Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: A Concern for All Business Owners

The “Me Too” movement has rocked the workplace from Hollywood to Washington, D.C. and everywhere in between. What began in October 2017 with bombshell reports accusing movie producer Harvey Weinstein of sexually harassing and assaulting dozens of actresses has started a nationwide movement of women using the social media hashtag, #MeToo, in outwardly sharing their own experiences of receiving unwanted advances and remarks from men in the workplace.

With a wave of reports against the likes of Kevin Spacey, Oliver Stone, James Franco, Steven Seagal and many other once-celebrated stars, the movement has raised awareness of a serious problem that cuts across all industries from sports to politics to everyday offices. It begs the question: Would your business be able to financially withstand a lawsuit for sexual harassment?

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, Defined
Workplace sexual harassment claims are filed with and investigated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency enforcing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to AllLaw.com, sexual harassment includes “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.”

AllLaw explains in detail the two types of sexual harassment recognized by Federal law: quid pro quo, and hostile work environment. Quid pro quo involves business decisions made based on sexual favors, agreements or rejection, while a hostile work environment is more self-explanatory. Sexual harassment in the workplace is, of course, also against New Jersey State law.

Alarming Statistics
Sexual harassment affects many New Jersey businesses. We won’t go into the specific cases or companies that have seen lawsuits of late. Instead, we’ll offer a few national statistics illustrating the need for insurance coverage specifically protecting against sexual harassment lawsuits.

  • 1 in 3 women between the ages of 18-34 has been sexually harassed at work. (Cosmopolitan)
  • 81 percent of female sexual harassment victims said the harassment was verbal. (Cosmopolitan)
  • Nearly 2 in 5 women in fast food establishments are sexually harassed on the job. (Hart Research)
  • Other fields with the highest levels of reported sexual harassment include retail, science, technology, arts, entertainment and legal. (Cosmopolitan)

Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI)
The growing prevalence of sexual harassment claims has fueled a newfound interest in a type of insurance coverage called Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI). Most companies have such a policy to cover a wide range of potentially costly claims:

  • Sexual harassment
  • Discrimination
  • Wrongful termination
  • Failure to promote
  • Retaliation
  • Defamation
  • Invasion of privacy

While the best defense against any of these issues is to continually maintain a positive, discrimination-free work environment, EPLI is an extremely important policy to have in place as an extra layer of protection for workplace-related lawsuits.

To learn more about minimizing your employment practices risk with EPLI, contact Anderson Insurance Agency. We have been securing cost-effective, reliable EPLI policies for NJ businesses for more than 50 years.