Source: RT ProExec Insights
This article examines Employment Practices Liability (EPL) insurance and corresponding risk in the wake of a historical shift in how workplace harassment is perceived, reported and addressed.
A WATERSHED MOMENT FOR WORKPLACE HARASSMENT
As the press continues to extensively cover allegations of sexual misconduct by individuals in a position of authority or influence, the matter of workplace harassment is front and center at water coolers and dinner tables across the country. Not since the 1991 sexual harassment allegations by Anita Hill against then United States Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, regarding Thomas’ role as Hill’s boss at the U.S. Department of Education and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), has there been such national attention paid to workplace harassment. It is particularly noteworthy that the recent flood of sexual misconduct allegations is not limited to any one segment of society, or industry. It has touched executive suites; academia; media and publishing; Silicon Valley; the entertainment, hospitality, healthcare, restaurant and agricultural industries; professional and Olympic athletics; the armed forces; and various political figures. Few, if any, American institutions have remained insulated from allegations of workplace harassment in recent months.
Further, it is clear that we have reached a tipping point with regard to both acknowledgment of and consequences for workplace harassment. For instance, in response to allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior toward a subordinate, NBC rapidly terminated the face of The Today Show Matt Lauer, following his stable presence in American households for over 20 years. Lauer joins a growing list of many high profile individuals who recently have experienced career fallout following allegations of workplace harassment.
Employment related consequences are not the only example of the sea change that has occurred with regard to societal acknowledgement of workplace harassment. The #MeToo campaign, a social media hashtag topic denouncing sexual assault and harassment, gained incredible steam in late 2017. Entertainment industry executives have banded together to form and fund the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, which will be chaired by, incidentally, Anita Hill. The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, established in December 2017 to “provide subsidized legal support to women and men who have experienced sexual harassment, assault, or abuse in the workplace,” raised more than $16 million within the first month of collecting donations via the GoFundMe platform. To further underscore the fact that the workplace harassment floodgate has broken wide open, Time Magazine named the anti-harassment movement, dubbed “The Silence Breakers,” its Person of the Year for 2017.