When sexual harassment is taking place in a medical practice, it can have devastating effects. Every office should have a strict protocol for addressing claims. Alleged victims need to know that their claims are taken seriously and will be fully investigated, says Michelle Goodwine, CEO, Diversity Advice Consultants.
Michelle has investigated and mediated hundreds of sexual harassment reports as a manager for the Texas Workforce Commission’s Civil Right Division. Previously, she investigated sexual harassment and discrimination complaints for the New York State Department of Health.
She says sexual harassment allegations can have far-reaching effects not only for those directly involved, but also in workplace retention and decline in patient care. Settlement costs can be devastating. One health care-related case involved a female pharmaceutical sales person who reported to the partners of a medical practice that one of its physicians had verbally harassed her on numerous occasions. She also claimed the physician touched her inappropriately. When the partners did not take any action to address her claims, she filed a lawsuit. The case was settled for $225,000. The medical practice also had $45,000 in legal costs.
In another case, a woman who worked in a medical practice as a nutritionist filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging that the medical director created a hostile environment by showing her nude pictures of male patients, propositioning her for sex on numerous occasions, and commenting about her body on a regular basis. The investigation found that there was sufficient evidence that the sexual harassment claims were true.
Michelle says that incident claims should never be swept under a rug. Coworkers should feel comfortable speaking up if they witness sexual harassment. A person reporting sexual harassment needs know that he or she can make a claim without fear of retaliation. More importantly, it should be clear that sexual harassers, regardless of their position, will be disciplined.
Keep Current on Sexual Harassment Prevention
Training for everyone employed in your office can help ensure your employees are protected. Medical Office Managers can now stay current on sexual harassment prevention when they enroll in the online Certified Medical Office Manager program. The first module discusses special issues like age, religious, and genetic information discrimination, Americans With Disabilities Act, and Sexual Harassment. Enroll in CMOM today and learn how to manage complex issues in the medical practice.