Healthcare Professionals a Big Part of the #MeToo Movement

Healthcare Professionals a Big Part of the #MeToo Movement

By Christopher Parrella J.D.

By now you have undoubtedly read or heard stories about sexual harassment taking place in Hollywood, Washington and the workplace in general. The #MeToo movement is creating an groundswell of support for those who have been the target of sexual harassment and causing many who may have remained silent to be heard.

For those in the healthcare field, sexual harassment claims are nothing new. And, based on a recently released report by BuzzFeed News, they have been taking place for decades.

After reviewing sexual harassment claims filed with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) between 1995 and 2016, the BuzzFeed investigation found 170,000 healthcare industry sexual harassment were filed during that 21-year period.

By comparison, just 10,057 were filed by those working in the full-service restaurant industry and just 1,713 by those working in the hotel industry. They do not take into account complaints that are resolved internally, without ever making it to the EEOC.

General medical and surgical hospitals topped the list of complaints filed at 3,085 with “other outpatient care centers” at the bottom with 50 complaints filed. For the full report click here.

Because the healthcare industry is made up of a significant number of women (approximately 80 percent), these statistics should not be surprising. In fact, a study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found nearly one-third of the 1,066 physician-scientists who responded to a University of Michigan Medical School survey reported workplace sexual harassment.

Although it’s been an ongoing problem for decades, now more than ever healthcare organizations must make sure they are properly training their workforce in matters relating to sexual harassment.

It’s also important to keep in mind that such harassment can extend beyond your facility’s own employees to patients who may make inappropriate comments or even engage in inappropriate behavior.

Healthcare facilities are responsible for providing staff with a safe workplace environment and must balance employee protection with that of patients. Policies and procedures should be put into place to specifically address harassment, both at the employee/employer, as well as the employee/patient level.

If sexual harassment does take place, steps must be taken to ensure that complaints are handled in prompt and appropriate manner.