Sexual Harassment in Nursing And Healthcare
Sexual harassment in the workplace is any unwanted or unwelcome behavior of sexual nature that is offensive to the person involved and causes that person to be threatened, humiliated, and embarrassed. Sexual harassment is more frequent in certain professions, especially nursing and the healthcare field. For example, many nurses throughout their career will likely experience unwanted approaches, inappropriate comments or jokes, or even physical contact.
The rate at which nurses are sexually harassed throughout their careers is high. They are sexually harassed by patients, patients’ families, physicians, and other coworkers. It’s affecting their mental, physical, emotional, social, and psychological health. Nurses should feel safe and comfortable in their work environment and shouldn’t fear reporting these types of inappropriate incidents.
With offices in Red Bank, NJ, and Marlton, NJ, the experienced sexual harassment lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. help nurses throughout New Jersey that have been the victim of harassment at work.
How Serious Is The Problem?
A study of U.S academic medical faculty members showed that around 30-40% of women in healthcare experienced some sort of sexual harassment at some point in their career, and those who reported it received negative consequences about their jobs.
According to a survey conducted by Medcape, 11% of nurses, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners had experienced sexual harassment ranging from leering to sexual comments, to offering promotions in exchange for sexual favors. According to this same survey, almost half of the perpetrators were physicians, more than half never reported the issue, and almost 80% of those who stayed silent were residents.
Nurses and other healthcare professionals should never feel they cannot come forward about the sexual harassment they have experienced due to workplace retaliation. If you have experienced sexual harassment at your job, and are also experiencing retaliation for reporting it, reach out to one of our experienced sexual harassment lawyers today to protect your career.
Types of Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment can take many forms, and it’s important to know what they are in case these actions occur. Sexual harassment may include unwelcome verbal, visual, nonverbal, or physical conduct that is of a sexual nature, inappropriate, or makes you feel uncomfortable in any way. The physical form of sexual harassment can be touching, fondling, hugging, or kissing. Verbal harassment can include sexually offensive comments or jokes, inappropriate invitations to go out on a date, intrusive offensive questions about your private life, or physical appearance. Nonverbal forms are inappropriate or intimidating stares, being shown sexually explicit photos, or being forced to watch inappropriate videos.
The Effects of Sexual Harassment on Nurses
Nurses who experience sexual harassment could also develop mental, physical, emotional, and psychological issues as well. Nurses can also face workplace retaliation when reporting sexual harassment to their supervisors, which could lead to termination or a lowered opportunity for advancement in their careers. Anyone that suffers from sexual harassment is likely to develop anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, headaches, weight loss or weight gain, lowered self-esteem, and sexual dysfunction.
What Should Employees Do If They Feel Sexually Harassed?
Under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) and other federal statutes, your employer has a responsibility to prevent, investigate, and properly address sexual harassment complaints. If you have been subjected to harassment, the individual harasser and your employer may be responsible for compensating your economic damages as well as pain & suffering.
If harassment occurs, it is important to take detailed notes. This documentation can help with your sexual harassment claim. These records should include details such as:
- The nature of the harassment.
- When the harassment took place.
- Who was involved?
- The location of the harassment.
- If there were any witnesses.
In addition to keeping records of the harassment, it is also important to take the following actions:
- Tell the harasser that their actions are making you uncomfortable and ask them to stop.
- If the harassment continues, inform your manager and consult your employee handbook for information about formal complaints.
- Consult a New Jersey sexual harassment lawyer.
Employers’ Responsibility To Ensure A Safe Work Environment
As with a number of other industries, the #MeToo movement has brought attention to the issue and the need for reform in the field. Employers in healthcare have a number of legal responsibilities when it comes to preventing, detecting, and remedying sexual harassment in order to ensure a safe work environment. This includes ensuring that there is a zero-tolerance policy which includes written protocols as well as:
- Prominently placed patients’ rights statements
- Training programs
- Systems and methodology in place that allows for patients to report their complaints
- Means of educating everyone regarding what is harassment and what will not be tolerated
- Quick response to any and all reported incidents that includes a thorough, unbiased investigation that goes through HR and is kept confidential
- Range of sanctions that are appropriate based on the behavior involved and consistently, equally applied to all staff
If You Have Experienced Sexual Harassment in Nursing, Contact Our New Jersey Sexual Harassment Attorneys
Depending upon the circumstances and severity of what occurred, civil litigation with claims for substantial damages, criminal prosecution, and licensing actions may result from sexual harassment in nursing, hospitals and other healthcare settings. If you have been the victim of sexual harassment in a hospital or other healthcare setting, or are experiencing workplace retaliation for reporting sexual harassment, contact the attorneys of McOmber McOmber & Luber today to protect your career today.