Employers have always had to navigate claims of wrong termination, wage and hour disputes, and other employment liability issues. Now, employers are also having to deal with heightened awareness of diversity, equity and inclusion matters, as well as wave after wave of COVID-related concerns.
These risks are leading to rate hikes for Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI). According to the Q2 2021 Commercial Property/Casualty Market Index from the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers, EPLI premiums were up 8.9% on average. The first quarter saw even steeper premium increases of 10.8% on average.
The Evolving Impact of COVID
The pandemic has certainly complicated the employment liabilities landscape. The Fisher Philips COVID-19 Employment Litigation Tracker shows that there have been 3,860 cases as of October 27, 2021. Florida has seen 250 cases. So far, the most common case types involve remote work and leave conflicts.
As more offices reopen and workers resist returning to the office, more litigation of this type may be coming. Vaccine mandates are another source of conflict. NBC News maintains a list of employers currently mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for some or all employees. It’s an increasingly long list, and it includes familiar names such as Walmart and The Walt Disney Company. Some workers aren’t happy with these mandates. For example, according to WFTV, some Walt Disney World cast members protested the mandate in September.
Other workers might sue, especially if they are fired after refusing the vaccine. The Alligator reports that this is exactly what more than 200 Gainesville city employees did. The employees argued that they had natural immunity from contracting COVID, and a judge issued a temporary ruling against the mandate.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
The #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter movements have contributed to an increased focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I).
If employees believe they have been discriminated against on the grounds of race, gender or another protected class, they may sue. In one example, NPR reports that Tesla has been ordered to pay $137 million to a Black employee who sued over claims of racial discrimination. In other examples, WESH reports that a woman in Florida is suing Planet Fitness over claims that she was passed over for promotions because of her race, while Patch says that a transgender woman in New Jersey is suing her employer over claims that she has faced hostility and discrimination because of her gender identity.
Many employers are being proactive and taking steps to boost the diversity of their workforce. The National Association of Colleges and Employers says that close to 90% of employers had a diversity recruiting strategy for the class of 2021.
However, if employers are not careful, diversity measures may backfire. SHRM reports that a jury has awarded $10 million to a white man who claimed he was wrongly terminated as part of the company’s overzealous effort to diversify its leadership positions. This outcome is a reminder that businesses must be thoughtful and lawful in their inclusion efforts.
Do You Have Employment Practices Liability Insurance?
Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) provides protection against many types of employment-related lawsuits including harassment, discrimination and wrongful termination. If you don’t yet have an EPLI policy, ask us to review the available options.
Wilson, Washburn & Forster is a boutique independent insurance agency that has been in business since 1961. We have expertise and connections in the commercial and employment practices liability insurance markets and can also help customize the right mix of coverage to protect against the unique exposures of your business. You will find that our experience, claims handling, service, and community commitment is unrivaled.
Contact us today at 786-454-8384 for a complimentary analysis of your current insurance program by an insurance specialist in this field.