The licensed advisors here at H&H just reviewed the latest figures from the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), showing workplace discrimination complaints in the nation fell 2.2% in 2009. Of course, that’s good news. But, there's a downside: Employees and job applicants still filed a near-record 93,277 claims, costing employers $376 million.
It prompts us to inquire whether you've checked your “bias-o-meter recently.” That's shorthand for asking if you're doing everything you could and should be to avoid claims of prejudice against your business.
Under current law, it's illegal to discriminate against someone (applicant or employee) because of their race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.
It's also unlawful to retaliate against a person because he or she complained or filed a charge about discrimination.
These things can be a tough call because even when you try to be unbiased, prejudice can sneak in. Or maybe someone thought you were discriminating when you weren't.
Predictions for 2010 aren’t much better... claims for wrongful termination, race discrimination and sexual harassment are expected to increase. According to a recent survey by Hartford Steam Boiler:
- A mere 1.2% of small businesses have Employment Practices Liability Insurance
- And yet, 67% worry about discrimination or other EPLI related lawsuits
- 60% underestimate the cost of a claim
- Record claims have been filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Council in the last two years, and
- 2010 is predicted to be a record year for EPLI claims because of higher unemployment rates, lay-offs and a “trend toward employee-friendly” laws
Of course, seeking EEOC guidance can help you reduce the possibility of an employment related lawsuit but eliminating this risk of loss entirely is unlikely. For this reason, among many others, we’ve been seeing the number of businesses purchasing Employment Practices Liability Insurance increasing significantly over the past two years.
In these times of employment hardship it's more important than ever to demonstrate a non-discriminatory approach in the workplace. Keep in mind, we’re here to help if you feel your business may be in need of EPLI coverage.