Commercial Insurance and Sexual Harassment

A wave of sexual harassment claims began last year from women coming forward to name the men who harassed them; Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, Matt Lauer, and countless others. These courageous women provided the foundation giving birth to the #MeToo movement, something that should have happened a long time ago. Commercial insurance companies believe this movement may lead to a wave of employment practices liability claims.

Employment practices liability insurance, or EPLI, is a coverage that may or may not be included in a standard commercial insurance policy. It can, and should, be added as an option to a company’s general liability policy. EPLI covers a variety of employment practices including wrongful termination, sexual harassment, discrimination, breach of employment contract, negligent evaluation, failure to employ or promote, wrongful discipline, deprivation of career opportunity, wrongful infliction of emotional distress, and mismanagement of employee benefit plans.

EPLI coverage isn’t just for large companies or companies in certain industries. The same can be said for sexual harassment; it can occur in any size company or organization in any industry. Sexual harassment is under reported according to the Society of Human Resource Management, SHRM. Below are some statistics worth noting:

  • 36% of all human resource professionals reported they’d dealt with at least one sexual harassment allegation in their organization.
  • 11% of all non-management employees stated they’d experienced some form of sexual harassment in the past 12 months.
  • Of these, 76% didn’t report it believing either nothing would change or for fear of retaliation.
  • Most employers have a policy on sexual harassment, however, some employees are not aware of it.
  • 22% of non-management employees were not aware of these policies.

If victims of sexual harassment fully reported what they are being subjected to, this wave would look like a tsunami. Having EPLI coverage is important for businesses, but so is establishing a culture where sexual harassment isn’t tolerated. I believe there are several steps employers can take to create a safe workplace.

  • Make all employees, new hires and long-time employees, aware sexual harassment will not be tolerated.
  • Educate everyone on what sexual harassment is.
  • Create a workplace environment where mutual respect is fostered, and retaliation is not tolerated.
  • Change cultural norms so good-old boy and “locker room” antics are not tolerated.

Creating a safe workplace environment isn’t just a task for Human Resources either, senior and middle management need to buy in and model appropriate, respectful, and safe behavior. The failure to do so will only increase the risk their organization will experience their own #MeToo moment. I’m inspired by the courage displayed by the women who have spoken up and encourage those who haven’t, to follow their lead.

What do you think? Share your comments, questions, and experiences with me on my Facebook, Google +, and LinkedIn pages. I’d love to hear from you!

Evie Wise
Evie Wise


Evie Wise
Evie Wise

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