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Virginia healthcare center faces sexual harassment lawsuit

Sexual harassment cases do not always stem from a supervisor harassing an employee. Sometimes, a worker is being harassed by a co-worker, and his or her supervisor is doing little to stop it. In other cases, a worker might even experience sexual harassment from someone who is not a part of the place of employment--such as a customer, client or patient that is within the workplace. In these cases, the supervisor or employer is still obligated by law to take actions to stop the sexual harassment once alerted.

This last scenario is the subject of a sexual harassment lawsuit that was recently filed in Virginia. In that case, a receptionist at a healthcare facility was reportedly sexually harassed by a male patient in both 2009 and 2010.

According to the lawsuit, which has been filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the patient harassed the woman both in person and over the phone. The harassment included inappropriate sexual comments and advances.

While the woman's supervisor was not directly responsible for the actions of this patient, the supervisor has been accused of doing nothing to stop the conduct when the receptionist complained. At this point, the supervisor becomes responsible.

Whether an employee is being harassed by a supervisor, co-worker or third-party, if the employer is told about the harassment, it must take action to stop it. Sexual harassment and sex discrimination violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The EEOC reportedly tried to reach a settlement with the health system, but was unsuccessful. It has now asked for compensatory and punitive damages for the worker, and injunctive relief.

Source: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Southwest Virginia Community Health System Sued for Sexual Harassment," Sept. 6, 2012

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