What You Need to Do When a Dental, Optometry, Veterinary, or Other Medical Employee Makes a Complaint of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment complaint

The #MeToo Movement has exposed cases of sexual harassment and discrimination in all industries, and the healthcare sector isn't immune from this office crisis. Around 30-70 percent of female physicians and 50 percent of female medical students say they have experienced sexual harassment. As a doctor or practice owner; whether in the dental, optometry, veterinary, or pharmacy field; you need to take every allegation of sexual harassment seriously. Failure to do so could result in a lawsuit or penalties from the government.

This is What You Should Know About Sexual Harassment Complaints in the Dentistry, Optometry, Veterinary, and Medical Industries

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces sexual harassment legislation. However, an employee can also take your dental, medical, optometry, or veterinary practice to court for alleged sexual harassment. 

Whether it's a fine from the government or court-imposed legal fees/ damages, a sexual harassment claim could cost tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars. The emotional cost for everyone involved, however, is limitless. 

How Do Sexual Harassment Complaints Arise in Dental, Optometry, Veterinary, and Medical Practices?

Sexual harassment means different things to different people, and there's no one "true" definition. However, the EEOC defines sexual harassment as the following:

"It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person's sex. Harassment can include 'sexual harassment' or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature."

Sexual harassment, however, doesn't have to be "of a sexual nature." It could include offensive remarks, body language, or gestures from someone in your practice. 

Sexual harassment is an extremely complex subject, with many emotions involved. You must investigate all complaints appropriately — or you could face serious consequences. Enlisting the services of a compliance-focused human resources company (such as HR for Health) will ensure your organization stays compliant during a sexual harassment allegation. Learn more here.

What You Should Do After an Employee Complains of Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment complaint

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has outlined the steps to take after an employee complains about sexual harassment in the practice:

  • Take complaints seriously. Some harassment cases are more complex than others but investigate each one with the same due diligence.
  • Start the investigation promptly. It can be difficult to find potential witnesses and collect any documentation later on in the process. 
  • Communicate with all parties. It's important to keep everyone involved updated with timescales, investigation procedures, and outcomes. 
  • Make an unbiased determination. You must investigate sexual harassment complaints thoroughly and issue appropriate outcomes. 

(Source: U.S. Chamber of Commerce)

As a responsible practice owner/HR manager, you need effective processes for handling sexual harassment complaints, including materials and resources for investigating allegations, as well as sexual harassment training. HR for Health can help with its suite of services to help dental, optometry, veterinary, and other medical practices achieve and maintain HR compliance. Schedule a call for an HR consultation today

Final Word

Sexual harassment is a type of discrimination that violates various laws. You need to take each complaint seriously. Outlining procedures and policies for investigating complaints in your dental, optometry, veterinary, or medical practice will keep you compliant. But you should also have measures in place that allow employees to make complaints without fear, retaliation, or prejudice. 

If you need help handling sexual harassment complaints in your healthcare practice, HR for Health has various HR management tools that streamline your business. Discover more here.


About HR for Health

HR for Health is an all-in-one HR software solution dedicated to helping the dental, optometry, and veterinary industries. Our human resources platform features all the tools practice owners need to manage payroll, timekeeping, 401(k), and more with total integration and ease.

Whether you’re looking for HR support for a small business or you’re a large group dental practice, HR for Health has the solution to fit your practice and budget. Reach out to a HR for Health account representative to learn more, today: Book Time Here



Quick note: This is not to be taken as legal or HR advice. Since employment laws change over time and can vary by location and industry, consult a lawyer or HR expert for specific guidance. Learn about HR for Health's HR services.