Specialty Insurance

Three Things to Know About EPLI

It’s available, it’s affordable and it’s preferable to litigation.
By: | February 20, 2018 • 2 min read

With high-profile sexual harassment claims dominating today’s headlines, employers and their risk managers might want to take another look at their employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) — or lack thereof.

EPLI provides a defense against employment violations committed by employers and/or their employees, including sexual harassment, discrimination and wrongful termination.

“It’s important for employers to know that EPLI is one: available; two: affordable; and three: a policy costs less than a legal defense,” said Victoria Stone, senior vice president, Poms & Associates.

Advertisement




“Irrespective of the validity of an allegation, it behooves employers to have a policy to provide for a defense, as well as a judgment,” Stone said. Client attitudes vary, but overall, they are begrudgingly receptive to such a policy.

“Some employers do resent having to pay for this type of policy,” Stone said. “My clients aspire to do the best they can. They are good people and good to their employees. But I recommend that they have EPLI, because these cases can be expensive to defend, even if you’ve got excellent documentation.”

Of course, having EPLI is not enough. Employers must work to create a culture where sexual harassment — or discrimination of any kind — is not acceptable. This includes providing training and education to employees, creating policies regarding behavior and reporting and making sure victims or witnesses know it’s safe to speak up.

Victoria Stone, senior vice president, Poms & Associates

As movements against sexual harassment gain momentum, some question whether EPLI negates corporate America’s motivation to change the culture that breeds abuse. Stone however, doesn’t consider that an issue. “It’s great to have insurance, but you don’t want to use it,” she said. “We want to help employers develop practices that prevent claims from arising; the goal is to keep this from happening.”

That prevention mindset is shared by Marie-France Gelot, SVP, insurance and claims counsel, Lockton Northeast, who believes a cultural shift is what’s needed.

“There needs to be a full overhaul of corporate culture,” she said. “This issue must be on the agenda of every corporate board. It starts at the top, at the board level and within the C-suite. Then legal, human resources and risk management must all be on board,” she added.

Calling for strong leadership and substance over form, Gelot said that the time for harassment-free workplaces has come, and those who do not act will damage their brands, reputations and ability to attract good talent.

“It’s time for the #WeToo movement,” she said. “I call it that because ‘we’ in corporate America must stand up and say, ‘We do not condone sexual harassment,’ ” she said. “Companies must truly commit to change; they must put their money where their mouth is and create a zero-tolerance culture,” she added. “We must take away the fear and stigma.” &

Mercedes Ott is managing editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.

Advertisement




That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.

Advertisement




Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]