Statistically, it’s three times more likely to happen than a fire. But like a devastating blaze, it could destroy your business. It’s an employee lawsuit.
If you own a small business, the risk of being sued by an employee is very real. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employees of businesses big and small filed over 90,000 employment-related claims in 2016 alone.
In this article, we’ll take a look at five industries that are ideally suited for Employment Practices Liability Insurance or EPLI. Here are three topics we'll cover:
- An overview of EPLI: What is it and why you need it
- Which industries are at risk for an employee-related claim and why
- Real-world scenarios that could spur an employment practices claims
EPLI: Shielding Businesses from Costly Claims
Offered on a stand-alone basis or combined with an existing policy, EPLI helps safeguard businesses against employee claims and lawsuits alleging inappropriate or unfair acts. Even when done unknowingly, violating an employee’s (or contractor’s) rights can have devastating consequences. Common employer missteps include:
- Wrongful discipline, demotion, or termination
- Failure to hire or promote
- Sexual harassment
- Discrimination, from age to sexual orientation
- Libel, slander, defamation of character, or Invasion of privacy
- Wrongful infliction of emotional distress
EPLI can help protect you and your business from potentially costly claims. Increasingly popular, EPLI coverage includes legal defense fees and settlement costs or damages – up to your policy’s limit – whether you win, settle, or lose a case. Check out our blog post “Building a Case for EPLI Coverage” to learn more about the benefits of EPLI coverage.
Five Great Fits for EPLI
The following five industries are prime candidates for EPLI coverage:
Whether selling clothes, cell phones or sporting goods, most retailers have a workforce that spans the age spectrum, from teens to seniors. Therefore, retail storeowners must face a number of potential employee claims, including age discrimination, harassment, failure to promote, and wrongful termination.
Profile: Game Day Gabby
Gabby, a high school senior, worked part time at an independently owned sporting goods store in her hometown. On a couple of occasions, Gabby was the target of some inappropriate comments made by two of her male coworkers. After each incident, Gabby discreetly shared her concerns with the store manager, who relayed Gabby’s concerns to the store’s owner.
Despite Gabby’s efforts to address the situation, the two employees continued to harass Gabby. After a third incident, Gabby quit her job at the store and explained her reason to her parents. Gabby’s parents filed a harassment suit on her behalf against the owner of the sporting goods store.
Gender discrimination, retaliation, harassment and unfair wage practices can occur in a food service environment. Denying an employee an advancement opportunity and failing to accommodate employees or customers with disabilities are actions that would be grounds for a lawsuit.
Profile: Pepperoni Pete
Pete, a college student, works at a family-owned Italian restaurant near campus. After starting as a kitchen prep worker, Pete quickly advanced to assistant chef. An accounting major, Pete offered to help the owners create a new operating budget for their business. Soon, sales grew and so did the business.
Six months later, the owners posted an assistant management opportunity in the local paper and online. Pete applied for the role, but wasn’t considered. When he asked the owners why, they told Pete they thought he was too young to assume such a role. Pete filed an age discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission the next day.
Most white-collar employees have high career aspirations. Their expectations of their employer are usually equally as high. Being denied an advancement opportunity – or experiencing unfair treatment of any kind – won’t sit well with today’s professionals, especially millennials, according to the Insurance Journal. Harassment, gender and age discrimination, failure to promote, and wrongful termination are all common claims in this industry.
Profile: Molly Millennial
Molly, a 25-year-old junior account manager, worked for a small ad agency. After just three months on the job, Molly approached her boss about the opportunity to work on some of the agency’s larger accounts. Molly’s boss told Molly that her work spoke for itself, and he would do his best to oblige. A few weeks later, the agency hired Joe, another junior account manager, who, like Molly, is in his mid-20s.
Two months later, Joe was promoted to account manager and given some of the agency’s biggest accounts. Molly requested a private meeting with her boss to revisit her request to expand her role. Molly’s boss explained that he had a good feeling about Joe and believed Joe would be better suited to manage the agency’s blue-chip accounts. Molly then met with an agency partner and was let go a few weeks later. She immediately sued for wrongful termination and gender discrimination.
From apparel makers to industrial equipment producers, businesses with employees of different ages, genders and ethnicities must respect their employees’ rights or face potentially damaging claims.
Profile: Jenna Gemstone
Jenna works for a small jewelry-making studio as a production artist. A full-time employee, Jenna has worked for her employer for three years. She is expecting her first child in the spring. Three months before her due date, Jenna notified the company’s owner that she would be taking a six-week unpaid leave of absence when the baby is born. To her disbelief, Jenna was let go. Jenna immediately filed pregnancy discrimination and wrongful termination claims against her employer.
Medical, dental and chiropractic care practices need protection from discrimination, harassment and wrongful termination claims.
Profile: Samantha Pearl
Samantha, a dental assistant, works for a family dental practice in her hometown. Despite being a loyal and talented employee, Samantha is regularly on the receiving end of verbal abuse from one of the senior dentists. The dentist likes to poke fun at Samantha for not finishing her college degree and would often belittle her for being “just an assistant.”
To make matters worse, the dentist likes to tell jokes around the office that are not only insensitive, but also offensive to women. Samantha expressed her concerns with another one of the dentists, but was told that the dentist’s comments and jokes are harmless. Samantha filed a lawsuit, claiming harassment and emotional distress.
- EPLI delivers peace of mind. More popular than ever, EPLI can help protect your business from the effects of a potentially devastating lawsuit.
- EPLI is worth the investment. EPLI coverage includes legal defense fees and settlement costs or damages – up to your policy’s limit – whether you win, settle, or lose a case
- No industry is immune from employment-related risks. While businesses in the retail, restaurant, professional services, manufacturing, and healthcare industries encounter employment-related claims, every company, in every industry, is at risk.
- Knowledge is a small business owner’s best friend. The more you know about best employment practices, the less likely your business will find itself in hot water.
The bottom line of small business owners: If you have employees, you need EPLI coverage. No matter the size or specialty of your business, your past, present, and prospective employees can file an employment claim against you.