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Sexual Harassment in Hospitals

Experienced New York City Attorneys Helping You Assert Your Rights

Under the New York City Human Rights Law, it is illegal for a public accommodation to withhold or fail to give full and equal enjoyment of services or goods based on someone's membership in a protected class, such as gender. Sexual harassment in hospitals in New York City is actionable. If you were sexually harassed by a health care provider in a public accommodation, you may have the right to sue for damages. Any party that provides services or goods to the public, including a hospital, is considered a public accommodation.

Holding Hospitals Accountable for Sexual Harassment

Although the media has focused on Hollywood and Capitol Hill misconduct, the health care industry has also had sexual harassment scandals. Sexual harassment in hospitals is not always in the context of supervisor-employee relationships. It can also be found in the context of a health care provider-patient relationship.

In a 2018 lawsuit, a court reasoned that a medical office treating patients is a public accommodation under the New York City Human Rights Law. Administrative Code § 8-107(4)(1)(a) prohibits gender discrimination in public accommodations. The city law provides that it is an illegal discriminatory practice for someone who is an owner, employee, or provider of a public accommodation to deny to someone full and equal enjoyment on equal terms and conditions of any of the accommodations, services, advantages, facilities, or privileges of the place or provider of public accommodations.

One form of gender discrimination is sexual harassment. The court in the 2018 case reasoned that the language pertaining to gender discrimination in public accommodations was as broadly worded as it was with regard to workplace discrimination. You have the right to go to a doctor's appointment without fear of harassment.

Sexual harassment includes any unwelcome sexual conduct, words, gestures, or touches. For example, if your doctor touches you inappropriately during a physical exam, this may be sexual harassment. In the 2018 case mentioned above, the plaintiff alleged that the doctor told her that she had a pretty face, touched her tattoo, handled the patient's breasts after an ultrasound, pinched and twisted her nipples, and came in before she was finished changing. Among other things, the doctor denied twisting her nipples and filed a motion for summary judgment, which is a motion that results in a case concluding prior to going before a jury.

Often, sexual harassment cases involve a he-said, she-said scenario. Whether a particular action counts as sexual harassment may be a factual issue for the jury. In the 2018 case, the court found that the plaintiff had raised a factual issue about whether the doctor had treated her less well than other patients due to her gender, and the issue was not suitable for resolving at the summary judgment stage.

In addition to a claim under the New York City Human Rights Law, there may be common law causes of action that can be asserted, such as intentional infliction of emotional distress and battery. Battery can be shown by establishing that there was intentional physical contact of an offensive nature. The intent at issue must be intent to cause contact that a reasonable person would deem offensive. Unlike with a medical malpractice case, it is usually not necessary for your attorney to get an expert in the same field of medicine to testify that a doctor's conduct violates the city law. However, if the defendant submits expert testimony about professional standards, we may need to get another expert to testify in rebuttal for the purposes of any common law claims.

Explore Your Options with a Sexual Harassment Lawyer in New York City

Sexual harassment often occurs in situations of unequal power. As a victim of sexual harassment, you may feel degraded, humiliated, and distressed. You should not need to go through this painful experience. Sexual harassment in public accommodations is illegal in New York City. At Phillips & Associates, our experienced attorneys help clients with many different kinds of sexual harassment cases in various settings. For a free consultation, contact us at (833) 529-3476 or through our online form. We handle litigation in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, as well as Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties and in New Jersey.

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