April 13, 2021

“Employment Practices Liability” Blends Legal Insight with Risk Management Savvy

Employment Practices Liability: A Guide to Risk Exposures and Coverage, Second Edition, by Britton Weimer, Eric Satre, Andrew Whitman and T. Michael Speidel, The National Underwriter Company, 2012, 306 pages, $96.

“Our employees are our greatest resource.”

Does this corporate slogan sound familiar?  Increasingly, though, employees — and employment practices liability (EPL) — can be one of a company’s greatest liability exposures.        Employment practices liability is a growing concern for increasing number of businesses and organizations of all types.  In both claim frequency and severity, claims and suits are burgeoning.  Mitsubishi, Texaco, Circuit City.  The list of companies stung by harassment, wrongful termination and discrimination claims keeps growing.  (A few administrations ago, even the President of the United States was open to legal attack.)

Since the 1990’s, there has been over a hundred-fold increase in complaints filed with the Equal Opportunity Commission.  Claims alleging workplace discrimination produce an average court awards in the six-figure range.  Allegations regarding raises and promotions produce average awards of $350,000.  Sexual harassment claims net on average awards of about $150,000 apiece.  Scarier still, those are just the cases going to trial; over 95% of all these claims are settled prior to trial.

Those numbers, along with growing publicity about the problem, cause more and more companies to sit up and take notice of EPL exposures.  Corporate claim and risk managers are wisely adding employment practices to their list of areas of concentration.  How do corporate claim managers address the financial challenges of EPL claims?  Help is here in the form of the National Underwriter’s Employment Practices Liability: Guide to Risk Exposures and Coverage.

All four co-authors of this updated book are attorneys. Brit Weimer and Eric Satre  are in private practice in the Minneapolis area. Andrew Whitman is an insurance consultant and expert witness. T. Michael Spieled is an attorney/dentist.  If you assembled the Olympic basketball equivalent of a “Dream Team” for employment practices law, you would have the authors of this latest book.

Fourteen years have passed since the National Underwriter published its first edition of Employment Practices Liability, so the text was ready for an update, given the changing landscape and prominence of employment practices liability. In the intervening years, employment practices have become more prominent as a risk for risk managers to address, either through insurance or not insurance means.

So, if you have a copy of the earlier edition of Employment Practices Liability, why would you — or should you — invest in this latest version?  What is new about this second edition of employment practices liability?  In general terms, differentiating the second edition from its earlier version is a more detailed analysis of EPL claims, coverage, and risk management.  Beyond that, there are three specific reasons:

            #1.  Heft.  Readers get much more content than what appeared in the first edition.  It is not just “filler, either.  The latest iteration of the book is about twice the size of the original edition.

            #2.  Updated content on “hot spot” areas.  EPL now includes a significantly expanded analysis of whistleblower and reprisal claims, which are now much more common than they were in the late 1990’s.

            #3.  FSLA content.  EPL includes a full chapter on FLSA claims, which were barely on the radar back in 1998, but are now a major concern for employers.

The book subdivides into eight chapters, revolving around the following themes:

Chapter 1 – Policy Coverages and Exclusions

Chapter 2 – Workers Compensation/Employers Liability

Chapter 3 – Other Liability Policies

Chapter 4 – Obtaining and Managing Insurance Defense

Chapter 5 – Avoiding Wage and Hour Claims

Chapter 6 – Avoiding Discrimination and Harassment Claims

Chapter 7 – Avoiding Whistleblowers, Retaliation and Wrongful Discharge claims

Chapter 8 – Employment Risk Management from A to Z

In addition to these chapters, which are packed with tips, the book contains a handy glossary and five appendices that cover each state’s complaint processes, forms, time limits for complaint filing, and other resources.

Another handy feature for busy risk managers is that each chapter concludes with a risk management overview. These include bullet points and key takeaways from the chapter just concluded. Although all four authors are attorneys, the book is accessible to any risk manager and is not unduly weighted down by lawyer jargon and gobbledygook.

The chapter on “Employment Risk Management from A-Z” alone is worth the price of the book. Some may be off-put by the $96 price tag of a soft cover volume.  That would be short-sighted, though.

If having this reference and implementing merely a fraction of the ideas prevents a single employment practices liability claim, the risk manager’s modest investment in the book has a multiplier return on investment. Of course, as in the case of any risk management book, one must actually implement the ideas contained within the covers. As motivational guru Tony Robbins has said,” knowledge isn’t power – – action is power.”

NUCO’s Employment Practices Liability is an excellent — and practical — guidebook that belongs on the shelf of every practicing risk manager and human resource professional.


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