Healthcare worker who was sexually harassed by elderly care home resident loses case against employer

An elderly male resident at a nursing home sexually harassed a senior female health care assistant when he touched her inappropriately and told her “I’d love to have you in bed”.
Healthcare worker who was sexually harassed by elderly care home resident loses case against employer

An elderly male resident at a nursing home sexually harassed a senior female health care assistant when he touched her inappropriately and told her “I’d love to have you in bed”.

The incident occurred on the morning of May 13, 2018, when the health care assistant was helping the man to shave as part of his care plan.

The worker described that as she emptied the sink of water, the resident from behind her placed his hands on her buttocks and then on her groin area saying, “I’d love to have you in bed”.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) found that the woman was sexually harassed by the resident.

However, WRC Adjudication Officer, Orla Jones has dismissed the woman’s sexual harassment case against her employer, a healthcare provider.

Ms Jones made her ruling after finding that she was satisfied that the care home operator put in place appropriate measures and has taken reasonably practicable steps to prevent such harassment and sexual harassment occurring in the workplace.

In relation to the sexual harassment incident on May 13, 2018, the healthcare worker immediately told the resident that his behaviour was inappropriate, and she then left the room and went to the nurses' station to report what had happened.

The complainant said that a male staff nurse was at the nurses station and when she told him what had happened he had initially laughed, but later apologised.

In her findings, Ms Jones found that the perpetrator acknowledged his actions and apologised to the complainant.

She said that the perpetrator was held accountable for his actions and was told by the care home operator that any further behaviour of such manner would be punishable by his losing his residency at the care home.

Ms Jones noted that following the incident the perpetrator was denied a single room which prior to the incident he had been in line to receive.

She said that it was explained to him that the reason for the denial of this privilege was due to his behaviour with the complainant and in order to ensure the safety of other staff and to safeguard female staff from the risk of future similar incidents.

The Adjudication Officer also noted that following the sexual harassment incident, female staff members were only assigned to care for the elderly resident in pairs.

Ms Jones also said that the healthcare worker was removed from the perpetrator's care team following the incident so that she would not have to deal with him.

Ms Jones said that it emerged at the hearing that the perpetrator in fact left the care home on June 15, 2018, and so no question arises in respect of possible future incidents or inappropriate behaviour emanating from him.

She said that the female healthcare worker continues to work for the healthcare provider.

Ms Jones said that the perpetrator’s GP and his son were notified of the incident and that the care worker was assigned to work on a different floor to avoid the possibility of any contact with the resident.

Staff were also provided with training in respect of “Sexuality and Intimacy in Aged Care”.

Ms Jones said : “In considering whether more could be done to protect the complainant and prevent such harassment in her workplace I am cognisant of the fact that the service users are elderly people in a nursing home setting on various levels of medication and that the respondent cannot be expected to have the same level of control over their actions as it does the actions of its own employees.“

Ms Jones said that the care home operator does not deny or dispute that the sexual harassment incident happened and also does not dispute the complainant’s account of the incident.

She added that the healthcare provider outlined how it raised the issue with the male resident immediately and that he admitted to the incident.

Ms Jones also found that the healthcare provider has a sexual harassment policy to deal with incidents of sexual harassment from colleagues and that it has an incident report system for dealing with incidents involving residents.

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