Employment practice claims are some of the biggest liabilities that companies are facing today. On an annual basis, more than 200,000 claims are received by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and major funds are collected and funneled into settlements and penalties for claimants. Employee lawsuits can present a major financial hurdle for big companies-and could mean closing its doors permanently for smaller companies. Employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) has become a major piece of coverage for employers in various industries and of all sizes. EPLI providers can protect their clients with a well-rounded approach to coverage that provides the right level of financial and legal protection to help make it through a lawsuit.
Here are some of the biggest trends facing companies today and how EPLI can help protect against their issues.
Sexual harassment claims have unfortunately been an ongoing legal matter in companies, as well as in the long history of business for that matter. But high-profile cases in the entertainment and political worlds have highlighted the topic at a new level, encouraging those who have been victimized to speak out, holding those responsible accountable for their actions. Workplace sexual harassment can come in many forms, including verbal or physical, and can include everything from crude jokes to unwanted touching.
In sexual harassment-related cases, the harasser doesn’t have to be the employer for an employment claim to be filed against the company. Any other employee or supervisor from a different part of a company can end up creating a liability. In these situations, a company is responsible for the actions of its supervisors. For this reason, employers should be encouraged to prevent harassment and create an open-door policy for potential complaints.
Working in the Age of COVID-19
The spread of the novel coronavirus has forced employers across the country to make many major decisions about how to manage their business and their employees. Employers have had to develop and implement new policies on the fly, including procedures around remote work, layoffs, furloughs, pay cuts, and more. Not surprisingly, there are already COVID-19 lawsuits being filed against major companies, including Wal-Mart and Amazon.
As companies start to reopen and invite their workers back to the office or worksite, even as a vaccine hasn’t been produced, it is likely that we will see a major movement of employment-related lawsuits, leading to claims under EPLI policies. Within this coverage, there are many different exclusions that could leave companies on the hook depending on the claim being made.
This isn’t a very cut and dry topic as discrimination can come in many forms. But for starters, when an employee or job applicant feels they have been treated unfairly due to their skin color, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, or age, they have a case to bring against a company. Some examples can include job listings that suggest certain preferences about candidates not related to professional qualities (such as looks, age gender, etc.), denying certain employees the use of a company’s facilities, or pay disparities among equally qualified employees of different classes in the same position.
Another trend in the EPLI sector concerns the misclassification of employees. This issue is protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which protects both salaried and non-salaried employees. However, this doesn’t protect contracted workers or unpaid interns. While these professionals find themselves doing similar work to full-time employees, they operate without the same kinds of protections.
Employers have different reasons for identifying their workers in their own respective way. But if they are asking employees who are unprotected to perform similar duties as a regular employee, they should be paid as such. If not, a misclassification suit could be brought against a company.
This issue has become more common in recent years, especially with the rise of big tech companies who usually opt to hire extra help via independent contractor agreements. In addition, the gig economy in general has seen a surge of freelance employees charting their own course.
About Genesee General
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