Film Casualty can help minimize the pain involved in dealing with employment practices, but this is also an area where it's important to protect yourself.
If you're an LLC, a small sole proprietorship, or an established production firm, you are going to need Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI). This is especially true of new or small businesses, who are often the most vulnerable. They usually do not have a legal department (or consistent access to a lawyer) or an employee handbook that describes the policies and processes for hiring, disciplining and terminating employees. Because everybody on a film shoot of any kind is considered an employee and not a contractor, it's important to pay attention to this vital part of team management. If you have employees, you need EPLI.
From the moment you interview someone, you can be held liable for an employment claim. If you decide not to hire somebody, that person can file a discrimination claim. If you wind up having to fire somebody due to poor attendance or frequent tardiness, they can claim wrongful termination. You may be idealistic and burning to create and share that creativity with others; however, many people simply need a paycheck, even if they're fellow creatives. It's in both your interest and their interest to make sure everyone is in agreement on all terms of their employment with you.
When you purchase EPLI as part of your Film Casualty policy, you can take the following actions to reduce your liability risk:
- Institute a zero tolerance policy regarding discrimination, substance abuse and any form of harassment. Make sure you have an "open door" policy in which employees can report infractions without fear of retribution.
- Develop an employee handbook that describes your company's workplace policies and procedures, including attendance, discipline, and complaints. The handbook should contain an employment at-will statement and an equal employment opportunity statement.
- Create a job description for each position that clearly defines expectations of skills and performance.
- Conduct periodic performance reviews of employees and note the results in each employee's file.
- Develop or engage a screening and hiring program to weed out unsuitable candidates on paper before contacting them for in-person interviews.
- Use an employment application that contains an equal employment opportunity statement along with a statement, that if hired, employment is "at-will." This means their employment can be terminated at any time, for any reason or for no reason at all, with or without notice. It sounds harsh, but once you become an employer, the language is absolutely necessary. Also ensure that your employment application doesn't contain any age indicators, such as high school graduation date, Such requested information can set you up for an age discrimination claim.
- Conduct background checks on all candidates that your want to hire. Verify all the information they provide you.
- Create an effective record-keeping system to document employee issues as they arise, and what you did to resolve those issues.
Remember that Employment Practices Liability Insurance covers only employee situations. The General Liability Insurance components of your covers liabilities involved with outside visitors to your production.