Even though the #MeToo movement was motivated by the stories of women who experienced workplace harassment and abuse at the hands of major Hollywood players, politicians, and high-profile executives, small business owners should not assume these situations will never take place in their companies. In a February 2018 article published by the Harvard Business Review, the issue of sexual misconduct in small businesses was evaluated by means of a survey conducted among 57 company owners. Half of these companies did not have a human resources department capable of handling sexual harassment situations, and only 30 of them had a written policy on how to handle such incidents.
Here are some recommendations about how small business owners can handle sexual harassment complaints, brought to you by the San Diego commercial insurance experts at American Tri-Star.
Take the Liability Approach
There are various measures to take and recommendations to follow regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. Nonetheless, it is important to keep in mind sexual harassment is an issue of liability, which means it can happen even in a healthy and wholesome workplace. The ideal protection against these situations is to have adequate insurance in place, including general liability insurance. In San Diego, employment practices liability coverage is a must for small business owners these days, particularly at a time when the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is reporting that more than $45 million is being paid out in sexual harassment claims each year.
Learn the Proper Definitions
The best way to understand what constitutes sexual harassment is to review the definitions provided by the Civil Rights Center of the U.S. Department of Labor. Harassing behavior does not always violate the law. However, there are two actions companies may be found liable for. Quid pro quo harassment is retaliatory in nature, while failing to prevent a hostile work environment often results in harassing behavior.
Follow Company Policy
All small businesses should have a written policy on how to prevent and handle workplace harassment. Companies that do not have these policies in place due to HR constraints can always retain a consultant or ask their insurance agents for a referral on this matter. As far as designating staff members who will receive initial complaints, it is important to remember supervisors are often accused of quid pro quo harassment. Therefore, it is better to select workers who will report directly to the company owner.
Be Expedient and Discreet
Sexual harassment complaints should be handled quickly and discreetly. Dragging the matter out or discussing it in front of other employees will only exacerbate the problem. While staff meetings to review company policy and promote awareness are recommended, such conferences should not be conducted while investigating a complaint. Companies that have employment practices liability coverage should refer the matter to their insurance agents as soon as possible. Above all, confidentiality should be observed throughout the claims process.
If you don’t have adequate insurance for your business to cover sexual harassment and other issues, reach out to American Tri-Star. We are also a leading provider of cheap San Diego car insurance. Give us a call today at 619-272-2100 for a free quote.