John O'Connor
John O’Connor

If you’re a senior living caregiver and don’t want to get spitting mad, stop reading now. For the tale that follows probably won’t do your blood pressure levels any favors.

The cause for anything but celebration involves a caregiver by the name of Dorothy Bills. One day, she was doing her job at the Worthington Healthcare Center in West Virginia, when a resident began groping her.

In response, did she report the assault to the police, or notify OSHA? No.

Did she sue the family of the resident responsible for the attack? No.

Did she pull out a gun and threaten to cause severe bodily harm to Mr. Happy Fingers? No.

But she did do something. It was something 99% of us might have done under similar circumstances. She gave the attacker a slap and basically told him to back off.

For that instinctive reaction, she was fired. But wait, it gets worse. The US District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia just ruled that her reaction is not protected under the state’s human rights act.

In issuing the dismissal, the court noted, “[I]t is clear that physically punishing a patient is not a reasonable means of opposing sexual harassment in the workplace.” Physically punishing a patient? Are you kidding?

So how exactly should a caregiver respond while being groped? Apparently, the answer as far as this court is concerned is pretty clear: shut up and take it.

Let’s compare what happened to Dorothy Bills with what happened to a certain lad from Illinois by the name of Kyle Rittenhouse.

As you may recall, on August 25, 2020, he fatally shot two protesters and injured a third during chaotic demonstrations in southern Wisconsin.

Mr. Rittenhouse, then 17, could have stayed home on that fateful night. Instead, he crossed a state line, got his hands on an AR-15-style rifle and inserted himself in the midst of a demonstration that was spiraling out of control. A jury would later find him not guilty of all charges.

They say the Lord moves in strange ways. What about our justice system?

It would be snarky to suggest that perhaps if Dorothy Bills had brought a gun to work, things might have worked out better for her. Even if that might actually be true.

Regardless, can anyone say with a straight face that her outcome was just? For any woman who works in senior living, what happened here is, well, a slap in the face.

John O’Connor is editorial director for McKnight’s Senior Living and its sister media brands, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, which focuses on skilled nursing, and McKnight’s Home Care. Read more of his columns here.