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Sexual harassment leads to criminal charges and suspension

Summary: Workplace sexual harassment and creating an unsafe workplace for colleagues is unacceptable. It may result in dismissal and / or criminal charges as well as having professional consequences on a doctor’s registration.

Thursday, 3 August 2023

Key messages from the case

Workplace sexual harassment and creating an unsafe workplace for colleagues is unacceptable. It may result in dismissal and / or criminal charges as well as having professional consequences on a doctor’s registration.

Details of the decision

Sexual harassment

Dr F was employed in a medical centre adjoining a community pharmacy. Ms B, the pharmacy store manager complained about Dr F’s behaviour after he blew kisses at her on one occasion then grabbed her and kissed her on the lips later on the same day.

Dr F was charged with unlawful indecent assault.

Medical registration

Dr F failed to provide the Medical Board with written notice of the criminal charge as required under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law. When the Board received notification of the charge it took immediate action to suspend Dr F’s registration.

Outcome

The tribunal confirmed that Dr F’s behaviour constituted professional misconduct.

Dr F received a reprimand, a 6-month suspension, and was ordered to pay legal costs.

Conditions were placed on his registration, including requiring him to undertake education on professional ethics, professional relationships, sexual harassment and the impact of an unsafe work environment on patient safety.

Key lessons

All doctors are expected to demonstrate respect for colleagues and patients in the workplace.

Workplace sexual harassment and creating an unsafe workplace for colleagues is unacceptable.

Workplace sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that makes a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated where that reaction is reasonable in the circumstances. Inappropriate jokes, unwanted touching, unwanted comments, sexually explicit messages, and unwanted invitations may all constitute sexual harassment.

Doctors should also be aware that they have an obligation under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law to report “relevant events” to the National Board. “Relevant events” for the purpose of the Act include being charged with an offence which is punishable by imprisonment of 12 months or more.

References and further reading

Safe Work Australia – What is workplace sexual harassment?

Australian Human Rights Commission – Respect@Work: National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces

For more information or immediate medico-legal advice, call us on 1800 128 268, 24/7 in emergencies.

Download case study

Sexual harassment leads to criminal charges and suspension (PDF)

Disclaimers

Scenarios in this publication are based on Avant claims experience to date. Certain information has been de-identified to preserve privacy and confidentiality. This publication is not comprehensive and does not constitute legal or medical advice. You should seek legal or other professional advice before relying on any content, and practise proper clinical decision making with regard to the individual circumstances. Persons implementing any recommendations contained in this publication must exercise their own independent skill or judgement or seek appropriate professional advice relevant to their own particular practice. Compliance with any recommendations will not in any way guarantee discharge of the duty of care owed to patients and others coming into contact with the health professional or practice. Avant is not responsible to you or anyone else for any loss suffered in connection with the use of this information. Information is only current at the date initially published. © Avant Mutual Group Limited 2023 riskiqcase080 07/23 (DT-3301)

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