Patricia L. Harman, Editor-in-Chief
I’m not sure when things changed and society decided that civility didn’t matter. That it was okay to say what we think and if everyone else didn’t agree with our perspective, to shout louder and say vile things about them,
their beliefs, their friends and their family. To ridicule them publicly or on social
media, and to attack them mercilessly — either physically or verbally.
It’s interesting that as a society, we’re more attuned to this type of behavior in
children and we’re quick to condemn it, but what about adults who are bullies?
Sadly, I’ve worked for some of them at previous jobs. And just like I stood
up to the neighborhood bully when I was 14, I chose to stand up to these individuals as well. I’ve been sworn at, accused of some pretty unspeakable things,
and threatened. Some bullies back down if you don’t cower to them, but not
everyone has the fortitude to stand up to this type of behavior.
Why does this matter to insurers? For several reasons. First, because your
companies and clients should have a written policy and grievance procedure
for handling these types of claims in the workplace, especially when the person
doing the bullying is the supervisor of the victim.
Second, claims arising from bullying and the duty to defend or possibly indemnify a client fall under employment practices liability for a carrier.
Third, because the courts are starting to take notice and hold schools and
employers liable when teachers, students, co-workers and supervisors engage
in bullying behavior. In a landmark decision earlier this year, a coroner’s jury
found Dairy Queen and the Glasgow County Missouri School District were
negligent in preventing the bullying of a student who took his own life because of the treatment he suffered at school from classmates and at work
from his supervisor.
For employers, it’s important that they also recognize the warning signs of
this type of behavior before it escalates. A change in a worker’s home life such
as a divorce or break up, financial challenges, or some type of alcohol or substance abuse can lead to bullying behaviors too. Kathleen Bonczyk’s article, The
Legal Exposures of Bullying Claims, examines these issues and what insurers
need to know.
Insurance is about mitigating risks, and education plays a major role in
preventing these threats. We can do our part to educate our employees and
clients — watching our own words and actions probably wouldn’t hurt either.