How #MeToo Could Impact #YouToo — if you’re not vigilant and have adequate EPLI coverage.

The #MeToo movement has, thankfully, shined a bright light on the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace. As the culture shifts beneath the business community, many companies are reevaluating the way they handle such matters internally and making sure they are adequately protected with Employee Practices Liability Insurance in the event a claim is brought against them.

As a business owner or company executive, it is your responsibility to set the grounds rules to ensure that you are providing a safe and professional workplace where the behavior of staff, vendors and other third-party constituents meets U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines.

Drawing the line against sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state, local and federal governments, employment agencies and labor organizations. Similarly, all students are protected under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Any teacher, university professor or other person in the education system with authority who sexually harasses a student is in violation of the law.

Under Title VII there are two types of sexual harassment claims that courts decide upon: quid pro quo and hostile work environment claims. Should your side be judged to be liable it’s critical that you have Employee Practices Liability Insurance to help minimize the impact of potentially significant financial blow to your business.

EPLI is your first line of defense against sexual harassment claims

Many of the front page stories in the news these days are centered on quid pro quo situations, where opportunities, promotions or raises are promised or denied based on a supervisor’s demand for sexual favors.

The U.S. Supreme Court gives employers the right to defend themselves assuming they have been proactive in trying to reduce sexual harassment in the workplace and have made efforts to correct threatening or harassing behavior. If an accuser claiming sexual harassment has not taken advantage of a company’s reporting process the company may also argue that they are not liable.

Conversely, sexual harassment that happens in a hostile work environment may include behavior that seems relatively innocuous to some. However, sharing inappropriate jokes or photographs, crude language, suggestive comments or threats can all be considered inappropriate behavior and open a company to sexual harassment claims. Social media is now an oft-used conduit to harassment situations and employee behavior and activities on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms needs to be addressed in every comprehensive sexual harassment prevention strategy.

Is your industry a snake pit for sexual harassment claims?

No industry is exempt from sexual harassment claims, but according to studies some industries are more likely to incur harassment claims. Often these complaints are found in industries where the jobs are low paying. According to Cosmopolitan, the problem is at its worst in the restaurant industry, where 42 percent of women say they’ve experienced sexual harassment, but it has also affected 36 percent of women in retail, 31 percent in science/tech, 31 percent in arts/entertainment, and 30 percent in the legal field.

Be proactive when a claim of sexual harassment is made

By now we’ve all heard stories about management sweeping complaints of sexual harassment under the rug and, worse, threatening the accuser with repercussions should they take their complaints to law enforcement or the press. A more effective course of action is for the manager to take the complaint seriously and investigate it fully and take direct action should the complaint prove valid. This requires a shift in culture to a more open and empathetic system that listens to the employee’s concerns and takes immediate action to address the issue head-on, whether or not the accusations prove to be true or false.

Are you confident in your Employee Practices Liability Insurance coverage?

Defending against sexual harassment and other employee-related claims such as discrimination, wrongful termination and breach of employment contract, among other charges, can impose a serious financial burden on your business if you’re not adequately protected, especially if you’re found liable.

EPLI coverage protects your business in the event of claims of sexual harassment, as well as:

  • Wrongful Termination
  • Slander and Libel
  • Invasion of Privacy
  • Failure to hire, promote, terminate or discipline
  • Cause of Emotional Distress
  • Breach of Contract
  • Discrimination (racial, sexual, age, etc.)
  • Wage and Hour Claims
  • Defamation of Character and Retaliation

If you have employees, ex-employees or third parties similarly related, rest assured your business is subject to claims of sexual harassment. Employment Practices Liability Insurance from SEI New York helps protect your business against financial costs related to settlement amounts and can cover your eligible legal defense expenses. When you consider our competitive rates, risk management expertise and our broad coverage options, you’ll find SEI New York is an EPLI coverage broker you can rely on for top-shelf service.

The best way to be certain that your Employment Practices Liability Insurance provides the essential coverage that your business requires is to call us. One of our EPLI specialists will sit down with you to evaluate your protection and show you how to manage risk more effectively so that claims are kept to a minimum, if not eliminated entirely. Contact SEI to learn more.