Steps to Manage Sexual Harassment at Work
The Harvey Weinstein trial has kicked off and many people are talking about how his arrest and the arrests of other celebrities helped spur the #MeToo movement. Employers are seeing an increase in sexual misconduct complaints. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has not updated their statistics for 2019 yet so we must still look at the 2018 data. Charges alleging sexual harassment filed with it in fiscal 2018 rose 12 percent from the previous year. 31.4 percent of the harassment claims filed with the Texas Workforce Commission in 2018 were sexual in nature. With claims alleging sexual harassment currently on the rise against all types of employers, TRA member restaurants need to sharpen their focus on managing this exposure as the risk is real and significant in the restaurant and hospitality industry.
Besides significant financial consequences, claims of sexual harassment or discrimination can inflict lasting damage on a restaurant’s reputation and affect employee morale and performance. Related litigation can also take management’s time away from their everyday responsibilities. If they haven’t done so already, restaurants should take steps to manage potential exposures related to sexual harassment, including: implementing employee training, establishing workplace policies, procedures and well-structured reporting and investigative measures, and obtaining appropriate insurance.
Today, employers have numerous training modules available to help employees understand what actions are considered sexual harassment, the consequences and what victims should do to report a claim. In some instances, online training programs are available that minimize the time employees need to be away from work, test their understanding of the instruction, and validate their completion of the course.
Establish Workplace Policies
Employers should communicate clearly and consistently their policies on sexual harassment and discrimination. Those adopting no-tolerance policies must be fully prepared to enforce them without exception. The policies should be communicated in employee handbooks, during any new employee orientation and reinforced in any training provided and through posters in employee-only areas.
Set Up Reporting Procedures
Establish clear reporting procedures for employees who are victims of sexual harassment to report them internally without fear of retribution. If a supervisor is the alleged offender, employees should have alternatives for reporting any incident. Further, they should be confident that any allegation will be thoroughly investigated. At the same time, employees should be aware of consequences of false reporting.
Insure Your Business for Sexual Harassment Claims
The last line of defense for any employer is insurance, which is designed to protect against the financial consequences of allegations of sexual harassment. Most employers opt for stand-alone employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) policies, which are designed to address claims of sexual harassment and all forms of employee discrimination. Often, simply by completing an application for coverage, the employer will gain insights about the effectiveness of any measures to protect themselves against incidents of harassment and discrimination that they either have in place or are lacking.
Insurance protection may also be available in combined lines programs that package various management liability coverages, including EPLI, directors and officers and errors and omissions insurance. Employers opting for these policies should make sure their coverage limits are structured so that one type of claim doesn’t significantly erode the protection they have for other types of claims.
Although sexual harassment and other employment-related claims are on the rise, TRA member restaurants can take steps to reduce the likelihood of such incidents occurring at their establishments, as well as to protect themselves against the financial consequences when they do occur. For assistance in managing exposures related to sexual harassment and discrimination, contact your insurance professional. If you would like to learn more about these types of coverages please contact the TRA’s insurance director Alec Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org or Malcolm Baker at Marsh, the TRA’s preferred insurance partner, at Malcolm.Baker@marsh.com.