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Receptionist sues employer after patient made sexual comments

To keep the workplace safe for employees, Los Angeles and Long Beach employers must create and maintain an environment that is free of discrimination and harassment. This involves addressing any complaints of colleagues or supervisors harassing workers. But maintaining a safe work environment also means protecting workers who are harassed by customers, clients, patients or other individuals while doing their jobs.

Last week, a lawsuit was filed against a healthcare facility that failed to protect a receptionist who claimed that a patient had been sexually harassing her when he had visited the office or called the office to schedule appointments. Not only did the harassment go on for months, the lawsuit claims, but the woman's employer failed to take any action to stop the harassment when the receptionist filed a complaint with the healthcare facility.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers cannot always prevent workers from sexually harassing others in the workplace, but employers are obligated to take certain steps to investigate claims in order to determine whether there are actions the employer can take to stop harassment. According to the receptionist's lawsuit, employers are in violation of employment laws when they fail to investigate and address claims involving employees who have also been harassed by a third party while in the workplace.

The female worker claims that a male patient sexually harassed her on several occasions between April 2009 and December 2009, and between June 2010 and September 2010. While visiting the office for appointments or while calling the office to schedule appointments, the patient allegedly made inappropriate comments and even suggested having a sexual encounter with the receptionist.

When the receptionist told her supervisor about the unwelcomed comments, her supervisor ignored the issue, the lawsuit claims. The receptionist is seeking compensation for damages after being subjected to a hostile work environment.

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

  • Our firm represents clients who have been through similar situations such as those described in the post. Sexual harassment is illegal in the workplace. If you would like to learn more about employees' rights and our practice, please visit our Long Beach sexual harassment lawyer page.

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