Bill O’Reilly is leaving Fox News with a reported payout of up to $25 million, the equivalent of one year of his salary.
If accurate, that means that 21st Century Fox, the network’s parent company, will have had to make more than $85 million in payouts related to sexual harassment allegations at Fox News – those lodged against O’Reilly and Roger E. Ailes, the former chairman of the TV network.
Some of those dollars were paid directly by the men, some by their employer.
A portion also was no doubt picked up by Fox’s insurers under the company’s employment practices liability insurance, or EPLI.
EPLI covers businesses against claims by workers that their legal rights have been violated.
The number of sexual harassment claims in the workplace has increased at a dizzying pace. Although most of the suits are filed against large corporations, no company is immune to such lawsuits.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission receives thousands of sexual harassment reports each year. It also helps victims recover tens of millions of dollars.
Many small businesses have a sexual harassment policy in place, but many do not have sexual harassment insurance as part of their business insurance.
Some insurers provide this coverage as an endorsement, or add-on, to their Business Owners Policy, or BOP. EPLI also is offered as a stand-alone option.
Either way, no business today can afford to be without EPLI, not when the average settlement in sexual harassment cases is in the five figures. These policies provide protection against more than sexual harassment. They also cover:
- wrongful termination;
- breach of employment contract;
- negligent evaluation;
- failure to employ or promote;
- wrongful discipline;
- deprivation of career opportunity;
- wrongful infliction of emotional distress;
- mismanagement of employee benefit plans.
An EPLI policy also will cover the costs of defending a lawsuit in court and for judgments and settlements. Better still, EPLI covers legal costs whether your company wins or loses in court.
It’s important to note that no policy is the same. The more robust EPLI policies include punitive damages – often the largest financial exposure presented by EPL claims. The better policies also cover cases involving independent contractors and leased employees.
A sexual harassment claim can cost a business a lot of money, not to mention its reputation.
Fox knows this well. On top of payouts to aggrieved employees, it lost hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising as a result of the O’Reilly claims alone. Whether those advertisers return to Fox is still up in the air.
Scott Carlson is a Vice President at CCIG. Reach him at ScottC@thinkccig.com or 720-330-7925.