While businesses do their best to ensure a safe, pleasant work environment for their employees it is not always possible to account for everyone’s actions. When an employee experiences harassment at work, it is entirely possible for the harassment to become a liability for the business costing not only time but money as well. Below, the insurance professionals at Unity Insurance discuss what you can do to protect your business against harassment claims.
What Is Harassment?
While sexual harassment is the most well-known form, harassment comes in all shapes and sizes. Harassment against workers who fall under protected categories, such as religion, age, race, national origin, and even disability, is prevalent in the workplace. Often difficult to spot, the term covers anything from physical touch to words that make a person feel uncomfortable within their work environment.
Workers experience two main types of harassment that can lead to litigation:
Quid Pro Quo: Directly translated to “this for that” in Latin, quid pro quo harassment is characterized by a person in a position of power demanding something in exchange for something else. A manager demanding sexual favors from someone in a subordinate position in exchange for keeping their job would be an example of this type of harassment. The act itself does not have to have occurred for the harassment to have taken place.
Hostile Work Environment: Hostile work environments are more common claims as they cover anything that creates an intimidating or offensive work environment. Sexual advances, racial slurs or epithets, negative stereotyping, threatening or intimidating assault, and even physical assault are included among claims of a hostile work environment.
Depending on where your business is located, federal, state, and local laws may even prohibit additional forms of harassment.
The First Step Against Harassment Claims is Compliance
One of the first things you’ll want to do to protect your business against harassment claims is to set up a compliance program. This is a written policy that shows employees that you take harassment seriously. It outlines exactly what is prohibited and guides employees on how and to whom they may report violations. A good compliance program should also include management training and specific details on the repercussions of negative behavior.
According to the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, you can try to prevent harassment by:
- Informing employees that harassment is prohibited
- Identifying who employees should contact to discuss harassment questions or concerns
- Assuring employees that they will not be punished for asking questions or sharing their concerns
- Responding to harassment questions or concerns and investigating harassment complaints promptly and effectively
- Ensuring that managers understand their responsibility to stop, address, and prevent harassment
Just because you have not received a formal complaint from an employee does not mean that harassment is not happening. If you become aware of harassment against an employee, you must take action to restore a harassment-free workplace for your employee. The offending employee should be reprimanded per the policies in your compliance program sooner rather than later.
Most of all, if your employees come forward with a harassment allegation it is important to validate their concerns and make sure they know they will not be punished for reporting harassment or participating in a harassment investigation or lawsuit.
Consider Employment Practice Liability Insurance
Employment practice liability insurance coverage is a product designed to protect your business in the case of an employment-related lawsuit. This includes costs and damages related to allegations of wrongful termination, discrimination, workplace harassment, and retaliation. While this coverage is not meant to protect against a poor company, corporate culture, or unestablished workplace policies, it can safeguard companies that can show they had specific policies and procedures in place before the claim. Without employment practices liability insurance coverage, these claims can be quite costly so it’s important to protect against them even if you do not think your workplace is one that may foster this sort of claim.
Protecting Against Third-Party Harassment
As a business, it is essential to realize that not only can harassment happen among employees but it can also happen between employees and third parties. This includes vendors and clients that employees may engage with on a regular basis. As a business, you are unable to sue another business for harassment. Unfortunately, this means you may not be able to stop the harassment from occurring, however, you can and should stand up for your employees in other ways. If harassment occurs, it is your responsibility as a business owner to take your business elsewhere, point out the violation to management, and consider firing the vendor or client if corrective measures are not taken.
Speak With An Agent At Unity Insurance About Your Insurance Needs Today
Unity’s insurance professionals serve as your advocate from the very beginning. From selecting coverage to filing a claim, we are by your side every step of the way. Additionally, we understand that the insurance process can often feel overwhelming, and having a business advisor you trust can provide needed comfort. At Unity Insurance, we know insurance plays a vital role in every stage of your life and business. Our professionals provide guidance and support to ensure you make the right decisions. We work with our clients to provide the best plan to suit individual needs. Call 410-539-6642 to learn how Unity Insurance’s experienced insurance agents can assist you.