There have been a number of recent national headlines involving physicians and other professionals who have been engaged in sexual harassment and even sexual abuse of employees and patients. This trend is alarming as physicians are placed in a position of trust in some of our most vulnerable interactions.
Alabama is one of a minority of states where doctors’ official records only contain information on the doctor’s licenses, education, certifications, and medical board disciplinary actions. This means that patients and new employees have no way of knowing which physicians are under investigation by the Board of Medical Examiners for things such as hospital disciplinary actions, criminal convictions, and medical malpractice suits. Additionally, any restrictions on how the doctor is allowed to practice are considered a part of The Alabama Physician Health Program. Therefore, if a doctor is not allowed to treat children or not allowed to treat patients without a chaperone, these restrictions are confidential under state law. This can be problematic for both patients and employees working under the physician who do not know what a physician has been accused of.
In cases in which a physician has been accused of sexual abuse or harassment, these restrictions can be especially problematic. When allegations are ignored in this way, failing to handle accusations with transparency creates an environment in which predators can thrive and cause immense damage. In addition, knowing that nothing will be done to punish physicians for their sexual misconduct can make employees and patients hesitant to report misconduct which causes extremely low report rates. According to a study conducted in 2016 by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, in Alabama, doctors were allowed to return to practice in three out of every four cases in which the doctor was publicly disciplined for sexual misconduct.
Our Birmingham, Alabama employment law firm has handled a number of sexual abuse and harassment cases throughout the State of Alabama. If you feel you may have experienced harassment or assault in the workplace please contact us at (205) 588-0699 for a free consultation to discuss your potential case.