High rates of sexual harassment suffered by physical therapists

Certain industries and types of jobs have higher rates of sexual harassment than others. One of the most prominent examples is restaurant work. Women (and men) who work in food service experience higher rates of sexual harassment than workers in most other industries.

The sexual harassment problem in restaurant work is well-known. But when we take the time to collect and analyze statistics, we sometimes find surprising trends. For instance, a recent industry survey revealed that the majority of physical therapists experience sexual harassment at some point in their careers.

For the study, nearly 900 physical therapists were asked about their experiences with sexual harassment. An astonishing 84 percent said they had been harassed at least once in their careers, and nearly half said they had been sexually harassed within the past year. The specific acts of harassment included:

  • Unwanted, inappropriate touching
  • Sexual remarks
  • Requests for dates
  • Staring
  • Sexual gestures
  • Requests for sex or sexual favors
  • Masturbation

The majority of therapists were harassed by patients, not by coworkers or supervisors. Physical therapy tends to be a female-dominated profession, and the likelihood of harassment was far higher when a female physical therapist was working with a male patient.

The statistics in this recent survey are, depressingly, nearly identical to statistics gathered in the 1990s. This suggests that rates of sexual harassment in the field of physical therapy have been steadily high for decades.

In any job where employees work directly with customers or clients, workers are at risk of being harassed by these non-employees. The employer is nonetheless responsible for protecting workers from harassment and for responding appropriately when allegations are made. This may be the biggest opportunity available for lowering the high rate of harassment in the field of physical therapy.

If you have suffered sexual harassment in the workplace and your employer has refused or otherwise failed to address it, please contact an experienced employment law attorney to learn about your rights and legal options.

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