How Nurses Can Report Sexual Harassment in California

Posted by Sessions & Kimball |

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a very real problem – especially in the nursing industry – that can have a lasting impact on those who experience it. It can take many forms, from unwelcome sexual advances and requests for sexual favors to other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is directed toward a person in the workplace. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s important to contact a professional to get the help you need and deserve. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

The Prevalence of Sexual Harassment in The Nursing Industry 

A recent study found that nearly half of all female nurses have experienced sexual harassment on the job. The vast majority of cases were perpetrated by patients (46.59%), followed by physicians (41.10%), patients’ family members (27.74%), other nurses (20%), and other coworkers (17.8%). Additionally, 39% of nurses say they have witnessed a colleague being harassed at work.

The study also found that those who experienced sexual harassment were more likely to develop mental health problems, including emotional distress (61.26%), psychological disturbance (51.79%), and social health problems (16%). This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed to create a safe and healthy workplace for all nurses.

Sexual Harassment by Patients

According to the study referenced above, patients are the most common perpetrator of sexual harassment towards nurses. This type of harassment from patients can include physical threats or violence, using pet names or racial slurs, making propositions, or exposing themselves. A poll by Medscape found that in addition to in-person harassment, 22% of nurses had a patient attempt inappropriate contact with them online.

Additionally, 71% of nurses reported being sexually harassed by a patient whereas only 47% of physicians reported the same.

Sexual Harassment by Staff

Unfortunately, nurses often face harassment from doctors or other staff members due to a power imbalance. Unprofessional and predatory behavior, such as inappropriate comments, unwanted touching, and subtle power play can cause fear and anxiety among nurses who then struggle to focus on providing quality patient care. 

This includes unwanted physical contact, inappropriate comments about physical appearance, sexist slurs or language, gestures or jokes of a sexual nature, pressure to engage in sexual activity, and other forms of intimidation or coercion. 

Nurses: How to Report Sexual Harassment in California

If you’re a nurse who has been sexually harassed at work, it’s important to know what steps you can take to protect yourself and seek justice. The following are potential remedies to those who have experienced sexual harassment on the job. 

Say No & Record the Incident 

The first step is to make sure you say “no” to any unwanted attention or advances. Make sure that your “no” is clear and unequivocal so there can be no misunderstanding about your feelings on the matter. 

Additionally, record the incident if possible—write down all details including times, dates, and descriptions of events as soon as possible after they occur. This information will be invaluable if you decide to pursue legal action against your harasser later on. 

Report & Find Out About Company Policies 

The next step is to report the incident to your employer right away. Your employer should have a policy in place that outlines how they handle sexual harassment allegations; make sure you familiarize yourself with this policy so you know your rights. 

In addition, make sure you document when and how you reported the incident along with any response from your employer. This documentation will also be useful if legal action is pursued later on. 

File Complaints & Consider Legal Action 

If reporting the incident does not result in repercussions for your harasser or an improved working environment, then it may be time to consider taking legal action against either your harasser or employer (depending on who is responsible). You can file complaints with government agencies such as The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or The California Civil Rights Department (CRD).

The Civil Rights Division is responsible for reviewing any allegations of discrimination to determine whether an investigation is warranted. They conduct independent inquiries into the events in question, vetting the information and evidence presented by both parties involved. Whenever possible, they will explore civil remedies to peacefully resolve the dispute; however, if deemed necessary, they can pursue more stringent legal action.

If this doesn’t solve your issue, you may also be able to file a civil claim against your harasser and/or your employer. If you need help, contact our Orange County sexual harassment lawyers today to schedule a free consultation.