Would you practice veterinary medicine without malpractice coverage? Would you operate your practice without general liability insurance? Or without a workers’ compensation policy? Of course not. But too often veterinary practices are missing an as-important protection: employment practices liability insurance (EPLI).
Simply put, EPLI coverage responds to allegations of wrongful employment practices such as wrongful termination, discrimination, and sexual harassment, including allegations from third parties. It provides coverage for legal defense fees and indemnity (compensation) for wrongful employment practices claims.
Before you think “I don’t need this coverage because that won’t happen to me,” take a look at some real-life scenarios that did happen to your veterinary colleagues. And while you’re reading these claim scenarios, consider that EPLI claims are some of the most common business insurance claims in the veterinary industry.
Allegation: Wrongful Termination after Workers’ Compensation Claim
Employee A slipped on a wet surface and sustained a back injury. Employee A filed a workers’ compensation claim, received medical treatment, and was released for work duties 60 days later. Before returning to work, however, Employee A became ill and called the practice about returning later than anticipated. Before Employee A recovered, Dr. B (the practice owner) terminated Employee A without explanation. Previously, Employee A had received positive performance evaluations and had no conduct issues. Employee A sued Dr. B, alleging that the termination was in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Allegation: Religious Harassment and Discrimination at Practice
Employee C, a Muslim woman, was hired by the practice as a receptionist. Employee C dressed modestly and wore a hijab, a traditional Muslim headscarf. Once she was hired, a co-worker began to make derogatory comments about her religion and dress. The co-worker regularly joked about Muslim women and the employee’s hijab, repeatedly referring to her as “the terrorist at the front desk.” Employee C complained about the comments to the practice owner, but nothing changed. When Employee C requested permission to use an empty room for prayer during her lunch hour, her request was denied. The employee ultimately resigned and filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC. The matter was settled for $75,000
Allegation: Racial Discrimination in Hiring
Dr. D decided to hire another veterinary assistant to expand the small practice. During the application process, Dr. D narrowed the search from eight to two candidates. One of the candidates, an African-American, had more years of experience and was more qualified. However, Dr. D decided to hire a Latino applicant because Dr. D believed the practice’s predominantly Latino clients would feel more comfortable with someone from a similar background. The African-American candidate found out that the practice hired the less-qualified applicant and filed a complaint in federal court, asserting claims of race discrimination. Defense costs in this matter exceeded $100,000.
Your business and livelihood are exposed without it. As your practice expands or endures staff turnover, EPLI is a critical protection to the operation. A recent VHMA study reported that 91% of veterinary practices are considering hiring new employees -- and 61% are considering hiring non-certified tech or tech assistant employees, positions that are generally associated with higher turnover than DVM staff.
If you’re wondering if the coverage is worth the premium, consider EPLI:
Claims are some of the most common veterinary business insurance claims
Provides protection for more than sexual harassment claims
Claims can cost veterinary practices tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket without coverage
Why AVMA Trust?
The AVMA Trust provides EPLI coverage that’s designed by veterinarians for veterinary practices. With protection through the AVMA Trust program, veterinary practices receive:
A two-year rate-lock guarantee
State-approved human resource training and access to Beyond HR, an online training platform
Legal assistance (defense costs) and access to a legal telephone helpline
A disappearing retention if your practice is free of claims (subject to availability)
A team of experienced Trust veterinarians are available to speak directly with you about challenging practice situations