Legal Eagle Eye Newsletter for the Nursing Profession(3)12 Sep 95

 

   Quick Summary: Sexual harassment by a government agency or employee is a violation of a citizen’s constitutional rights as well as a violation of her civil rights.

   This case was certified by the court as a proper class action by all of the institution’s women nurses.

   A nurse was employed in a state-run psychiatric facility. She was subjected to sexual harassment, which included verbal threats, physical intimidation, sexual jokes, unwanted touching and groping, by male "therapeutic program workers" and by the male head of security for the facility.

   The nurse reported these incidents to her nursing supervisors, who in turn reported the incidents to the management of the institution. However, the nurses’ complaints were not only ignored, but the management of the institution actually instructed nursing supervisors not to bring up the issue of sexual harassment when orienting new nurses and not to discuss it with existing nursing staff.

   The nurse was eventually fired because of her continuing complaints. She filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is a necessary first step before proceeding with any employment discrimination claim under Federal law. She asked for and was given permission by the EEOC to sue her employer for damages in Federal District Court.

   According to the court, this nurse stated a valid claim for sexual harassment under Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act. She properly filed her claim with the EEOC within 180 days of the wrongful conduct against her. If there is a continuing course of wrongful conduct, the 180 day period extends from the last wrongful act, but the complaint can encompass the whole course of wrongful conduct.  Bremiller vs. Cleveland Psychiatric Institute, 879 F. Supp. 782 (N.D. Ohio, 1995).

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