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Employer sued after receptionist is sexually harassed by patient

Earlier this month, a receptionist who works at a medical facility filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against her employer. If you have been reading our San Diego employment law blog for some time now, you understand that this type of illegal behavior is not at all uncommon in California. However, this woman’s complaint is a little different compared to some of the other employment law cases we have discussed on our blog.

The receptionist’s lawsuit does not accuse any of her co-workers or supervisors of sexually harassing her. Instead, the woman’s employer is being sued for failing to protect employees who are harassed by patients over the phone or in person at the office. The woman’s lawsuit states that she was harassed by one patient on several occasions. When she reported the incidents of harassment, the woman’s employer made no attempt to resolve the issue and to improve employee safety.

California employers and all other employers in the U.S. are obligated to investigate and address employees’ complaints of harassment by co-workers or supervisors. But when employees work with patients, customers, clients or other third parties, employers are also obligated to make sure that employees’ rights remain protected when a third party is accused of sexually harassing an employer’s workers. When employers fail to address an employee’s complaint, the employer could be held accountable for fostering a hostile work environment.

According to the receptionist’s lawsuit, she was harassed several times by the same patient when the patient had visited her office for appointments and when the patient had called the office to make appointments during 2009 and 2010. The receptionist claims that the patient had made several sexually inappropriate comments when he spoke with her.

The woman filed a complaint with her employer, notifying the employer about the patient’s inappropriate comments and advances. Instead of making sure that the harassment stopped, the receptionist claims that her employer ignored the concerning workplace issue.

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

  • Our firm handles a variety of employment and labor law issues, including similar situations like the one discussed in this blog post. Sexual harassment is illegal in California workplaces. To learn more about employees’ rights please visit our San Diego employment law attorneys page.


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