EMS World

NOV 2018

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EMSWORLD.com | NOVEMBER 2018 23 it doesn't, unless it can show it acted to prevent and correct the behavior or the victimized employee never complained. Retaliation (a feature of many emergency services cases) is also prohibited. While quid pro quo is often clear, hos- tile work environment can be greyer. In the emergency services, locker-room talk, teasing, and even pranks can be common. Not every joke is an offense—but behavior that's repeated, targeted, and continued against an unwilling subject can be. "I think the people who commit sexual harassment in large measure don't see how their behavior fits into the definition of sexual harassment," says Varone. "The typical guy who is accused of this ratio- nalizes his behavior in some way: that it's somehow OK for him to do this, or she had it coming. And when I say 'she had it coming,' that's often because of perceived issues with a particular female. It could be competency issues, it could be personality issues, it could be other types of things about her that somehow kind of justify what he's done [in his mind]." To some degree the power to define harassment lies with the victim. If you're the new woman in the department and always seem to be the one tasked to clean toilets, is that harassment or your job? "Some people would say it's your job. Others would say, 'Well, nobody's done it for the last three years except for me when I'm on shift.' That becomes a harass- ing behavior, and the eye of the beholder is kind of the telling point," says Murphy. "You have to look at the practices and pattern of what's gone on in the organization. There's a tipping point where it does become dis- criminatory, and that's when I say, 'I've had enough. I'm not cleaning the toilets anymore. I've been in the department four years, and the captain's still making me do this. This has become a hostile work envi- ronment.' It's my viewpoint, not anybody else's viewpoint." 'A Darkness I Didn't Know' If a jury agrees, that can mean major finan- cial pain for a department. The damage to a victim is harder to quantify but poten- tially more serious. "In the beginning I think I found myself kind of compartmentalizing things," says Morningstar. "To continue going to work every day and fulfilling my dream, I had to almost downplay the things that were happening—if I allowed myself to think of them in their entirety, it caused way too much stress. So as time went on—and I don't think I quite realized it then—I almost had to downplay my self-worth and value so I wasn't getting too overworked about the things that were happening." It was basically a sur vival strategy: Morningstar convinced herself putting up with such treatment was an act of strength—she wanted to tough it out, believed she could eventually prove her- self to her tormentors' satisfaction. But it's a rare abuser who can be placated that way. Instead those attempts at persever- ing ground away at her own self-esteem and emotional wellness. "Now that I'm removed from it," Morn- ingstar says, "I realize I wasn't being strong or resilient. It would have taken much more strength to stand up to it." But when she did, as she'd feared all along, it meant her job. Even worse consequences followed. "It was almost as if all the walls I'd built up through the years to keep being able to deal with everything just came crashing down, and I experienced a darkness I did not know existed," Morningstar says. "I'd lost my identity. I felt shame and lost that sense of being a strong, resilient woman who'd dealt with everything. I didn't know how to deal with it, because I'd never dealt with mental illness before, and that's when self-harm and suicidal obsession started. "It humbled me very quickly. Before I perceived myself as being this incredibly strong woman who was defying the odds and staying strong within this depart- ment, and now I'd become just this shell of a person who couldn't even do the sim- plest daily tasks without panic and anxiety that completely overwhelmed me. I'd been a caregiver my whole life, and I couldn't even take care of myself. If it were not for Which would you choose? It's time to expect MORE . STANDARD BATTERY 36 C YCLES WITH 250 LB PATIENT PER CHARGE 69% MORE POWER 113 C YCLES * WITH 250 LB PATIENT PER CHARGE P O W E R S Y S T E M ™ FERNOEMS.COM/POWERX1 | 877.733.0911 FERNO ¨ * One cycle equals one full lift and one full lower All data gathered through industry standard testing in a simulated environment. Power-PRO XT is a trademark and product of Stryker Corporation. FERNO is not associated with Stryker Corporation. Elevate your expectations. For More Information Circle 21 on Reader Service Card

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