A patient aide complained to her manager that the Chief Medical Officer has been making unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances in the workplace, including following her, making lewd comments, and trying to grab her. The manager ignored these complaints, and the inappropriate conduct continued. After the aide made a second complaint, the manager demoted her to the night shift against her wishes and in spite of seniority, which led the aide to file EEOC complaints of sexual harassment and retaliation. During the investigation, three of her co-workers corroborated her story, one of whom also complained of harassment from the CMO but did not file a formal complaint; the manager terminated them in response.
The primary issues raised by these facts are sexual harassment of two aides, and retaliation against four of them for either making the initial complaint or complying with the EEOC investigation. It is clear from the aide’s multiple complaints that the sexual advances went beyond teasing, instead creating a hostile work environment and resulting in adverse employment decisions (i.e., demoting the aide to the night shift). This is explicitly prohibited by EEOC guidelines (EEOC). Demoting the aide and firing the employees who corroborated her story also meets the requirements of retaliation: adverse action was taken against covered individuals for engaging in protected actions (EEOC).
We recommend beginning an internal investigation to supplement the EEOC investigation. In compliance with the law, we further recommend immediately engaging in preliminary relief (Savage 1). Pending the outcome of the EEOC investigation, the terminated employees should be reinstated, and the aide should be returned to her preferred shift. The CMO should be notified about the complaints and the investigation. The manager who ignored the sexual harassment claims and engaged in retaliation should be suspended until the investigation is complete. We suggest that it is likely that punitive damages will be deemed appropriate in this case, and should be prepared in the event that the aggrieved individuals choose to file a lawsuit.
In order to prevent this situation arising in the future, we recommend that the new manager be fully briefed on this situation. We further recommend the formation of a committee to explore the resources available for implementing preventative retaliation policy (Solano and Kleiner, 2003). Finally, a re-vamp of the hospital’s sexual harassment policies should be undertaken, along with a mandatory review of those policies and the EEOC guidelines for administrators.