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EPL Insurance in the #MeToo Era

By Higginbotham on March 21 , 2019

GettyImages-office harassment

Does sexual harassment occur in your company? Don’t dismiss the idea too quickly. According to the 2018 Hiscox Workplace Harassment Study, one in three workers has experienced harassment. And because harassment often goes unreported – 40 percent of respondents said they hadn’t reported the harassment to either the company or the police – managers may be unaware of just how widespread the problem really is.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking this means you can sweep harassment under the rug. After the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, women started speaking up. The #MeToo movement has brought sexual harassment out of the shadows and into the public eye.

The movement involves more than angry social media posts. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) saw an increase in sexual harassment filings in 2018:

  • Lawsuits involving workplace harassment increased by more than 50 percent.
  • Charges alleging sexual harassment increased by 13.6 percent.
  • Reasonable cause findings in harassment charges increased by 23.6 percent.
  • The EEOC recovered almost $70 million for sexual harassment victims in 2018, up from $47.5 million in 2017.
  • Hits on EEOC’s sexual harassment page doubled, indicating that more people were looking for information.

No one is exempt

It’s easy to think that your company could never be involved in the next scandal. It’s also wrong.

This is not just a problem for Hollywood. The EEOC saw charges in a wide range of industries, from factories to health care. Servers and customer service workers also filed lawsuits.

The size of the company doesn’t matter, either. The Hiscox study found that harassment is just as likely to occur in small companies as it is in large ones. And while harassment often came from men, women were responsible in almost one-quarter of incidents. Harassment could occur between people of the same sex or people of different sexes. It could come from supervisors, co-workers or even customers and vendors.

Whatever type of company you run, no matter how big or small it is, if you have employees, you also have harassment risks.

Managing your risks

Sexual harassment is a complicated issue, and dealing with it takes effort on multiple fronts. Companies can create and enforce strong policies, provide training and help employees feel safe reporting issues without fear of retaliation.

But even with these efforts, some risk remains. Companies can’t control every interaction that occurs, and what one person considers harmless, another might consider harassment. Lawsuits can result.

This is why insurance is also necessary. Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) can provide important protection against sexual harassment claims. If a lawsuit is filed, policies may cover defense costs as well as settlements and awards. To learn more, contact your Higginbotham insurance representative.

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