As a business owner, you have a duty to create a secure working environment for all of your employees, and this means instituting a strong risk management program. One risk that you might not think about, but that could be present in your operation, is the risk of a sexual harassment claim from an employee.
You can’t ignore the fact that this risk might exist in your business, and you can’t stop someone from leveling a claim of sexual harassment against you if they are determined to do so. Either way, you must be prepared to address these claims. Let’s take a closer look at how you can do so.
Before Claims Arise, Have a Plan in Place
Preventing and addressing sexual harassment claims starts before a claim is even a possibility. From day one, you must have a workplace conduct policy in place. This usually means establishing certain rules:
Ensure that employees know that they have a right to report these claims, and provide them with the documentation they need to do so, if the need arises.
Clearly state in your company policy that sexual harassment will not be tolerated.
Ensure that employees receive proper training in diversity, professional conduct and workplace respect best practices. Be sure every employee acknowledges (in writing) that they understand this policy.
Consult with an employment lawyer to learn how to design a proper code of conduct for handling sexual harassment claims.
Once this is in place, your company has a plan of action to handle a sexual harassment claim if it arises.
What to Do If Someone Makes A Sexual Harassment Claim
Should someone make an allegation of sexual harassment, then it is your responsibility as the business owner to address the problem.
You must handle these claims professionally and with proper discretion. Often, both state and federal law will provide a guidebook, but you should contact an employment attorney to receive proper guidance. You will often need to gather appropriate details, but you must do so with respect for the victim and in compliance with workplace law. You should also contact your business insurance agent to determine whether your commercial liability insurance will help you fight this claim.
A specific type of coverage, called employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) will apply to claims of sexual harassment. It addresses the fact that workplace conduct can prove harmful to both the employee and the business itself. If an employee sues you over sexual harassment, even if the claim is baseless, the costs of fighting the suit and reaching a settlement could become excessive. You want to be able to both address the problem in front of you and keep your business financially sound.
Your commercial insurance agent is happy to help you develop your EPLI benefits to your advantage, so you can trust us to deliver on your coverage needs in the most effective ways.