Sexual harassment can be a tremendous liability in the workplace if not addressed properly. In a medical office environment it can have disastrous effects on both employee retention and patient care. Addressing the issue and implementing protocol to handle claims is essential. Creating an environment where employees can work without being harassed is fundamental. Making employees feel comfortable and ensuring that they are aware that they can report an incident-free of retaliation are key roles for the medical office manager.
As the office manager, it’s important to understand that many people may not know what constitutes harassment in the office. Sometimes it can be hard to identify. What is offensive to one person may not be to another. Employees must know where to draw the line. However, before they can, it is essential for them to comprehend what sexual harassment is and why it is not tolerated in the workplace environment.
What is Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) clearly defines sexual harassment in the workplace as inappropriate or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature. Both the victim and the individual that is doing the harassing can be male or female. Other workplace behaviors such as off-color jokes, suggestions, queries, inappropriate text messages, voicemail messages, and email can also constitute an act of harassment.
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, it is the responsibility of the employer to eliminate workplace harassment. Failure to do so can result in a violation or even worse, possible litigation. There are many different ways to address and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. When handling a reported incident, a medical office manager’s professional attitude and a keen awareness of the practice’s responsibilities will aid in helping to properly address the issue. In addition, employers must be aware of the overall conduct that contributes to the office atmosphere. It is also their responsibility to ensure employees know sexual harassment will not be tolerated.
Writing a Policy for Your Medical Practice
For many medical offices, it is best to start with a strong sexual harassment policy. Clearly state your organization’s commitment to a discrimination-free work environment and stress those behaviors that will not be tolerated. For best results, the policy should include the following:
- Mandatory sexual harassment training for all new and existing employees. In addition, outline disciplinary actions for those not in compliance.
- A statement outlining offensive behaviors including actions, jokes, words, comments, or literature based on sex, race, ethnicity, age, religion, or any other protected class. Be specific and give examples.
- Proper reporting procedures should an incident occur. Employees submitting a harassment incident report are required to do so within 30 calendar days of the event. It is imperative that the report include dates, times, places, names and the claimant’s signature.
- A comprehensive list of disciplinary actions for any employee that engages in sexual harassment.
Manage Challenging Issues in the Medical Practice
Learn how to navigate and manage challenging issues like sexual harassment when you enroll in the CMOM certification. Get insights on the curriculum and advance your career in medical office management.