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Physical therapists face sexual harassment from patients

Someone receiving care from a California physical therapist might not realize how often that professional might endure unwanted sexual advances from patients. A study that surveyed 892 physical therapists reported that 84 percent of them experienced everything from lewd remarks to sexual assault. A portion of victims expressed to researchers the indifference of their employers toward the harassment. Management in some cases considered the harassment to be part of the job and did nothing to protect employees.

Health care professionals as a whole have a risk of nonfatal violence that is 16 times higher than other occupations, according to the research study. The researchers determined that therapists, especially females, experienced harassment at four times the rate of normal when they served predominantly male patients. Providing therapy to people with brain impairments also increased the chance of inappropriate patient behavior.

Sexual misconduct from patients might nor be covered by the sexual harassment policies of most companies that focus on actions of co-workers and supervisors. A duty of care also binds the hands of many health care workers like physical therapists who operate under ethical and legal obligations to meet the needs of patients. Consequences of the sexual harassment include psychological stress for workers and sometimes early discharge of patients. When someone suffers from unwanted sexual advances at work from coworkers, clients or customers, the employer should take the complaint seriously and act to resolve the problem. If an employer fails to protect an employee, then the victim might want to meet with an employment law attorney in order to determine what the next steps should be.

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