Sexual harassment is rampant in the healthcare industry. Many healthcare institutions cannot and do not adequately respond to and stop sexual harassment in the workplace. Gender discrimination and sexual harassment are so prevalent in the healthcare field that there is ongoing litigation against many hospitals and healthcare facilities for unlawful sexual harassment.
You aren’t alone if you’ve experienced sexual harassment in the healthcare industry. The attorneys at Lipsky Lowe are prepared to advocate for your right to compensation while holding your employer responsible. Contact Lipsky Lowe LLP today to schedule a consultation and learn more about your legal rights and how we can advocate for you.
Sexual Harassment of Patients
Multiple federal, state, and local laws prohibit sex discrimination and harassment. Specifically, section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) prohibits discrimination in healthcare based on race, sex, age, national origin, and disability. This law section also prohibits sexual harassment and sexual assault in healthcare agencies. The law prohibits the sexual harassment of patients and healthcare employees by the following categories of healthcare providers:
- Hospitals, doctors’ offices, and clinics that receive federal funding
- Most healthcare plans, including most employer-sponsored plans
- All health insurance plans sold within the ACA marketplace
- All health programs administered by the federal government, including Medicaid, Medicare, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and the Indian Health Service (IHS)
Examples of Unlawful Sexual Harassment of Patients
If you were a patient and you’ve been receiving healthcare, you may have a valid claim for sexual harassment or sex-based discrimination if your healthcare provider engaged in one or more of the following:
- Deliberately watched a patient undress
- Examined a patient’s genitals without the use of gloves
- Made inappropriate sexual comments about the patient’s sexual orientation, body, or sexual performance
- Used the doctor-patient relationship to solicit a sexual relationship
- Requested sexual details from the patient that were not related to the medical examination
Sexual Battery and Assault in the Healthcare Industry
Unfortunately, sexual harassment isn’t limited to verbal comments. Patients are also at risk of suffering sexual battery or sexual assault at the hands of their medical providers. In many cases, patients are vulnerable because they are ill, recovering from surgery, or elderly and receiving care in a treatment facility. Examples of sexual battery and assault in the healthcare industry include the following:
- Oral-to-genital contact between a healthcare provider and a patient
- Sexual intercourse
- Kissing in a sexual manner
- Touching a patient’s genitals or breasts for any purpose other than a medical examination or treatment
- Offering prescription medication or medical services in exchange for sexual favors
When sexual harassment by a doctor or healthcare provider results in any harm, including emotional trauma, the victim may also have a claim for medical malpractice.
Sexual Harassment of Healthcare Workers Is Rampant
A recent study found that 43.15% of female nurses had reported they’d been sexually harassed while on the job. Of those female nurses who were sexually harassed, 31% reported being sexually harassed in a physical manner. Most of the harassment came from patients but included harassment from physicians, patients’ families, other nurses, and coworkers. Sexual harassment in the healthcare industry can cause long-term problems for workers, including mental and physical health problems.
Another study found that up to half of female medical students have been sexually harassed during their training and residency. They are three times as likely as women in non-STEM fields to experience sexual harassment. Men can also be the targets of sexual harassment in the medical field, although women are more likely to experience sexual harassment in the healthcare industry. If you have experienced sexual harassment as a healthcare professional, it’s crucial that you reach out to an attorney as soon as possible. You only have a limited amount of time to pursue a compensation claim.
Pursuing a Sexual Harassment Claim in New York
When a doctor or other medical professional inappropriately gropes, assaults, touches, or makes sexualized remarks to a patient or other healthcare workers, he or she has violated the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL). The NYCHRL prohibits sexual harassment in public accommodations. The law defines sexual harassment as the following:
- Unwelcome sexual overtures or gestures
- Derogatory comments or epithets
In most cases, doctors and hospitals or facilities that employ doctors are considered public accommodations and are subjected to the NYCHRL.
Treating Patients Differently Based on Gender
Sexual harassment in the healthcare industry may involve actions other than those driven by sexual desire. Doctors who treat patients differently from similar patients because of their gender identity or sex may engage in unlawful sexual harassment. For example, if a doctor uses anti-lesbian, anti-gay, or anti-trans epithets against a patient, the patient may have a valid legal claim for sexual harassment. Similarly, doctors cannot refuse to treat a patient based on his or her sex or harass a patient while they have a physical examination.
Sexual Harassment of Transgender Healthcare Workers and Employees
The NYCHRL requires public accommodations to allow patients and employees to use single-sex facilities. Transgender individuals have a right to use the bathrooms and healthcare programs consistent with their gender identity, regardless of the sex they were assigned at birth. Your medical provider cannot make offensive comments about your medical history, appearance, or anatomy. They cannot prevent you from using a particular facility because you don’t conform to gender stereotypes associated with the sex that appears on your medical records.
Available Legal Options
Depending on the facts of your case, you may be able to sue the doctor who harassed you individually for sexual harassment under the New York City human rights law. Other legal causes of action could include battery, assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, or even false imprisonment. Doctors who incite, abet, compel or coerce another doctor to perpetuate sexual harassment can also be held liable. The doctor’s employer may be able to be held vicariously liable for damages the doctor inflicted on patients through sexual harassment.
Contact a New York City Sexual Harassment Attorney
Patients and healthcare workers should be able to receive care and work in an environment that is safe and free from sexual harassment. If you are a patient, a healthcare worker, or an independent contractor who’s experienced sexual harassment in a medical setting, the attorneys at Lipsky Lowe LLP are here to help. Contact Lipsky Lowe LLP to learn more about how we can advocate for you.