Filed Under:Markets, Commercial Lines

Holding bullies accountable

Opinion

Businesses should have a written policy that addresses bullying and how to report it. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Businesses should have a written policy that addresses bullying and how to report it. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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 bullying matters to insurers


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.

Recognize the warning signs


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.

Patricia L. Harman is the editor-in-chief of Claims magazine. She can be reached at pharman@alm.com. Opinions expressed are the author's own. 

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