You probably never want to imagine that a customer would sue you or your business for discrimination or sexual harassment, but it does happen unfortunately.
Customers, vendors, clients or other non-employees may allege that one of your employees engaged in a wrongful act such as sexual harassment or discrimination (age, sex, race, disability, etc.).
“Businesses that deal directly with the public generally have more vulnerability to customer claims or third-party claims,” said Christie Lucas, vice president and business insurance product manager at Erie Insurance. “Given the very nature of their business, they have more exposure to these risks.”
Businesses that deal with the public routinely could include restaurants, retail stores, auto dealerships, contractors, hotels, religious institutions, schools, medical offices and real estate professionals, among others, Lucas said.
Are you covered?
The next question in your mind should be are you covered? Many business owners may not realize —or realize too late—that they have a gap in their insurance coverage.
Most standard Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) policies generally offer a measure of protection against lawsuits brought on by employees alleging wrongful acts (sexual harassment or discrimination) or wrongful termination. But EPLI generally does not cover you when a customer sues you for discrimination or sexual harassment.
What is third-party coverage?
To narrow the gap in coverage, you may want to add third-party EPLI coverage, which you can purchase and add to your policy as an endorsement. An insurance professional like an Erie Insurance agent can tell you more about the benefits of the coverage and cost.
In addition to checking on your insurance coverage, it’s equally important to do all you can to prevent third-party claims. Businesses should have harassment and discrimination policies in place and conduct employee training routinely.
Erie Insurance customers have access to loss prevention resources from Hartford Steam Boiler, ERIE’s partner in offering this coverage. For example, you would have access to online resources such as model employee handbooks, policy checklists and a library of web-based training topics. A legal helpline is also available so you can connect with an experienced attorney to talk about specific issues and concerns. If a covered claim occurs, you’ll also have access to claims professionals and attorneys who have experience with these sensitive matters.1
1 Coverage and associated services provided under an arrangement with The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company.