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Sexual harassment common in health care workplaces

Any place of employment in Texas could be the scene of sexual harassment, and health care workplaces are no exception. A survey of over 6,200 nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants produced by Medscape indicated that 11 percent of respondents had experienced sexual misconduct and 14 percent had witnessed it. The survey defined harassment as unwanted touching, comments, sexual propositions and text messages and emails in addition to sexual favors for promotions, retaliation for refusal and rape.

Clinicians reported that sexual misconduct sometimes upset them and made working difficult. A portion of respondents believed that the stress reduced their ability to provide care and even contributed to medical errors. Among victims, they coped by avoiding certain colleagues or taking days off, and 16 percent of them left their jobs.

Although sexual harassment mostly affected women, incidents of misconduct happened to people of all ages. Victims were sometimes targeted by people above them at work, like physicians or administrators, but perpetrators were also of equal or lesser standing than victims.

By and large, employers went uninformed about incidents of sexual harassment because 61 percent of respondents made no reports. Outcomes tended to be poor for those who filed complaints. Employers only investigated 26 percent of complaints, and these investigations often resulted in victims experiencing retaliation from perpetrators or management.

Employers have an interest in responding to complaints with fair and thorough investigations. The advice of an attorney could help a decision maker in a workplace handle a complaint and potentially reduce the possibility of a lawsuit. A person within a hostile work environment could also discuss issues like sexual harassment and retaliation with an attorney. A review of the details could reveal legal violations, and an attorney might communicate the complaint to the employer and propose how to settle the problem.

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