Employment practices refers to the part of your business that deals with hiring, firing and everyday workplace interactions. Employment practices liability claims alleging workplace discrimination or sexual harassment are increasingly common.
To protect your business, it’s important to understand the different types of employment practices claims. Here is a deeper dive into four common employment practices liability claims and how to protect against them.
Types of Employment Practices Claims: Hostile Work Environment
A hostile work environment claim can be complex and involves behavior that discriminates against a group of people based on their race, religion, sex, age, disability and more.
A hostile work environment creates a workplace environment that the average person would find intimidating, hostile or even abusive. This behavior may involve:
- Offensive jokes
- Sexual language
- Sexually suggestive pictures or objects
- Name-calling, insults or slurs
- Mockery, ridicule or intimidation
- Physical touching, assault or threats
- Interference with the performance of work
The person causing a hostile work environment may be a supervisor, coworker or non-employee, such as a vendor or regular patient. For a hostile work environment claim to apply, the behavior must be:
- Severe, persistent and pervasive
- Disruptive to performing work duties
- Known to the employer but not remedied
Preventing common employment practices claims — Hostile work environment:
- Implement policies and procedures around worker conduct and behavior
- Train supervisors and employees on proper prevention and remedies
- Take corrective action once a discriminatory situation becomes known
- Avoid any retaliation against the workers who reported or witnessed the behavior
Types of Employment Practices Claims: Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment claims are also common. While sexual harassment claims often involve a person in a position of authority over the victim, this is not always the case.
These claims can result when employers or others:
- Make inappropriate sexual comments toward an employee.
- Ask inappropriate sexual questions about their personal life.
- Make unwanted sexual advances toward an employee.
- Request sexual favors from an employee.
A claim of sexual harassment does not need to meet the same severe and pervasive standards as a hostile work environment claim. A claim can be made when management becomes aware of the issue but fails to take adequate steps to address and stop the behavior.
Preventing common employment practices claims — Sexual harassment:
- Develop and enforce safe workplace policies for all employees
- Train supervisors and employees on behavioral expectations
- Monitor operations to ensure a safe workplace
- Act quickly to remedy harassment that is reported or witnessed
- Avoid any retaliation against the harassment victim or witnesses
Types of Employment Practices Claims: Quid Pro Quo
Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase used to mean an exchange of one thing for another. A quid pro quo claim is a specific kind of prohibited workplace discrimination where a manager or supervisor offers employment or promotion to an employee in exchange for sex, sexual contact or sexual favors.
This is a form of sexual harassment limited to:
- Persons in a position of authority with the power to hire, fire, promote or reassign the employee if they do not comply with unwanted sexual advances or refuse sexual favors.
- Other employees and non-employees may contribute to the sexual harassment of an employee, but this would not fall under a quid pro quo claim.
Preventing common employment practices claims — Quid pro quo:
- Develop specific policies and procedures for managers and supervisors
- Train supervisors and employees on prevention and reporting
- Investigate all complaints and take appropriate action as needed
- Avoid any retaliation against the victim or witnesses of the harassment
Types of Employment Practices Claims: Protected Characteristics
Claims of discrimination for protected characteristics are another common type of employment practices claim. Federal equal employment opportunity laws prohibit employment discrimination based on several protected characteristics:
- Sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation or gender identity)
- National Origin
- Age (aged 40 or older)
- Genetic information (including family medical history)
The protections apply to:
- Job applicants during the hiring phase
- Employees during their employment
- Former employees after leaving employment
Preventing common employment practices claims — Discrimination:
- Develop documented employment procedures and job descriptions
- Plan for job postings, application screening and candidate interviews
- Review key employment law provisions including prohibited questions
- Avoid interview questions that are not directly related to the job
- Hire based on eligibility and qualifications
- Create an employee handbook with all workplace policies and procedures
- Document everything in writing, including absences, conduct and performance
- Document performance and code of conduct violations
- Fire according to your documented policies
Preventing Common Employment Practices Claims at Your Practice
It’s important to remember that any employer can be sued by an employee over their employment practices. EPLI coverage can save you if you or one of your employees makes a huge mistake. However, it’s possible to receive a claim even when you have done nothing wrong. For this reason, Employment Practices Liability Insurance coverage (EPLI) is key for protecting your business.
With EPLI coverage from the CMA Insurance Program, administered by Lockton Affinity, your practice is protected. Reach out to one of our dedicated representatives today to get started.