tolerance workplace harassment or professional behavior policy, even if the number of employees does not meet the threshold of coverage under federal and state harassment laws.  This will ensure that employees understand how to behave in the workplace and the company’s position on inappropriate behavior.
  4. Training, Training and More Training.  Make sure employees are well trained in the company’s workplace harassment policy.  Have employees sign an acknowledgment form stating they have received the training and place a copy in their personnel file.  This will protect the company in the event of a formal complaint.

If you need assistance with training and/or policy development, please contact us!

Submitted by Mitzi Root, PHR; Senior Human Resources Consultant, IntegrityHR, Inc.

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