EPL Insurance: Workplace Bullying

Employment Practices

EPL Insurance: Workplace Bullying

Employee-related lawsuits are increasing. From wage and hour disputes to sexual harassment and wrongful termination, employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) is essential to protect a company from risks and liabilities they face from employees. In a recent blog post, we discussed Why Employee Practices Liability Insurance is Crucial for Business Owners, but now, a new issue has emerged.

Workplace bullying is emerging as a new frontier in employment liability insurance. Increasing discussion about the prevalence of bullying and its detrimental effect on worker morale have led many to call for legal action. If legal action does occur, companies could find themselves having to adjust their employment liability insurance coverage.

Workplace bullying takes on a variety of forms. It can be between both males and females. Types of abuse vary from relentless teasing, cruel comments, or verbal abuse or threats. The vast majority of bullying incidents tend to be verbal abuse, including shouting, swearing, name-calling, rumors, and lies. Bullying through technology, online through social media sites, also accounts for a significant number of incidents.

A growing number of states are considering legislature that would let workers sue for harassment that causes physical or emotional harm- essentially bullying. Most employers have anti-bullying policies, but some want to take it to the legislative level, giving legal rights to workers who don’t already fit into a protected class based on race, gender, or national origin.

New York, Massachusetts, and about a dozen other states have considered anti-bullying laws. The laws would allow litigants to pursue lost wages, benefits, medical expenses, and compel worker to “prevent an abusive work environment.”

Business groups oppose the anti-bullying laws, arguing that it would lead to large amounts of frivolous lawsuits. Opponents argue it would punish an employer for their employees’ actions they may not be able to anticipate.

Typically the current regulatory environment relies on in-house company bullying policies. A management association survey found that 56 percent of companies have an anti-bullying policy in an employee handbook or code of conduct. Response to bullying allegations typically includes suspensions, termination, reassignment, or mandatory anger management training depending on the circumstances.

Bullying can have greater consequence beyond the victim. Workplace bullying hurts employee morale, increases turnover and even affect the bottom line. If anti-bullying legislation does go through, employers could face a new liability risk in the workplace, and would need to adjust their EPLI coverage accordingly.

At Newman Crane, we have the ELPI coverage that’s right for your business. An Employment Practices plan offers the protection you need at a cost that’s determined by the size and type of your business and associated risk factors. It will also cover your legal counsel and court costs whether you win or lose. Contact us today for more information (407) 859-3691