Taking reasonable steps
Equal opportunity laws require shop owners and service providers to take reasonable steps to prevent discrimination and harassment. If staff unlawfully discriminates against or harasses a customer or another staff member, you could be vicariously liable as an owner if you have not taken reasonable steps. What is reasonable for a large corporation may not be reasonable for a small business.
To decide what steps are reasonable, consider the size and structure of the business, resources, industry nature, working hours, level of supervision, numbers of customers and staff, workplace culture and any history of discrimination or harassment in your business. Here are some recommended steps any business can take.
• Develop and promote a written policy that rules out discrimination and harassment.
• Make sure everyone in your business can access your policy.
• Provide your policy and other discrimination and harassment information to new staff.
• Let all your staff and customers know what is expected.
• Provide awareness training for managers and staff.
• Display a customer service charter committing to fair and honest treatment.
• Treat staff and customers fairly in all dealings with them.
• Have a policy and procedure for handling customer complaints quickly and fairly.
• Review policies regularly to keep them up to date.
• Monitor the business to make sure your policies are being applied.
• Survey customers and staff on customer service, and ask for feedback.
As an owner, ask these questions:
• Do staff know that treating customers and clients unfairly is unacceptable?
• Do you have a procedure for handling customer complaints if they arise?
• Do you know where to get help?