How Should You Respond to a Racist or Sexist Customer?

by Evil HR Lady on November 29, 2017

You know not to tolerate an employee who uses a racial epithet or makes a sexual advance toward a co-worker. You’d involve HR, and use progressive discipline, upt to and including termination. It’s not acceptable. But what do you do when a client who crosses the line?

This is a serious problem facing every company that deals with the public. Even rude people need technicians to come to their houses or businesses to fix or install equipment.

In some customer service settings, such as call centers, dealing with inappropriate customers can be straightforward. Calls are recorded, so employees can easily escalate unsavory remarks to a supervisor, or simply disconnect the call. The recording serves as proof of what actually occurred.

In the field, it’s not so easy.It’s your tech’s word against the customer’s — and the customer is always right, right?

To keep reading, click here: How Should You Respond to a Racist or Sexist Customer?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathy November 29, 2017 at 6:17 pm

Thanks for addressing this awkward subject. It’s nasty as a woman in tech to put up with a sexist customer because you fear that if you ask him to stop it will harm the relationship and your job will be at risk.


Goober November 29, 2017 at 8:08 pm

It’s nice to know that federal law handles this.

I live in California, which is far stricter. I have no direct reports, but still have to go through the sexual harassment training every two years. We are taught that we are required to protect employees from *all* forms of (illegal) harassment, from *all* sources, be it supervisors, coworkers, delivery drivers, the UPS guy, and, yes, customers. And not just the company is liable, so is everyone, personally, in any kind of management position, who fails to act.

(It’s all done online now, which is cheaper. It was better in the old days, when the trial lawyer from the HR consulting firm would do it live. He had . . . war stories, that often ended with a manager being “perp walked” out in handcuffs.)

As the old cliché goes, 80% of your problems are caused by 20% of your customers, and if you get rid of that 20%, you’ll double your profits. In retail, the *only* asset a company has that’s of any real value is employees. Everything else is insured, and easily replaced.


Maria Rose November 29, 2017 at 9:14 pm

Like the other 2 comments, it is nice to know that the law also covers harassment by customers, especially those individuals who use the customer is always right no matter. Totally agree elimination of these selective few individuals will benefit the whole company overall. It is a good way to gauge how the company reacts to harassment by customers which effects employees.


Interested Bystander November 30, 2017 at 7:21 pm

I have a curiosity question – What if the person who is a racist is of a minority race and hates white people? Does their racism still allow you to fire them regardless of their minority status?


Evil HR Lady November 30, 2017 at 7:46 pm

Yep. The says no discrimination based on race. It doesn’t say no discrimination against non-whites.


Arrow December 3, 2017 at 9:51 pm

The best company I worked for allowed phone reps to hang up on rude customers. You had to warn the customer once, and if the abuse continued then you needed to say “I explained that I would not tolerate further abusive behavior. I’m going to hang up and document this conversation in your record.”
The company believed that abusive customers cost more time and money than well behaved customers. No reason to keep them.


Julie December 4, 2017 at 11:22 pm

I did this once to an employee’s CPA when he started swearing at me. It’s amazing how nice people can be when you threaten to end the call!


Julie December 4, 2017 at 11:24 pm

The providers where I work will absolutely terminate a patient if they are rude or threatening to any employees. Usually they talk to them and give them a warning, but if it happens again, they are sent a letter stating they have 30 days to find a new provider as the relationship will be severed.

It’s very important for businesses to protect their employees from all forms of harassment, whether it be from other employees, vendors or customers. Harassment is never acceptable.


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