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What can an RN do if she feels emotionally harassed by a doctor?

Monday June 30, 2014
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Dear Nancy,

What can an RN do if she feels emotionally harassed by a doctor?

Kara



Dear Nancy replies:

Dear Kara,

No worker should have to withstand harassment, whether emotional or otherwise, from a co-worker, a physician or any other staff member or employee. You did not share the kind of emotional harassment the physician is causing you to suffer, but it should not be happening.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency, has defined harassment as any severe or frequent unwelcome conduct based on factors such as race, gender, religion, being over 40 years of age or disability. The EEOC requires the harassing behavior to be "a repeated pattern and a condition of employment or a condition of advancement, even if it happens only one time (Hartman, "Workplace Harassment Rights, n.d.). The federal laws prohibiting such conduct, include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Age Discrimination Act.

State anti-harassment laws also prohibit such conduct and the definition of harassment might be more broadly defined than what the EEOC says it is. These laws vary from state to state.

Reporting the conduct under either state or federal law is essential. Employee protection from retaliation by the employer exists at both the federal and state level if the employee reports the conduct either within the workplace or outside the workplace.

Your employer should also have a policy prohibiting harassment in its workplace. The policy should spell out the definition of harassment, any consequences of harassing another worker and where the employee who feels he or she is harassed can take his or her report of the harassment in confidence within the agency.

You need to consult with a nurse attorney or other attorney in your state who works with employees in the area of employment law in order to evaluate this physician's conduct and what you can do to stop it from continuing.

Regards,
Nancy




Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.