Legal Corner: “Me Too” & Workplace Bullying

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by Don Eddins, JD

The “Me Too” movement corresponds with concerns and a survey the Alabama State Nurses’ Association conducted concerning workplace violence in Alabama medical facilities.

A Huge Percentage Of Nurses Have Been A Victim

ASNA sent out approximately 1,500 surveys, of which about 1,000 – an incredible number of responses for so few surveys– were answered and returned. The huge percentage of returns – about 90 percent – indicated the registered nurse had been victim of some sort of harassment or violence – though not necessarily sexual in nature –on the job.

ASNA has long been concerned about workplace violence and bullying – whether from a fellow worker, supervisor, doctor or patient family member or friend. In fact, your Association pushed through legislation several years ago that makes it a felony to assault a health care worker on the job.

The association is considering ways this year to strengthen the legislation, such as requiring health care facilities to post notices of the law in workplaces. Any suggestions on strengthening would be welcomed.

You May Have Experienced This

Often nurses, along with a law officer, are assigned to treat inmates temporarily housed in hospitals and medical facilities. When the bill was before the Legislature I remember telling some people that it is ironic that, while the officer had a gun, mace and a club/flashlight, as they should have, if the inmate assaulted the officer, he would face a felony charge, but would only face a misdemeanor charge for assaulting an unarmed nurse unless he seriously injured her.

Of the biggest concern, however, is not the occasional inmate housed in the facility, but every day advances, touchings, propositioning, bullying and hostile work environment.

But make no mistake about it—sexual harassment is against the law. If you are a victim, report it to your supervisor immediately. If the supervisor is the harasser, report it to his supervisor. And/or call a lawyer, but if you decide to call an attorney, do it quickly, because timelines under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act are very short.

And as we have been made aware by events at the national level with the “Me Too” movement, no one is above the law and even the most powerful can be stopped from the illegal behavior.

In today’s society, no one should have to sleep with another to win a promotion or keep her job. It is not right and it is against the law,