If there is any major issue an employer never wants to face, it’s getting a notice that an employee filed a harassment claim against your company. Just the thought sends chills down the spine of every small business owner. Indeed, a claim like that is very unsettling, no matter what the circumstances.
What is deemed as harassment has changed over the years as it has grown into an essential topic for HR departments. Not understanding what harassment in the workplace looks like today versus what was defined as 20 years ago is exactly what causes the most problems.
Has your employee filed a harassment claim against you or someone in your organization? What would you do if one was filed against you now? How do you protect yourself and your business against any claim of harassment? Can you protect yourself?
The good news is this: it is possible to defend yourself against a harassment claim. You just have to know what should be in place to make that possible.
Understanding what harassment is and then what you need to do to educate your employees is one of the best ways you can help to mitigate issues of harassment in your place of employment. The definitions of harassment have changed recently, especially in New York and New York City.
Employees Do Not Have To Claim Severity: It used to be that employees had to prove the severity of their harassment in the workplace in order for it to be deemed harassment. In New York recently, the word severe has been removed from the definition of a harassment claim. This can cause a lot of problems for employers who are not properly educated on what harassment is. Do you know what harassment in the workplace is?
Harassment is harassment when an employee feels as though they have not been treated equally by their employer for being a member of a protected class as defined by the government. This can be around sexual orientation, gender identity, disabilities, and/or religious or cultural affiliation. Harassment can also be either verbal or physical. If you are thinking there seems to be a lot of ambiguity around what deems harassment, you are right.
The best way to avoid it is to be sure and offer harassment training to your employees and yourself. In New York, providing harassment training is mandatory. New York State and New York City both offer options for harassment training on their websites, so there are no excuses. It is suggested that all employees, contractors, and vendors attend harassment training and are updated on this training at least once per calendar year.
You also need to know that any harassment claim procedures you had in the office, if you had any, don’t apply in New York anymore. An employee can file a harassment claim against you, whether they followed your harassment claim procedures or not. Not following an employer’s harassment claim procedures is no longer arguable in court.
You can pay for insurance that provides limited protection to the employer in the event an employee filed a harassment claim. You will, of course, need to prove to your insurance carrier that you took all the preventative measures you need to in order to be covered. That is first and foremost.
EPLI insurance stands for employment practices liability insurance. It is not mandatory to carry to employ people, but it might be the saving grace you need if an employee filed a harassment claim against you. You can’t buy insurance if you are in the middle of a lawsuit, but if you end up finding yourself embroiled in one, you might be covered for the damages.
Prevention and protection are best used ahead of time. Knowing what you can do to reduce risk, protect your business, and your employees mean working with the right resources. A PEO is a co-employer for your business. They pick up HR where hiring leaves off. Providing the right training, employment insurance, and HR law expertise goes a long way in avoiding disaster when trouble comes.
Employers need to educate themselves on what harassment in the workplace looks like now, whether they are doing business in New York or not. Secondly, they need to feel good about the protections they have in place against harassment in their workplace. If you’d like to find out more about how a PEO can help your business with employment law and insurance, contact us today for a free consultation.
If you’d like to find out more about how PEOs can help you provide great benefits and payroll management at less than you are paying now, contact us today for a free consultation.
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