Discrimination and Employment Practices Liability

Very few people set out to openly discriminate against anyone in the workplace, but occasionally, discrimination is an issue that comes up, especially when there is a power difference in the parties involved, which certainly explains the necessity for companies to have good employment practices liability insurance.

It is important for employers to be clear about what exactly constitutes discrimination so that they can do their best to avoid the types of situations that would force them to use employment practices liability insurance.

First, there are three federal laws regarding workplace discrimination:

  • The Civil Rights Act
  • The Equal Pay Act
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act

People tend to see these as a way to protect minorities against overt, stereotypical forms of discrimination. However, these stereotypical instances of discrimination, while still present, are possibly less frequent now because of how quickly stories are picked up by the media or how easily a company can get sued, even with employment practices liability insurance.

Common types of discrimination lawsuits include:

  • Disparate Treatment
  • Workplace Harassment
  • Lack of Disability Accommodation

What employers need to become more aware of are the various, more subtle ways that they can be hit with a discrimination lawsuit from one of their employees. Some examples of these are limiting an employees training based on their physical status or gender without consulting with the employee, or attempting to entice an older employee into retirement with a lucrative benefits package that wouldn’t be offered if they stuck around the company much longer.

Discrimination can not only cause financial problems for the company if they are not covered by employment practices liability insurance, but can also cause several problems within the company that would become a larger detriment to the success of the company as a whole. Disgruntled or depressed employees do not make for an efficient and effective work environment for anyone and everyone involved will suffer.

Perhaps a good way to ensure that no one feels unfairly discriminated against would be to offer an open forum in some way for employees to air their concerns without worrying about the effect exposing these concerns might have on their employment. As with most situations, open communication is the best solution. It is important to establish a system such as this so that everyone can feel secure in themselves while they are on the job.

Through training and constant vigilance in the workplace, employers can ensure that no employee is feeling discriminated against for any reason, which will not only prevent a lawsuit, but also allow for a happier, more productive working environment.


photo credit: Lars Plougmann cc