Tip of the Week: A Healthy Workplace Precludes Sexual Harassment

The requirement to promote a healthy, productive, and safe work environment is borne by all, not just those with a managerial title.

All employees must be aware of employment laws at the federal level and in their respective state. The manager or supervisor is charged with upholding these laws, particularly as they relate to their duties in recruiting; hiring; administering organizational rewards and pay; and motivating, disciplining, and terminating employees. However, the requirement to understand some principal laws and procedures to promote a healthy, productive, and safe work environment is borne by all, not just those with a managerial title.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 precludes not only discrimination but also harassment of a fellow employee based upon their gender, as well as their gender identity. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. This can also include offensive remarks about a person’s sex or even their appearance. A hostile work environment is one in which there is unwanted sexual behavior or communications in a pattern pervasive enough to disrupt the employee’s work. Prevention is the best tool to address sexual harassment.

A study by Broedel-Zaugg et al. found that sexual harassment is rather prevalent in pharmacy, at least when the study was conducted in 1999 (no studies of sexual harassment in pharmacy have been conducted since that time).1 Pharmacists in one state responding to a survey cited many such instances. Over one-third of them were reported by men, although women reported a much higher incidence of a hostile work environment.

Pharmacists should not only uphold workplace laws but should act in a professional and responsible manner that minimizes the likelihood of colleagues being injured physically or emotionally. It is critical that pharmacy managers become familiar with corporate policy on harassment, implement those policies, and also use common sense to promote a healthy workplace environment that invites camaraderie, not malevolence.

Additional information about The Basics of Employment Law and Workplace Safety can be found in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e.


Shane P. Desselle, RPh, PhD, FAPhA, is a professor of social and behavioral pharmacy at Touro University California.


Brodel-Zaugg K, Shaffer V, Mawer M, Sullivan D. Frequency and severity of sexual harassment in pharmacy practice in Ohio. J Am Pharm Assoc. 1999;39:677-682.