Since 1991 when law professor Anita Hill accused her former boss and then Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, the sale of employment practices liability insurance (EPLI)—which covers sexual harassment and racial discrimination claims against the workplace—has been steadily on the rise.
At the time of Thomas’ hearing, EPLI policies were only offered by five insurance companies and few clients purchased them. Now, 41% of companies with more than 1000 employees and 33.3% of companies with over 500 employees have some kind of EPLI coverage in place to protect against sexual harassment clams, according to the Washington Post.
WaPo’s Danielle Paquette reports:
U.S. companies spent an estimated $2.2 billion last year on insurance policies covering the legal fallout from sexual harassment, racial discrimination and unfair-dismissal accusations. The market is projected to grow to $2.7 billion by 2019, according to MarketStance, a research firm that tracks insurance trends.
That’s a fraction of what enterprises spend on legal and medical malpractice insurance, but industry experts said EPLI coverage is surging into the mainstream, with the biggest growth coming from small and midsize companies.
The effectiveness of EPLI policies is subject to much debate, with some advocates arguing that they actually provide a better option to victims than the traditional avenue of reporting to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as “fewer than one in four sexual harassment complaints made to the agency last year—1,485 of 6,758 claims—ended with a settlement of some kind, government data show.”
Detractors, however, argue that EPLI policies only offer more protection to the company and that often “insurance claims adjusters may intervene to try to limit the size of the award. That can significantly prolong negotiations, even if an employer would prefer to offer more money and wrap things up”
As one sexual harassment victim told Paquette, ““It was infuriating. It’s like: You’re treating me as if you hit my bumper when you kind of ruined my life.”
Regardless of how you might feel about EPLI policies, it’s helpful to read how insurance companies frame them:
“So many people feel like, ‘it’ll never happen to me,’ ” said [Victoria] Stone, senior vice president at Poms and Associates Insurance Brokers in Los Angeles. Now, she added, “more people are pulling the trigger”—including one client who reluctantly purchased a plan, she said, and was later hit with a $300,000 sexual harassment and wrongful-termination claim.
“He hasn’t stopped thanking me,” Stone said.
Gracious of him.
With the recent sexual harassment scandals, companies were looking to increase their coverage and expand workplace training programs meant to discourage misconduct and resolve complaints before they escalate.
“We will be thinking more about limits,” said Richard Betterley, a risk management consultant in Boston who publishes the annual Betterley EPLI report. “You’re buying X million — should we be thinking about more?”
I know one thing these companies should be thinking about more: Training their employees and managers not to sexually harass or racially profile each other!
Whether EPLI policies are, as employment lawyer Alexis Ronickher put it, “a curse and a benefit,” their popularity is on the rise. Insurance company Nationwide says sale of policies boomed following the high profile harassment cases against Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes and Stone says she’s sold two more EPLI policies since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke.
Let’s hope we see a similar spike in unconscious bias training, hm?