Starr Wright USA is dedicated to protecting federal employees’ rights. We invented Federal Employee Professional Liability Insurance (FEPLI) in 1965 so that federal employees can mitigate their risk and safeguard their professional and financial futures. Today, we are the industry leader, and cover more feds than all our competitors combined.
Here are nine risk management strategies for fed managers and staff.
1. Don’t retaliate if an employee files a complaint against you – it can only makes the situation worse
Over the past decade, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has reported that retaliation is the most common issue alleged by federal employees. Retaliation occurs when a manager fires, demotes or harasses an employee who files a discrimination complaint.i
The EEOC recently released Enforcement and Litigation Data for the fiscal year 2018, and retaliation was at the top of the list with 51.6% of all charges filed.ii
It’s tough being faced with an employee complaint, especially if you feel it is unjustified. Avoid making the situation worse by adding retaliatory behavior to the complaint. The Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) process will allow you to respond – so, let the process work; do not interfere with it. If your agency offers training for handling these situations, take it.
2. Be sure you and your employees know your agency’s employment policies
The federal government offers training opportunities to managers and staff members about anti-discrimination and harassment. Training programs also include how managers can effectively coach and counsel employees. When you and your staff attend the training, it not only clarifies policy but also shows a concerted effort to prevent issues from happening before they occur.
Make sure your employees understand your and your agency’s expectations. What are your goals and what role do you expect your employees to play to meet them? If an employee is not helping to meet those goals, give tactful constructive input, and let the employee know how he or she can improve. Conversely, be sure to praise people when they do a good job.
3. Be a communicator
Communication is everything when it comes to personal or employment interactions. It creates an atmosphere of trust, and it creates an environment where you can get “warning signals” of a potential problem before it escalates.
Managers who have an open-door policy with employees, train staff how to respond to complaints, and treat staff with respect are being proactive before complaints may occur.
4. Be a good listener
Convey the importance of listening to your managers and team leaders. Encourage them to ask employees questions, so they can address issues that may evolve into more serious problems and help keep you in touch with your staff.
Demonstrate to employees that you take their feedback seriously. Even if you can’t make a change that an employee might request, explaining why that is and possibly offering alternatives demonstrates your good faith.
Create opportunities to listen and stay ahead of possible problems. Reviewing work performance or using meetings to gauge employee concerns can allow you to be proactive to address and solve employee issues.
5. Pay attention
We all multitask, but constantly looking at your cell phone, taking calls, or not making eye contact during a conversation can be interpreted negatively by an employee who wants to communicate with you. Pay attention.
Face-to-face interactions are often more effective to address employee concerns than an email or text. First, it shows you are concerned enough to want to talk in person. It also allows you to gauge the employee’s body language and affect, giving you more insight into their concerns.
6. Try not to judge
Don’t judge even when you don’t like what you are hearing. That doesn’t mean you can’t respond, but losing your temper, making inappropriate comments, or frequently interrupting can work against your getting an employee to understand your point of view or a policy they may not like.
7. Be open-minded
Whether an employee’s complaint is against you or a staff member, be open-minded. It is easy to label someone with a complaint as a “whiner” or a “pain,” but his or her concern may be valid. Many employees resist complaining until a situation becomes untenable because they fear retaliation. Give employees the benefit of the doubt, and follow agency rules to address the situation.iii
8. Get Federal Employee Professional Liability Insurance (FEPLI)
Despite your risk management efforts to avoid an employment problem, feds in every job risk liability exposure. Anyone can be accused of wrongdoing, no matter your role. In situations such as EEO complaints, it is plausible that you are being personally accused, and possible that your agency will not intervene; so, you should be sure to have insurance from the onset of the process. In the case of an EEO or any other complaint, there is still the chance that your agency may not defend you, or you could even be sued personally. Whether you are exonerated or not, legal fees are exorbitant.
With FEPLI coverage from Starr Wright USA, you will be assisted by experienced attorneys who will guide you through the legal process from beginning to end, in the event of a covered claim. The coverage is affordable. Plus, the federal government considers this insurance protection so important your agency may be authorized to reimburse qualified employees 50% or more of the cost.*
Despite your efforts to prevent potential employee liability, it still may occur. That’s why you should contact Starr Wright USA as part of your risk management strategy. Apply online and begin insuring your career today!
*FEPLI is so important, Congress enacted legislation requiring agencies to reimburse qualified employees up to 50% (up to $150) of the cost of Professional Liability Insurance coverage. Check with your employer to find out if you qualify. Amount of reimbursement varies.
Article authored by Starr Wright USA.
Starr Wright USA is a marketing name for Starr Wright Insurance Agency, Inc. and its affiliate(s). Starr Wright USA is an insurance agency specializing in insurance solutions for federal employees and federal contractors. For more information, visit WrightUSA.com. Starr Wright USA is a division of Starr Insurance Companies, which is a marketing name for the operating insurance and travel assistance companies and subsidiaries of Starr International Company, Inc. and for the investment business of C.V. Starr & Co., Inc.
[i] Retaliation - Making it Personal
[ii] Enforcement and Litigation Data for the fiscal year 2018
[iii] Harassment or Discrimination Claim? Your Response Matters
Risk Management: What You Don't Know May Be Costing You!