As the driving force fueling the success of a business in Silicon Valley or elsewhere in the Bay Area, what do you dream about at night as a creative entrepreneur? Understandably, the ongoing dynamics of your business plan are front and center. You focus on growth, profitability, and sustained excellence.
An additional candidate for thought has emerged in troubling fashion for business owners. It is this: the possibility - indeed, the likelihood at some point - that a sexual harassment claim will roil the company.
We all know that happens. In fact, seemingly nonstop headlines playing out presently allege bad-faith conduct by high-placed principals in many industries. That drives home the point for any business executive that strong protections need to be in place to both address and protect against harassment-based litigation.
Is there an ironclad defense against harassment claims?
In a word, no.
One recent national media report notes, though, that businesses of all types and sizes are increasingly turning to so-called employment practices liability insurance plans. These policies can cover somewhat against allegations of various types brought by employees.
Empirical and anecdotal evidence points to a growing enthusiasm for such policies. Reportedly, American companies spent more than $2 billion in a recent year on EPLI coverage, with small and midsize business entities adding the product.
What can reinforce a company's insurance protections?
It goes without saying that by planning, a California company can be in a stronger position.
That means, as noted by one commentator in the above-cited article: Although insurance armor is nice to have in place, so too is a corporate environment "encouraging colleagues to stand up to sexual language or harassment and call it out on the spot." Foster this with policies that support:
- A candid and open company culture authored by top management
- Confidence among workers that they won't face retaliation for speaking up
- Clear channels for safely communicating grievances
- A well-considered and comprehensive workplace training program
Company passivity concerning sexual harassment (as well as claims focused upon things like wrongful termination and discrimination in its many guises) is a virtual recipe for imminent trouble, long-range problems or both.
People who question that might simply want to pick up today's paper or go online for a quick reminder of the consequences awaiting any business that doesn't take a timely, hands-on and smart legal approach toward employer-employee relations.
Has your company done that? Get guidance from an experienced employment law attorney to address concerns proactively.