As an employer, you must take measures to prevent workplace harassment. Claims of harassment and misconduct come in many forms. Employers may fail to create a culture free of discrimination or have claims of wrongful termination. Employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) can help prevent and respond to claims of wrongdoing and rights violations.
EPLI goes beyond your General Liability insurance to provide defense and to pay claims. From Fortune 500 companies to small businesses, no company is risk free when it comes to workplace harassment. Since the rise of the #MeToo Movement in 2017, allegations of workplace harassment have dramatically increased. Mere allegations of misconduct end or forever tarnish some organizations; others choose to publicly battle claims and face settlements and judgements reaching into the millions.
According to a 2018 report from the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC), (https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/wysk/preventing-workplace-harassment.cfm) overall claims of workplace discrimination were down from 2017, yet complaints about sexual harassment increased more than 13.6 percent.
Whether sexual in nature or not, workplace harassment claims should be avoided at all costs for the wellbeing of employees and a business’ overall health. As such, our top three tips for preventing workplace harassment should be applied to all employers and work environments.
#1 Set Expectations with Clear Policies Creating clearly written policy documents is the first step in defining expectations for all employees. If you’re starting from scratch and need direction, contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Council (https://www.eeoc.gov/) for advice and resources. Once drafted, consult a lawyer to review policies for compliance with federal, state, and local employment laws. Include finalized policies in an employee handbook for distribution to all employees.
#2 Establish Comprehensive, Mandatory Training
Once policies are in place, you should conduct thorough and regular training to discuss what constitutes as workplace harassment, reporting procedures, and consequences for offenders. Training sessions should be mandatory for all employees. Scheduling and attendance expectations should be made in advance along with specifying that there may be discipline for absences.
In addition to reviewing existing policies, sharing examples of workplace harassment, and providing tangible takeaways for later reference, we recommend creating a code of conduct summarizing training content and expectations. These documents can serve as signed acknowledgements from attendees and should be stored in human resource (HR) files.
#3 Operate Transparently and Immediately
Swift response is key if a claim is made. Acting quickly and with transparency (when allowed), HR officials should be available for questions and concerns throughout the claim process. Unaddressed claims or secretive behavior can create a negative and unhealthy work culture.
Don’t Go It Alone
The Flanders Group is experienced in providing EPLI solutions and resources. We will act as your partner in workplace harassment prevention. Call one of our team experts at 800-462-6435 to discuss your organization and its risks so we can begin developing comprehensive protection designed especially for you.