A provider of pediatric home health, Epic Health Services, was recently fined $98,000 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in connection with the sexual assault of a home health employee by a patient’s father. Allegations include that the father had regularly attempted to grope the employee and made inappropriate comments about her buttocks and breasts. The assaulted employee is suing Epic for negligence and punitive damages as a result of the incident. Allegations include that Epic, which reportedly lacked a system for reporting threats or incidents of violence in the workplace, was aware of two previous assaults on employees by the patient’s father but failed to notify the assaulted employee of the incidents.
As a result of its investigation into the assault, OSHA found that Epic had a history of failing to act on reports by company employees of verbal, physical and sexual assaults in the workplace, including a situation where an employee was forced to work in a home environment with domestic violence. OSHA cited the company for willfully failing to “protect its employees from life-threatening hazards of workplace violence,” failing to “provide an effective workplace violence prevention program” and “failing to record injuries properly on OSHA forms.” OSHA also enumerated a number of abatement techniques that Epic and others can implement to address violence in the workplace, including:
- A written, comprehensive workplace violence prevention program.
- Workplace violence hazard assessment and security procedures for each new client.
- Procedures to control workplace violence such as a worker’s right to refuse to provide services in a clearly hazardous situation without fear of retaliation.
- A workplace violence training program.
- Procedures to be taken in the event of a violent incident in the workplace, including incident reports and investigations.
- A system for employees to report all instances of workplace violence, regardless of severity.
This OSHA action highlights the need for providers to implement processes for addressing violence in the workplace, including responding to employee complaints of violence by patients and family members.