Tribunal lifts suspension of trainee in sexual harassment case

2017 11 03 18 32 1799 Gavel 400

A tribunal in Victoria, Australia, has lifted the emergency suspension of a radiology trainee imposed by the regulator, the Medical Board of Australia, after allegations of sexual misconduct. It has now imposed conditions on his registration instead, according to a report in the professional media.

The tribunal said the trainee still represented an ongoing risk to people's safety. He was accused of kissing, hugging, and giving uninvited massages to female radiographers, and he was suspended under emergency powers, stated an article posted on 12 July by AusDoc. The trainee can now return to supervised practice in line with a ruling by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

The trainee allegedly targeted six female radiographers rostered alone with him on night shifts between 2018 and 2020. For the investigation, he was given the pseudonym ‘HJO’ (most likely allocated by the Medical Board of Australia), but at least one newspaper has published his real name.

One of the radiographers complained that he had suggested they make "Desperate Housewives a reality," after she told him she had been watching the TV show during COVID-19 lockdowns, the tribunal said. She said he also put his arm around her and said he "really needed this cuddle" and he wished they "could spoon on the CT table" while she was doing reconstructions on the scanner. The trainee denied these allegations.

The tribunal said another radiographer complained the trainee had persuaded her to come with him to a doctors' lounge. He then shut the door to prevent her from leaving and tried to persuade her to lie down with him.

Counseling and warning

After receiving complaints from this radiographer in late 2018, the hospital provided HJO with a brief counseling session and a written warning. However, when the hospital substantiated further complaints in 2020, the trainee was referred to the Medical Board of Australia, which suspended him last July. The board noted that he posed a risk to public safety because his conduct amounted to sexual harassment and "exploitation of a power imbalance with vulnerable young colleagues," according to AusDoc.

In his appeal to the tribunal, HJO -- who is currently working as a delivery driver and studying law, stated the report -- accepted some of the alleged conduct had occurred. However, he said he did not fully appreciate at the time that he was making junior staff uncomfortable.

He told the tribunal that his conduct was not serious enough to warrant suspension and that there was a low risk he would re-offend.

The tribunal noted that HJO had "fully engaged" with a respectful workplace program and psychology sessions, and it agreed that suspension was no longer necessary. To lower the risk of his re-offending, the tribunal has also imposed conditions on his registration restricting him to supervised practice in emergency medicine, provided another doctor was onsite and he was not alone with junior colleagues, except when they were treating patients.

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