Healthcare Compliance Guidance: The ABCs of Workplace Harassment

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

All healthcare facilities across the nation need to take harassment prevention training seriously. The risk is too great not to. Harassment claims can negatively impact employee morale and productivity and make it difficult to retain staff. They can also damage your organization’s reputation and lead to lawsuits with the potential for significant financial payments to victims. 

Harassing behavior can come in many shapes and sizes. For example, making comments about an individual’s physical appearance, unwelcome sexual advances and verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. 

These are the four types of harassing behavior.

  • The first is verbal.  An example of this would be a person making persistent or offensive jokes or making sexually suggestive comments.
  • The next type of harassment is non-verbal. This includes persistent and unwelcome flirting, staring at someone, looking a person up and down or having “elevator” eyes, and gestures with sexual meaning.
  • A third is physical harassment.  This type of harassment includes inappropriate touching, cornering a person or blocking their path, invading another person’s “physical space” and physical assault.
  • The fourth type of harassment includes written/visual. Displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures, pornographic photos, or sending sexually suggestive emails. 

Harassing behavior causes a hostile work environment, which is defined as unwelcome workplace behavior that is severe or repeated enough to create an offensive or abusive work environment. 

Required Sexual Harassment Training in California

California state law AB 1825 requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide supervisors with a minimum of two hours of interactive sexual harassment prevention training.  Training must be provided within 6 months of hire or promotion to a supervisory role, and then every 2 years thereafter. In September, California took the already stringent regulations a step further by signing into law regulation AB 2053. 

Taking It a Step Further

Effective January 1, 2015, employers subject to the current California law AB 1825 will also be required to include training materials on the prevention of abusive conduct in the two hours of training. The law defines “abusive conduct” as “conduct of an employer or employee in the workplace, with malice, that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests.” While AB 2053 states that a single act is not abusive “unless especially severe and egregious,” it provides an expansive list of abusive

  • Infliction of verbal abuse, such as the use of derogatory remarks
  • Insults
  • Epithets
  • Verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating, or humiliating
  • Gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work performance

While these laws are specific to the state of California, all healthcare facilities across the nation need to take harassment prevention training seriously.  

HCCS’  online training course provides a comprehensive education program that is interactive and contains video scenarios every healthcare worker will be able to relate to. The course meets regulations set forth by California (and other states) and can be provided to all management, staff, and patient care providers.


HCCS, a HealthStream company, was founded in 1998 to address urgent compliance education needs of the healthcare industry in response to OIG mandates for compliance education. Our principals have extensive experience in healthcare management, compliance, consulting, training, and the development of cutting edge technology. Our Advisory Boards and content contributors include compliance officers, law firms, privacy officers, security officers, consultants, trainers, and clients.  Content is created, managed, and updated by our internal content department with healthcare compliance expertise. We are focused exclusively on healthcare compliance and competency.