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Reflecting On Exposure And Coverage In The #METOO Era

#metoo Blog Post

Source:   RT ProExec Insights

This article examines Employment Practices Liability (EPL) insurance and  corresponding risk in the wake of a historical shift in how workplace harassment  is perceived, reported and addressed.

A WATERSHED MOMENT FOR WORKPLACE HARASSMENT

As the press continues to extensively cover  allegations of sexual misconduct by individuals  in a position of authority or influence, the matter  of workplace harassment is front and center  at water coolers and dinner tables across the  country. Not since the 1991 sexual harassment  allegations by Anita Hill against then United  States Supreme Court nominee Clarence  Thomas, regarding Thomas’ role as Hill’s boss  at the U.S. Department of Education and Equal  Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC),  has there been such national attention paid  to workplace harassment. It is particularly  noteworthy that the recent flood of sexual  misconduct allegations is not limited to any  one segment of society, or industry. It has  touched executive suites; academia; media and    publishing; Silicon Valley; the entertainment,  hospitality, healthcare, restaurant and  agricultural industries; professional and Olympic  athletics; the armed forces; and various political figures. Few, if any, American institutions  have remained insulated from allegations of workplace harassment in recent months.

Further, it is clear that we have reached  a tipping point with regard to both  acknowledgment of and consequences for  workplace harassment. For instance, in response to allegations of inappropriate sexual  behavior toward a subordinate, NBC rapidly  terminated the face of The Today Show Matt  Lauer, following his stable presence in American  households for over 20 years. Lauer joins a  growing list of many high profile individuals  who recently have experienced career fallout  following allegations of workplace harassment.

Employment related consequences are  not the only example of the sea change that has occurred with regard to societal  acknowledgement of workplace harassment. The #MeToo campaign, a social media hashtag topic denouncing sexual assault and harassment, gained incredible steam in  late 2017. Entertainment industry executives have banded together to form and fund the  Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, which  will be chaired by, incidentally, Anita Hill. The  Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, established  in December 2017 to “provide subsidized legal support to women and men who have  experienced sexual harassment, assault, or abuse in the workplace,” raised more than  $16 million within the first month of collecting  donations via the GoFundMe platform. To  further underscore the fact that the workplace  harassment floodgate has broken wide open,  Time Magazine named the anti-harassment  movement, dubbed “The Silence Breakers,”  its Person of the Year for 2017.

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