Does anyone out there have a firm policy on what to do when patrons show an interest in your staff that makes them uncomfortable?  I always tell my Guards to ask them politely but firmly to stop talking to them, citing that it is distracting them from their duties.  But we've recently had a patron that is in his 60's or 70's showing a less than healthy interest in one of our High School Lifeguards; asking her and other Guards about her personal life, making comments about her appearance to her, other Guards, and other patrons.

I'm very protective of my staff because A) They don't deserve to be made uncomfortable on the job because the duty uniform required is a bathing suit and B) An uncomfortable Lifeguard is a distracted Lifeguard.  I'm working on a written policy to give Lifeguards and Supervisors on how to proceed if a patron behaves in a manner that the staff find aggressive or inappropriate and was hoping that someone already had one they wouldn't mind sharing.


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My policy is basically, minimal conversation is allowed " good are you doing are swimming well.." or any question a patron has....Beside that I tell the staff to say "my supervisor wants us keep focus on water and safety"....

If the person keeps talking for long time, I will be often on pool deck to make clear the situation is not acceptable. 

I agree with you that having physically fit young people in bathing suits presents its own challenge in protecting thier innocence at times.  To that end, I do practice some controls like NOT having any clothing with logos on the rear end as part of the uniform. Staff professionalism and the tone set by us as managers goes a very long way to keeping this sort of drama to a minimum. Sounds like you have a decent system for general issues but this one man needs to be redirected personally.

A few years back one senior male who had been a pool patron for over 20 years here began to infringe on the personal space of female guards looking for hugs.  I wrote him a letter stating that we appreciated his patronage and long history with our facility, but that his friendliness pushed the limits of the professional distance we require between staff and patrons at the pool. I explained that some acts of kindness and displays of affection that may have been acceptable in our society's past are no longer, and can create an uncomfortable environment for other patrons and / or for the lifeguards and that I would appreciate his cooperation in restablishing that distance to help us provide the professional lifeguard services he should expect us to provide. The behavior cleared up after that and he continued to use the facility with appropriate interactions for some time afterward until he became ill.

Good luck and good lookin out for your staff.

I like where Jeanne-Marie is going with her follow-up letter.  It has seemed to work in that situation.  I am concerned when that inappropriate behavior becomes sexual predatory behavior.  Do you have a stepped enforcement procedure?  When do you bring in the police?

I would propose a stepped approach (depending on the seriousness of the situation)

1.  Verbal intervention by the deck supervisor or pool manager.

2.  Written intervention, with copy for the file, and/or the legal department.  Written intervention should have a copy to the police, depending on the severity.

3.  Written intervention with a request to refrain from using the pool.

4.  Call the police.

Any of these steps could easily be repeated, skipped or combined, depending on the situation.  This should work for anyone with behavior problems. Enforcement for kids would involve the parents (at least after step 1).

The initial example appears to be restricted to interest in one individual.  I think the interest in a specific individual is probably more serious than the older gentleman wanting hugs from any female employee, but both have the potential to be very serious issues.  Might the individual interest lead to stalking activities outside your facility (follow girl home, or to her car, etc.), or where you might not be watching closely enough? (Of course, Mr. Hugger might also follow someone home, or to their car.) 

I think the close management supervision of the pool is great, often stopping inappropriate activities before they get to the serious stage.  I think this is a great in-service topic with the lifeguards.  The in-service should address what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior and also address what to do when a bather is inappropriately interested in another bather.  I hope you all have procedures to address these: surveillance, what to watch for, who to notify about it, when do you restrict that individual's pool access, and when do you bring law enforcement.

Discuss what is appropriate vs. inappropriate behavior.  This could include activities seemingly normal people often do in the pool.  Things that the guards feel uncomfortable with is usually a good place to start.  It will help the guards cope and deal with it.  Some situations you might encounter is: sex in the pool, breastfeeding (a very controversial topic, and ones that young guards need trained as to what they can legally say and do.), from touching to wrestling (disguised touching) with others, child, spousal, or elder abuse, stealing swim suits (off swimmers in particular); also what is normal romantic behavior (what you don't want to see as well as acceptable behavior), bullying, etc.  I know all of these things, and more, occurred at my pool when I was still a young lifeguard. 

I would have welcomed some direction on these topics way back then.  Some of the memories, of the situations I had to handle, I still find quite embarrassing; for me, as a teen, as well as even now, when I shouldn't even remember them!  I don't think I handled them inappropriately, but the experiences stuck with me.  Knowing what to say and do, would have made me much more comfortable.

Some of my more memorable moments as a young male lifeguard were:

Interest of an older woman,  and also, early teen women;

Bullying of a very well-developed young girl, by boys her age. (age 11)

Informing a 14-year old that part of her very loose bikini had fallen-off going off the diving board, many times.

Figuring how to deal with a naked teen, in the pool, who had her suit taken by others.  We didn't get the suit back and we had to remove her diplomatically from the pool (We had no large towels available).  We were mostly successful getting her to the locker room using kickboards

Same sex interest in me (this was 40 years ago, when this was frowned upon)

Elder abuse by middle-aged daughter

Blatant breastfeeding (now legal in some states, but usually accepted (or should be accepted) in pools in many states

Sexually inappropriate behavior with young children (Sexual Sociopath).

Stalking of a young high school-aged woman by a former, but somewhat older, boyfriend.  (Not me, silly!)

Speaking with adults about unacceptable behavior about themselves or their children (beyond just calling them down).


[NOTE:  Most of the situations involve sexual behavior lifeguard-age teens would have trouble talking to someone about, or dealing with the situation.  I don't think these have changed much.  (Or maybe I was the one that should have been watched!).  These are some of the things I wish we had pre-discussed before having to deal with them.]

Make your own list of embarrassing moments in situations you have dealt with as a lifeguard and be sure you cover them in in-service training, as well.  I think most of these situations could apply to either sex if the names were changed to protect the innocent.


Great thread going here.  : )

Thanks Stephen. A lot of topics you bring up depend on the activities and populations using a particular pool. Definitely consider the scenarios that could arise in any of your usual situations from the mundane to the ridiculously serious. For example: simple instructional activities like school trips, camp groups, lessons etc. be clear when you lay out ground rules along with the usual pool orientation:  Expanded "personal space" (which every school child knows) at the pool means your hands, eyes, and comments are kept to yourself.


Great response Stephen!  I may add that failure to take steps to address the issue could result ultimately in a claim of third-party sexual harassment. This could occur when patrons harass staff, management knows about it and then fails to address the situation.  Liability can be imposed if an employer knows or should have known of the harassing conduct and then failed to take immediate corrective action. 

A good article that highlights some of the common questions can be found at:

First, we do not have a specific policy in our facility, although I am now thinking we may need to develop one now!

I agree with all of the comments so far.  Based on the information you gave, this could be sexual harassment (especially the comments about the guard's appearance).  As Shawn stated, you, as the supervisor, need to address it or you/your employer could be held liable.  I agree with your statement that guards need to tell patrons that they can not talk to patrons, but this likely goes well beyond a simple conversation. Expecting a teenage girl to address a 60 year old male about his conduct towards her is unrealistic and unlikely to be effective.

I agree with Jean-Marie, write a letter to this man describing his conduct and how it must change if he would like to continue to use the facility.  If possible, work with a lawyer (depending on your situation) to draft the letter.  Send the letter with receipt confirmation so you have proof he received it.  Talk with the police and possibly check the Sexual Offenders Registry's to see if he has a history.

This may seem over the top, but in this day and age, you can not take chances.  Hard to make a complete judgement based on your  description of what is happening, but I would encourage you to least send the letter to start a paper trail.  If you decide to talk in person, follow up with a letter summarizing the conversation and what the two of you agreed upon.

Tough situation, but one that needs to be addressed.  Better to be extra cautious than have a more serious situation develop if you don't address it.

Thats crazy I just an 80 year old man hit on one of my guards but found out she wasn't young enough for him.We really don't have a policy in place about that but that is a wonderful idea to come up with one. Could you please send me a copy of whatever policy you come up with.


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