The Orlando Health Department says it’s not the first hospital to sue over sexual harassment policies
Posted On July 15, 2021
Orlando Health and the Orlando Regional Medical Center are suing each other for allegedly violating state and federal sexual harassment and gender discrimination laws.
The two medical centers were accused of failing to prevent sexual harassment by employees, which they argue is illegal.
In a lawsuit filed in Orlando’s Circuit Court, the two medical providers claim that Orlando Regional’s sexual harassment policy is a violation of federal law.
The policy requires employees to disclose their personal information to managers in cases of “serious misconduct” or “disruptive behavior” of a sexual nature.
But the suit says Orlando Health’s policy “does not apply to the medical center’s general clinical care of patients, including its emergency care.”
The suit also accuses the medical centers of violating state laws against gender discrimination.
As part of the lawsuit, the medical facilities also have agreed to an internal investigation by the medical provider’s human resources director and a human resources consultant, who will be tasked with conducting an internal review of the policy.
The investigation is scheduled to be completed by the end of July.
Orlando Health spokeswoman Andrea Sauter said in a statement that the medical providers have a “long-standing policy” of “providing support to women, especially those who experience or witness sexual harassment.”
“The medical centers policies were written in the context of an ongoing investigation and not intended to prohibit or punish any conduct,” she said.
The Orlando Regional medical center is suing Orlando Health for violations of state and national civil rights laws.
According to the lawsuit filed by the two organizations, the center was notified of the allegations against the medical organization on May 27, the same day the center reported a case of harassment.
The center said in the complaint that it was made aware of the allegation on June 10 and did not report it until June 13.
The complaint says the center has had several complaints of sexual harassment against its employees since January, including one instance where an employee allegedly forced her to perform oral sex on him.
The lawsuit also says the medical facility did not act on those allegations until July 2.
The filing says the complaint does not address whether or not the sexual harassment complaint was filed or if it was withdrawn.
The medical centers lawsuit also alleges that the center failed to follow its internal policy and did nothing to investigate the complaint until July 13.
“The Center is the subject of multiple complaints of workplace harassment,” the lawsuit said.
“Its policies and practices reflect an unhealthy culture of fear, intimidation and hostility that is causing many of its patients to fear seeking help and for the medical community to become hostile toward its staff.”
The lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages.
The Center for Investigative Reporting has not independently verified the complaint.
In the complaint, the complaint cites numerous examples of sexual misconduct and harassment by medical staff at the Orlando Medical Center.
“Several of the complaints allege that medical staff in this center have engaged in sexual harassment, including sexual touching, unwanted touching, forced oral sex, kissing, hugging, touching the genitals, genital touching, kissing a patient inappropriately, kissing or touching the patient inappropriately without consent,” the complaint said.
In addition to the sexual assault and harassment allegations, the lawsuit claims that the complaint was the basis for the Center for Open Access Health Care’s “We Care, We Support You” campaign, which seeks to help patients access healthcare.
“As the Center’s employees, we must work tirelessly to improve our health and wellbeing, to be more open, inclusive and supportive of our patients,” the Center said in its statement.
“In doing so, we will not tolerate inappropriate behavior or harassment in any capacity.”
A spokeswoman for the Orlando Health department said the hospital was aware of some complaints and “will be addressing any complaints that arise” and said it has taken steps to ensure the safety and well-being of its employees.
The case is Sautar’s second.
She filed a similar complaint against the Orlando Clinic in October 2015.
In that lawsuit, Sautarm claimed the clinic violated the state and local laws against sexual harassment when it allowed a male employee to sexually harass her.
In 2016, a judge ordered the clinic to pay Sautarms attorney fees and costs.