Samples Harassment Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

985 words 4 page(s)

Sexual harassment is defined as “conduct of a sexual matter, which is unwelcome to its recipient, which results in feelings of humiliation, embarrassment or intimidated” (McCann, 2005 in Cogin & Fish, 2009, p.16). This paper describes a case of sexual harassment in the author’s workplace and analyzes its impact as well as actions taken to resolve the instance. Also, the paper discusses the ways to prevent sexual harassment through education and cooperation with Human Resources.

Having reviewed a number of authentic examples in the interviews by nurses in Dan, Pinsof, & Riggs’s article “Sexual Harassment as an Occupational Hazard in Nursing” the one that has been chosen for discussion was the surgeon’s bringing in medical trainees to carry out multiple vaginal examinations on a female patient who was under anesthesia. Needless to say, that was done without the woman’s consent or knowledge. The impact produced by this type of harassment on the reporting nurse was first of all emotional. The woman who observed the harassment reported being shocked, disgusted, furious because the physician would rudely respond to her mention of the inappropriateness of the vaginal examination with the words, “If you continue objecting, I’ll do the next vaginal exam on you”, and guilty for she was unable to inform the victim of harassment about the procedure she had been subject to or felt that she had not done enough to stop the harassment. Moreover, the incident had an impact on the working process of the nurse witness. She became anxious and tried to avoid working with the physician who allowed the vaginal examination, she attempted to change her schedules and even cut back the working hours, and started feeling less happy about going to work and performing her duties. Besides, the nurse talked about this incident with other medical staff in the department and with her head nurse. Co-workers generally preferred to tolerate the incidence and the head nurse said the nurse witness should just laugh it off and view the surgeons conduct as trying to train medical students with high level of efficacy – a “good ol’boy type of surgeon” (Dan, Pinsof, & Riggs, 1995). In this way, the incidence described above had a negative impact on the workplace by spoiling the reputation, discouraging the nurse to cooperate with the surgeon, and making her change her schedule or cut down on her working time.

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Now let us see if any legal ramifications could be caused by the case. Under state medical consent laws, this case of sexual harassment would qualify as the violation of a patient’s right for autonomy. This refers to the right of patients to determine what will be carried out on their bodies. The physician failed to obtain consent from the female patient whose vagina was being examined without her knowledge and ability to control the situation (because of anesthesia). Legally, the physician was required to get her voluntary agreement to that action even if it was simply a matter of a diagnostic test. Since he failed to do so, the legal ramifications could have been as follows: the patient could have filed a successful lawsuit claiming a case of battery, assault, or negligence; the physician would be subject to professional sanctions as well as civil liability; maybe, this case would be qualified as sexual harassment so the physician would face a criminal charge (especially if the female patient was harmed during the examination).

In addition, a set of other ramifications because of that particular instance were deterioration in the staff relationships (especially, between the harasser and the witness, or the witness and some colleagues who conduct harassment in the workplace), losses in the hospital’s reputation and, consequently, fewer patients, rising issues of patient safety among the patients, and lower assessment of the quality of medical care delivered to the patients in this hospital.

As for any actions taken to resolve the situation, the nurse witness reported the case to the head nurse. That, however, did not bring any results, as described earlier in the essay.

A set of actions could be taken to mitigate or ameliorate the instances of sexual harassment in this hospital. The action plan would include educating the medical staff on the nature of sexual harassment, their legal liability and responsibility for any actions that violate the rights of the patients. Emphasis should be made on a range of legal, professional, personal ramifications. Besides, patients should be educated about their rights when admitted to a hospital. One more step would be to educate the female nurses on the ways to prevent or deal with the cases of sexual harassment depending on the situation and the harasser. Hence, the first step would be educating the medical staff on the issue of sexual harassment, their liabilities, and enlighten them on how to deal with its cases. The second step will be educating patients on their rights. In this campaign, the assistance with HR could be achieved through having the HR representative explain the legal implications of sexual harassment to senior medical staff and inform the nurses on how to report the cases of medical harassment. Besides, HR could devise a set of internal measures to prevent sexual harassment such as penalization, reproof, or lay-off.

Overall, this paper has focused on the issue of sexual harassment and analyzed the authentic case of sexual harassment reported by an interviewee of one scholarly study. It has outlined the legal, professional, and other ramifications resulting from the harasser’s behavior and provided an overview of the action plan to alleviate the situation.

    References
  • Cogin, J., & Fish, A. (2009). Sexual harassment – a touchy subject for nurses. Journal of Health
    Organization and Management, 23(4), 442-62.
  • Dan, A., Pinsof, D., & Riggs, L. (1995). Sexual harassment as an occupational hazard in nursing.
    Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 17 (4), 563-580.
  • MacKusik, C. & Minick, P. (2010). Why are nurses leaving? Findings from an initial qualitative
    study on nursing attrition. Medsurg Nursing 19 (6), 335-340.

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