By Kim Noble, CPCU
Reprinted with permission from the April 2019 issue of Claims Magazine. ©2019 ALM Media Properties, LLC. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. All rights reserved.
This article also appears online at PropertyCasualty360.com.
Social movements have attracted much attention in recent years. Movements such as #MeToo, Time’s Up and Black Lives Matter are just a few modern examples of social justice movements with strong intentions to reform the status quo in industries once thought of as impervious like Hollywood, media, sports and government. These movements have revealed the systemic issues of discrimination, sexism and sexual harassment in nearly every area of the professional world, as evidenced by the upticks in claims and allegations being made in the public domain.
Nevertheless, the innocuous actions of these movements to push for a more equitable and safer environment for humanity have, in fact, had unanticipated counter-effects on equality and diversity initiatives for public and private companies, when looked at through a professional liability lens.
Potential liability impacts
To dive deep into this critical issue, a discussion at the 2018 PLUS International Conference in November 2018 addressed the hidden risks of social movements, including how they could upend a company’s culture and retention initiatives, ultimately impacting the diversity and equilibrium of the employee base and potential talent profile.
#MeToo and Time’s Up exposed the misbehavior of professionals from the corner office to the cubicle. As a result, many professionals were exposed and often terminated. While disrespectful behavior toward anyone in the workplace is unacceptable, what has also surfaced since the onset of these exposures are the hidden professional liability risks stemming from the well-intentioned changes these movements aim to have on society.
Stress among diverse talent
Employment claims brought against companies as a result of inappropriate workplace behavior have a high probability of impacting not only the company’s current employee base, but the future talent pool as well. For example, a sexual harassment scandal and the reputational implications may endure long after a claim is resolved, resulting in an adverse effect upon current employees and the pool of potential candidates. This, in turn, may disrupt the balance of diverse employees. In addition, this type of outcome can be detrimental to a company’s bottom line, as traditionally male-dominated industries like finance and technology seek to broaden their talent base to hire, train and retain women and minorities.
The professional liability impact of such exposures has also resulted in significant stress to and in some situations, impairment of professionals, especially among female employees. This consequence has ultimately led to a lower quality of work, productivity and morale, at times leading to high levels of turnover among valuable and diverse talent pools.