A group of doctors smiling at cameraYou strive to conduct medical business in legal, ethical and responsible ways. That means maintaining a professional environment for both yourself and your employees. If you fail in your duties as an employer, then employees will likely have recourse. What are some of these infractions? How can you avoid problems in your hiring practices?

To safeguard professional practices, many businesses maintain Employment Practices Liability Insurance, or EPLI coverage. Let's take a look at this coverage, and some of the specific scenarios it might cover.

What's EPLI Insurance

Workplace rights are part of both federal and state law in the United States. In the broadest sense, these laws help create safer working environments for employees. They help employees worry less that employers will take unfair action against them. And, they often give the employees the right to take legal action should such harm occur. The same option also often applies to candidates for jobs at the business, and to those who no longer work there.

Current, former or potential employees might allege that you directed unfair acts at them. They might sue you, not to mention take a variety of other actions. If they do take these steps, EPLI coverage might come in handy.

EPLI policies cover damage stemming from real or alleged misconduct by employers during hiring, retention or termination. Even if you did nothing of the sort, that doesn't mean an allegation might not arise. EPLI coverage can help you respond to allegations, cover your legal costs and settle.

What Can Your Policy Cover?

Your medical practice is as much of an employer as any other business. You likely want to devote as much, if not more, consideration to the security of your workers. An ethical environment can often improve performance, trust and collaborative relationships.

You might not realize the full extent of coverage your EPLI policy might provide. It generally applies to misconduct incidents that occur in the course of employment. Knowing the policy will often help you learn how to put in place better steps to protect your employees. Among the covered incidents in EPLI coverage, you might find:

  • Discrimination: The law usually prohibits discrimination against employees, new hires and others based on certain factors. You generally can't refuse to hire someone solely because of their age, race, sex, disability and other factors.
  • Harassment: Harassment is a form of intimidation of an offensive nature. Sexual, physical and verbal harassment might all fall into this category. Obviously, committing these acts against employees is extremely unethical.
  • Wrongful termination: Terminating someone's employment under certain circumstances is not appropriate. They likely have recourse if they feel you terminated them without appropriate cause. For example, if you fire a nurse who has partial deafness and wears hearing aids, the nurse might sue you because you discriminated against their disability.
  • Failure to promote: If someone accuses you of not promoting them in a discriminatory way, then they might have cause to sue. However, if someone doesn't get a promotion, that does not qualify for them to sue the practice.
  • Breach of contract: Contract workers often have expectations enumerated in their contracts. The employer generally must follow these in making decisions about employment. Failing to do so might put your practice in the wrong.
  • Negligent evaluations: No laws require you to evaluate employees. However, if you do choose to do so, you'll have to apply the same process and standards to all employees. Failing to do so might open you up to scrutiny.
  • Mismanagement of benefits: You might provide benefits like health insurance or pensions. Nevertheless, it is generally up to the business to oversee these accounts. You must pay premiums, manage investments and pass information along to your employees. If you fail to do so, then your employees stand to lose out, and might have grounds for action against you.
  • If you violate certain laws, such as the federal Family & Medical Leave Act, you might have coverage under your policy.
One of the best ways to prevent EPLI risks is to put in place strict codes of conduct for all employees. You should also standardize procedures for hiring, firing, evaluations and other practices. Work with a risk management professional for help with these goals.

When Does Coverage Not Apply

EPLI coverage generally does not apply to criminal actions or punitive damages. For example, if someone in the practice sexually assaults a coworker, the policy likely won't provide coverage. A variety of other exclusions will also exist in most policies. For example, violations of certain employment laws might not have coverage either.

Furthermore, workers' compensation is not covered by EPLI coverage. Workers' compensation does apply to harm that comes to employees in the business. Yet, it applies to injuries or illnesses they sustain in the normal course of their duties. Most states require separate insurance coverage for workers’ compensation claims.

Don't consider EPLI insurance optional. It is a mandatory piece of protection for your medical office. If you plan to maintain employees, get coverage before hiring them.

Joseph A. Britton Agency can help you find the EPLI coverage . Give us a call at (800) 462-3401 for more information.
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