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    Medical field no stranger to sexual harassment

    Urology’s ‘special circumstances’ could heighten risk of workplace harassment

     

    Are urologists at greater risk?

    In the course of researching this article, I was unable to locate any firm statistical information on sexual harassment in the urology workplace, yet I have no reason to believe the specialty is less or more likely than others to encounter sexual harassment.

    Urology does carry with it “special circumstances” that may bear on the risk of harassment in the workplace. The specialty deals with diseases of a sexual nature, routine examination and photography of genitalia, frank discussions of intimate personal details, and patients and staff who may be uncomfortable with any or all of the above. A urologist’s training and experience may instill a greater awareness of and sensitivity to inappropriate comments or jokes of a sexual nature; on the other hand, an unprofessional remark by a staff member to a coworker, subordinate, or patient could be more likely to occur and be ill received in a setting where sexual behavior is openly and routinely discussed.

    Read: Are you taking steps to prevent data breaches?

    The EEOC notes several risk factors for sexual harassment: workplaces with power disparity, those that rely on customer service, decentralized and isolated workplaces, those with homogenous workforces (lack of diversity), and those with “high-value employees.” Some of these risk factors could apply to a urology office.

    Harassment costly in many ways

    The EEOC report correctly reminds us that while sexual harassment in the workplace is wrong and often illegal, it is also expensive. Employers have paid over $40 million each year since 2010 to settle allegations of sexual harassment; this does not include benefits obtained through litigation or the costs of litigation. An insurance company estimates that an employment dispute is typically settled for about $125,000 per claim (bit.ly/Harassmentstats).

    Indirect costs include decreased productivity, increased turnover, psychological and physical harm to the victim (and attendant costs), and lower psychological well-being of coworkers who observe sexual harassment. A 1994 study estimated that over 2 years, sexual harassment cost the government more than $325 million. Harassment in the workplace is costly.

    Bottom line: Sexual harassment is in the news, and reminds us that it may be common, costly, and transcend all professions and trades. In part 2 of this series, I will review some strategies to prevent or lower the risk of sexual harassment in your workplace.

    More from Urology Times:

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    Robert A. Dowling, MD
    Dr. Dowling is president of Dowling Medical Director Services, a private health care consulting firm specializing in quality ...

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