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Healthcare and Harassment

#employment May 30, 2024

By Brian Levy

Sexual Harassment and Discrimination: An Ongoing Challenge

In today’s society, the distressing persistence of sexual harassment and discrimination within the healthcare sector—a field dedicated to the well-being and care of others—seems ridiculous. A troubling study from 2017 revealed that over 80% of nearly 900 surveyed physical therapists, predominantly women, reported experiencing sexual harassment and violence at work. This issue remains prevalent, particularly between female caregivers and male patients, with the odds of harassment increasing dramatically when treating male patients.

The glaring lack of sexual harassment and diversity training is a significant contributing factor to these persistent issues. Despite years of advocating for robust harassment policies and comprehensive employee training, the situation remains unchanged.

Persistent Issues 

Recent studies reveal that sexual harassment and workplace discrimination remain rampant among OB-GYN professionals. Reports indicate that up to 70.9% of female gynecologic oncologists and 69.1% of OB-GYN trainees have faced harassment. Additionally, mistreatment during OB-GYN rotations is alarmingly common, affecting about one-quarter of surveyed medical students. Unfortunately, interventions to reduce harassment have shown little efficacy, underscoring the need for more effective, institution-wide approaches.

Disability discrimination is also a pressing issue in the pharmaceutical industry. A UK survey revealed that 40% of disabled pharmacists felt excluded, underemployed, or unemployed due to their disability. Moreover, 70% reported inadequate accommodations, and over half experienced workplace discrimination, primarily from managers and colleagues.

Annual Training and Robust Policies

Healthcare workers experienced frequent sexual harassment, with half choosing not to report it due to fear of being perceived as over-sensitive, distrust in the reporting process, and skepticism about their employer's response. Even in remote locations like Antarctica, harassment and assault are significant problems, with a majority of female employees reporting such experiences. 

The legal repercussions of failing to address these issues are evident. The EEOC recently sued a medical care clinic for firing an employee on her first day due to her disability, highlighting the ongoing challenges faced by disabled workers.

These issues are not isolated in the Health Care Sector. While some progress has been made—such as a reported decline in sexual assaults among active-duty service members—significant work remains. The military's efforts suggest that persistent and well-supported interventions can make a difference.

What Can Your Organization Do?

At the Lynch Law Firm, we have a proven track record of creating company-specific employee training and robust policies to combat sexual harassment and discrimination. We urge all organizations to:

  1. Review and Update Policies: Ensure that your company's policies on sexual harassment and discrimination are comprehensive, up-to-date, and effectively communicated to all employees.

  2. Invest in Training: Regularly train management and staff on recognizing, preventing, and addressing harassment and discrimination. Practical training can create a safer and more inclusive workplace. Additionally, your company’s training and policies are often Exhibit 1A in responding to employee allegations during administrative investigations and in litigation.

  3. Foster an Inclusive Culture: Promote a workplace culture that values diversity and inclusion, where employees feel safe to report incidents without fear of retaliation.

Taking these steps can help create a safer, more respectful environment for your organization’s employees. Our firm is here to assist you in developing and implementing these crucial policies and training programs. Contact us today to ensure your workplace remains compliant and supportive of all its members.