The daily world in which we live is becoming increasingly diverse. As a small business owner, you’re likely exposed to employees or potential employees from different races, backgrounds, beliefs, age groups and more. The increase in diversity brings many benefits to the workplace, but if you’re not mindful of the law, even a genuine mistake can increase your exposure to costly lawsuits involving allegations of discrimination.
From 2010 through 2012, just under 100,000 discrimination charges were filed annually with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).1 The financial impact of such charges – many of which may lead to litigation – can be staggering to a small business owner. Even unfounded claims can cost tens of thousands of dollars in attorney's fees and be a drain on productivity. So it’s important to make sure you understand and abide by anti-discrimination laws.
“As you will see from some of the scenarios set out below, people are often surprised to learn how seemingly innocent mistakes can lead to claims of discrimination,” says Joe Coppola, assistant vice president of Hartford Claims.
What’s the risk? Use of the term “handyman” implies that gender may be a factor in the hiring process. While it may never have entered your mind, it’s better to use a generic term such as “facilities manager” to avoid the implication altogether.
What’s the risk? This constitutes racial discrimination. Employment law prohibits you from using race as a factor in employment decisions.
What’s the risk? It’s illegal to limit the opportunities and assignments offered to an employee because of that employee's disability if they’re qualified to perform the task.
What’s the risk? Without a legitimate business reason for an employee’s termination, such as failure to meet performance standards or violation of company policies, you’re increasing the risk that you could be found liable for wrongful termination due to discrimination.
What’s the risk? What may seem like innocent banter to one person may feel threatening and uncomfortable to another. By allowing questionable banter to continue, you could be setting yourself up for more than just a gender discrimination claim.
What’s the risk? You don’t need to do anything wrong to be sued. Strict adherence to the most impeccable anti-discrimination policies and procedures can help prevent lawsuits, but it’s not a guarantee.
Allegations of discrimination can arise at any phase of the employment process – from decisions involving hiring, termination and leave-taking to issues of advancement, compensation, training and the application of benefits. As the employer, you need to be informed, aware, responsive and diligent in order to prevent even the appearance of discrimination in your own actions and decisions as well as in your workplace. Here are a handful of recommendations:
The Hartford’s business owner’s policy (BOP) offers EPLI with a $10,000 limit available at no extra cost for eligible customers.2 Higher limits are also available through the BOP and on a standalone policy as part of a management liability insurance product offered by The Hartford.
2 The Hartford’s BOP no-extra-cost EPLI coverage is not available in California, Louisiana and South Dakota.
Coverage is underwritten by Hartford Fire Insurance Co. and its property and casualty insurance affiliates. In TX, this insurance is underwritten by Sentinel Insurance Company, Ltd., Hartford Casualty Insurance Company, Hartford Lloyd’s Insurance Company, Hartford Underwriters Insurance Company, Twin City Fire Insurance Company, Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company and Hartford Fire Insurance Company. In WA, this insurance is written by Hartford Fire Insurance Company, Hartford Casualty Insurance Company, Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company, Hartford Underwriters Insurance Company, Twin City Fire Insurance Company, Sentinel Insurance Company, Ltd. and Hartford Insurance Company of the Midwest.
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