Insurance Talk — Preventing Employment Practice Liability Claims

Insurance Talk — Preventing Employment Practice Liability Claims

Rex and Cheri have the answers. Listen here.


Cheri Martinen – Welcome to Insurance Talk with Cheri Martinen and Rex Lesueur. We’re the father-daughter team from Bancorp Insurance located in beautiful Central Oregon. We’re here to help you with all of your insurance needs from your commercial general liability and property coverage to your personal home and auto. And we even help with Medicare and health insurance. If you have any questions, give us a call at 1-800-452-6826.

Today we have a special guest in the studio, Ed Martinen. And yes we’re related, he’s my husband. We’re so happy to have him here today. He’s going to be talking about preventative measures that employers can take to hopefully not get claims.

Rex Lesueur – The kind of claims we’re talking about are employment practice liability claims. One of the fastest-growing areas of lawsuits in the country right now is employees suing their employers and they sue them for all kinds of things. They can sue them for wrongful termination, sexual harassment, abuse, failure to hire, people can get sued for not hiring somebody. So there is any number of different ways that an employee can come at an employer and threaten them with a lawsuit.

The way you protect yourself from that is you buy something called Employment Practice Liability Insurance (EPLI). It’s getting more and more common as we see more and more claims. It’s not as expensive as you might think. And if you’d like to go into it in-depth, we can. But the point of this particular episode is to have Ed tell us what employers can do to prevent these claims from happening.

Tips for Preventing Employment Practice Liability Claims

Ed Martinen – First off, I’m just going to give the general disclaimer here that I’m not an attorney. If all of a sudden you have a claim against you and the state is coming to tell you that you’re under investigation for failure to promote or wrongful termination, at that point, I would strongly recommend getting an attorney and talking to an attorney. But before that happens, there’s a couple of steps you can do on your own that I’d recommend for all employers.

Create General Policies

The first thing is to have some general policies. You don’t need to be a wizard that comes up with this seventy page manual of all these practices and policies, but there are some new laws, particularly that are hitting the state of Oregon and other states, that are basically mandating that employers have something in place. For example, the big ones would be anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies. You can go into Google and type in “example policies,” and you can find a ton on the internet. You can just take those, put your name on it, and make some adjustments to fit your needs, but just having some basic policies in place. If something does happen, you can point to the manual and say that we did our part as an employer, we have this policy, we had our employee sign it or it’s posted in the break room. That is the very first step to do, it’s very simple. You don’t have to recreate the wheel. Go on Google, or if you have an attorney, they probably have sample ones that you can pay for and they will give them to you.

Take Proactive Measures

The second thing, in regards to avoiding claims by employees, is taking proactive and preventative measures. If something is bubbling or brewing with your employees, like if you hear a subtle comment from an employee, sexual harassment claims lots of times can start with an employee saying something subtle to a supervisor. Saying, “This person did this to me.” You have to take it seriously, a lot of times that’s where you see these claims bubble up.

For example, someone said the supervisor always hugged all the female workers in the office for fifteen years and they told the other supervisor a long time ago, “Hey, we don’t like that. That’s kind of weird. It’s kind of creepy.” If you just did something when you first heard that, and talked to that supervisor and said, “Stop hugging all the women.” You can prevent that right off the bat. But you have a lot of these huge payouts and claims that are coming from employers because they don’t take the small steps to prevent a larger claim from happening. Particularly when the state or any other agency comes in and basically says you failed as a duty to protect your employees. You failed as an employer. And at that point, if you can’t show that you did anything, then you might be paying out a large amount if you don’t have insurance, like Rex talks about the employment practice liability insurance.

Have a Log or Documentation

The last thing that I would tell you to do is have some sort of log or documentation with employees. So if an employee brought up a complaint, address the complaint, log it somewhere that you said, “Bob came into the office. He complained that another coworker called him a bad name. I looked into it, I addressed it with the employee. I told Bob that we’ve addressed this. This will not be happening again.” It does not need to be something elaborate. When you always hear people say to keep documentation, literally it could be an email to yourself that you save in a file or you put in a physical file. So if something ever comes up when that employee leaves and they file a claim against you, for example, if they said that you didn’t take care of this issue between two employees and it created a hostile work environment. You can say, “No, have the documentation right here. I looked into it, I addressed it. And I spoke to you about it. And it was never brought up again.” That goes a long way in defense in regards to if you have a claim against you as an employer.

Consider Employment Practice Liability Insurance

RL – Thank you, Ed. Those are remarkable comments. I hope that everybody that’s listening to this will take that to heart in today’s world. You just have to have a little bit better employment practices to keep yourself out of trouble.

CM – You can also buy insurance, it doesn’t hurt.

RL – And the insurance isn’t as expensive as you might think, but it is something that more and more employers are doing it. And if you have more than a couple or three employees, we’d recommend doing it.

CM – If you have any questions about employment liability insurance, you can give us a call. We’re Bancorp Insurance, 1-800-452-6826. You can also reach us by email at bancorp@bancorpinsurance.com. You can find us online at www.bancorpinsurance.com. Thank you so much for listening to the podcast. We hope you learned something today and that you can share with your friends.

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