Sexual Harassment in Healthcare
The #metoo movement that started in Hollywood is making its way to other industries. But it is not stemming from a new problem. In fact, between 1995 and 2016, there were more than 170,000 sexual harassment claims filed. The healthcare industry is itself a hotbed of sexual harassment, with over 3,000 claims filed in hospitals alone. A recent JAMA study found that almost 30% of women in academic medical facilities reported having experienced sexual harassment and gender bias in the workplace. These lawsuits are not just happening in large medical institutions: even small medical practices are getting hit.
In general, workplace sexual harassment laws are more complicated than they seem. And, if you think physicians are exempt, think again. In California, “victims of sexual harassment in professional relationships” have the right to sue. Code 51.9 targets professional relationships with attorneys, teachers, therapist, and–you guessed it–doctors.
How to Protect Your Practice from Sexual Harassment Claims
1. Educate yourself.
Look up your state’s employment legislation for specific laws in your area. Then, make sure your practice is not already breaking any rules.
2. Create policies.
Declare your business a harassment-free company. Plus, add specific sexual harassment policies to your employee handbook and on-boarding documents.
3. Educate your staff.
Have a manager attend a diversity training workshop. Afterwards, have them share the information and materials with the rest of your employees.
4. Investigate any and all claims.
Legally, employers must investigate all harassment charges, even gossip. And, a victim should never receive retaliation for reporting an incident. As the employer, you should interview the alleged victim, the alleged perpetrator, and any witnesses. Be sure to document each interview.
5. Consult with an attorney.
If an employee makes a claim, it’s a good idea to get help. Contact an attorney who specializes in workplace harassment. Together you can make sure you are taking all the steps necessary to follow the law.
6. Resolve all claims.
When you have done your homework and selected a course of action, tie up the loose ends. Notify the concerned parties of any decisions or disciplinary actions in writing. Then, at a later date, follow up and interview all parties to make sure the offensive behavior has stopped.
Meanwhile, if you think you already know what sexual harassment is, or would like to learn more, take our quiz:
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