May 3rd, 2018
Lewd comments, bad humor, and “we reserve the right” language posted at business locations, once considered normal behavior, is no longer being tolerated. Stories of harassment inundate the news. Over the last week, incidents involving third-party discrimination, one at a large coffee chain and another on an east coast golf course, made national headlines.
Discrimination, defined as “the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex,” is a key factor in creating an environment for allegations in the workplace. However, statistics show that Americans find themselves dealing with many of these same issues not only as an employee, but also as a customer, client, passenger, or even just as a bystander. This variance of discrimination is known as third-party discrimination and it is becoming a disturbing trend, increasing in both incidents and publicity.
The good news is that with publicity, comes change. 24-hour news cycles provide fuel to keep issues in the public mind and businesses are now thinking proactively, many adopting updated best practices and offering employee sensitivity training. As a business owner, are you doing everything you can to protect yourself?
Federal laws are in place to protect against discrimination, and many states extend additional protections, including compliance with certain requirements, such as Sexual Harassment Training.
Many businesses take this a step further by administering their own training and providing clear conduct guidelines and policies in employee handbooks and other posted materials.
With training and implementation of best practice policies, insurance coverage is also an option that should be considered. Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI), coverage for wrongful acts such as discrimination, sexual harassment, wrongful termination, and retaliation used to be considered optional, but in today’s climate, is really a necessity. EPLI provides coverage for first and third party discrimination and harassment claims and may reimburse legal fees, as well as any settlements between your business and accuser. Often, it’s not the final judgment that needs to be covered, but the high cost to defend against allegations. Businesses interacting with clients, vendors, or the public, in general, should consider EPLI coverage.
In addition to taking proactive steps to put training and policies in place, speak with a knowledgeable broker to understand what insurance policies are available, and for more details on EPLI and third-party discrimination coverage.
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