With the number of sexual harassment cases on the rise, tackling sexual harassment in the workplace can seem like a pretty daunting process. But it doesn’t have to be.
1 out of 3 businesses will have to deal with a sexual harassment claim
Big or small, any company is at risk for getting a sexual harassment claim filed against them. Being prepared is the best way to protect your business.
Training is cheaper than litigation
Most sexual harassment prevention training programs cost between $25-50 per person. While this can add up quickly, the average payout for a sexual harassment lawsuit is between six and seven figures. And yes, your company could be liable for millions of dollars. Jurors often side with the sexual harassment victim because there is a widely held belief that companies should understand that sexual harassment policies should prevent sexual harassment claims.
Often times, managers and executives feel that they are exempt from these trainings, but they are the groups with the highest rate of complaints. If need be, schedule various training opportunities to ensure that every employee can attend a training and mandate that training for everyone.
Clear policies will help mitigate claims
One of the best ways to prevent sexual harassment is to have a thorough sexual harassment policy in place. Some key components to a strong sexual harassment prevention policy include:
- Have a clear definition of what sexual harassment is
- Give real world examples of what sexual harassment is
- State a zero tolerance for sexual harassment in the workplace
- Encourage and discuss the duty for employees to report sexual harassment to help protect them and others
- Define the policy to prevent retaliation of the accused towards the accuser
- Define how a victim will be protected by confidentiality
- Give a brief outline of the investigative procedure for any claims
- Indicate the severity of punishment for any offenders
Focus as much on behavior as policy
Having a good policy in effect and training will only get your company so far. Most of the emphasis is on what should not happen rather than on how to behave. Some ways to make a clear point about intolerance of sexual harassment behavior:
- Prohibit jokes that are risqué or have any sexual content. What might be funny to one person can be very offensive to another.
- Prohibit downloading pornography at the workplace.
- Have follow up information sent out to employees periodically. But this doesn’t mean just sending out an amendment to the employee policy handbook. There are numerous fliers that can be emailed or printed out that discuss sexual harassment in the workplace.
Sexual harassment is not covered under General Liability Insurance policies
You may be thinking that you don’t need to worry because you have an amazing general liability policy and an even better umbrella policy, but it is the Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) policy that handles sexual harassment. Nearly 70% of claims result in monetary awards to the victim, many of which fall in the $1.5 million range… not including legal fees!
An EPLI policy will protect the business from sexual harassment as well as other areas such as wrongful termination, discrimination, and breach of employment contract. Most EPLI policies will provide coverage for defense costs, judgments, and settlements but they are not all created equal. Each company will have a different policy and exclusions. Some exclusions to be aware of are:
- No prior acts
- Supervisors only
- Public policy violations
- Only legal fees not judgments