61ºF

Measure expanding sexual misconduct reporting advances

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Health-care facilities across Florida would lose their state-issued licenses if they do not put in place policies requiring employees to report sexual misconduct, under a Senate proposal advanced on Monday.

Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, wants all health-care entities that need a license from the state -- including nursing homes, abortion clinics, hospices and hospitals -- to mandate employees, contractors, volunteers and interns who witness sexual misconduct to report the abuse to their employers, local law enforcement and a statewide complaint hotline.

The bill (SB 776) defines sexual misconduct as “any sexual activity between an employee and a patient even if the patient consents,” according to a Senate staff analysis of the measure.

"I'm shocked that it's 2019 and that this is still not covered," Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, said before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee unanimously approved the proposal Monday afternoon.

In addition to requiring the health-care facilities to have policies, the measure would require the individual who witnessed the misconduct to prepare, “to the best of his or her ability,” a report that “specifically describes the nature of the sexual misconduct,” including details about when and where the incident occurred.

“Despite countless protections and policies in health-care facilities, incidents of sexual abuse continue to occur in these settings,” the staff analysis reads.

In January 2018, a 23-year-old, nonverbal and immobile woman was raped and impregnated while in the care of a facility in Pensacola, the analysis noted.

Under the proposal, a person would face a third-degree felony if he or she coerces or threatens someone “with the intent to alter testimony or a written report regarding an incident of sexual misconduct.”

The proposal would mirror reporting requirements already in place for entities overseen by the Department of Children and Families, according to the analysis.

The Senate measure has one more committee stop before heading to the floor for a full vote; an identical House proposal (HB 665) has yet to be heard in committee.