RN Terminated for Investigating and Reporting Sexual Misconduct

A former registered nurse (RN) filed a lawsuit against BHC Heritage Oaks Hospital, which alleged he was wrongfully terminated for investigating sexual harassment and sexual abuse complaints against a mental health technician at the facility named Mr. Smith. After being informed that Mr. Smith was “attempting to have sexual relationships with his coworkers, at least some of which were unwanted,” the RN began investigating and interviewing staff members about the issue and concluded that “Mr. Smith had engaged in a pattern of inappropriate sexual conduct towards his coworkers.” The RN also found that Mr. Smith had engaged in inappropriate relationships and behavior with patients. The RN claims that “not only did he recognize the unprofessional nature of Mr. Smith’s conduct, but also the fact that it clearly created problems for Defendants as a provider of mental health services to some of the most vulnerable members of society. “ The RN claims that the facility’s management failed to take appropriate actions regarding the allegations. In one such example, the RN was told that the Mr. Smith would be suspended pending an investigation over the next three days, but he was still scheduled to work with patients and the woman he had been harassing the very next day. The RN also claims that his superiors were unsympathetic to his safety concerns after Mr. Smith began physically threatening him and his family. The RN further claims that rather than investigating the allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior, he was retaliated against and was terminated one week after initially reporting Mr. Smith’s conduct. He was told by the facility’s management that investigating the allegations was outside of his “scope of work” and that it was not “acceptable.” He claims that he believed it was his duty as a nurse supervisor to investigate such claims, and that the facility’s own handbook states “an employee with a sexual harassment complaint should inform their supervisor to being an investigation.” The case settled and was dismissed in August 2013.