The working environment during COVID-19 brought on significant employment changes with many firms restructuring their teams; employees working remotely and often communicating via video meetings; the distinction between office hours and personal time became blurred; and, of course, the safety of employees became paramount.
In the post-pandemic environment, employers will continue to face challenges with plans to return to office. Employers will also need to consider the safety of unvaccinated staff and customers. Employment laws vary by region, however, employers could face liabilities related to COVID-19 infections, as well as those related to employment practices and whistleblowing.
Several factors are converging to increase EPL exposure for financial institutions, including:
- Amplification and enforcement of gender pay disparity legislation
- Diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives
- Increased media attention on workplace harassment claims
- A multigenerational workforce with diverging values and needs
- ‘Gig economy’ exposures
- Growing challenges to arbitration agreements
- An uptick in transactional merger and acquisition activity resulting in more employment-related claims
- Escalating defense costs
- Legislative changes – such as the 1991 Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and Older Workers Benefit Protection Act in the US
Employment claims can have immediate and long-term impacts to firms’ bottom lines. They may also lead to reputational damage which has the potential to strain relationships with investors, stakeholders and the public, and mandate change in senior management.
EPL policies address allegations such as:
- Wrongful termination
- Sexual and non-sexual harassment
- Negligent hiring, supervision or retention
- Employment-related emotional distress
- Invasion or breach of privacy
EPL policies can be extended to include coverage for Wage & Hour (W&H) violations. W&H coverage can also be purchased on a stand-alone basis.