Harassment Can Come From Anywhere
We have written a lot about employer liability for sexual harassing behavior committed in the workplace not by supervisors or co-workers, but by non-employees. In short, it is immaterial who or what causes the hostile workplace – it is up to the employer to remedy the situation if made aware of it.
Apropos to this, the EEOC just announced that a Virginia healthcare company has agreed to settle a sexual harassment suit brought on behalf of a female receptionist who was sexually harassed by a male patient for $30,000. The employee made a complaint about this harassment to her supervisor, but the company took no steps to address the situation.
An Employer Must Address A Hostile Workplace No Matter Who Causes It
An attorney for the EEOC said what we have always advised in our blog: “Employers have a responsibility to prevent sexual harassment not only by co-workers, but also by third parties, including patients and customers. Employers need to adopt measures to end sexual harassment that has been reported to the appropriate supervisor regardless of who is perpetrating the misconduct.”
Shocking Rise Of Patient Harassment of Doctors
As an aside, take a look at our post of October 9th where we discussed the alarming number of female doctors (a majority!) reporting sexual harassment by patients. Perhaps the professional but faux “intimacy” created by the physical touching of the body loosens restraints in those who already have restraint, boundary or harassment issues, or perhaps it simply deludes a narcissistic patient; in any event, this is a shocking statistic to those is us who view physicians — male or female — as our lifesavers and can not even imagine crossing any boundary between doctor- patient.
Makes you wonder if formal harassment training should not be confined to the workplace (if, indeed, it is conducted there, as we always advise) — perhaps it should be taught in schools.