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How video conferencing misbehaviour creates commercial liability risk


June 1, 2021   by Greg Meckbach


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Inappropriate behaviour during video conferences can lead to employment practices liability claims, an expert with The Travelers Companies Inc. warns.

New York City-based Travelers is observing “Zoom etiquette claims,” said the insurer’s employment practices liability product manager, Chris Williams, during a recent episode of A.M. Best T.V.

Host Meg Green asked Williams whether there have been any EPL claims, during the pandemic, related to people work from home.

The “Zoom etiquette” claims include “employees having inappropriate displays on their backgrounds, like somebody posting women in bikinis as their backgrounds,” Williams said during the A.M. Best TV episode, entitled Travelers: EPLI Facing New Risks Including Biometrics, COVID-19.

Zoom etiquette EPL claims also arise from people “not being appropriately attired” while on video conferences as well as people displaying inappropriate behaviour without realizing their cameras and microphones were on, said Williams.

Separately, Liberal MP William Amos is facing criticism for urinating during a remote session of the Canadian House of Commons on May 26, not realizing he was on camera, The Canadian Press reports. Amos apologized for what he said was “accidental” and could not be viewed by the public. It was the second incident involving Amos, who represents the Quebec riding of Pontiac. Amos is said to have been changing his clothes following a jog during a Commons session this past April. Amos said he did not realize his laptop camera was turned on.

During the May 13 A.M. Best TV episode, Williams was commenting on observations from the United States and not on the Amos affair.

In Ontario, an employer is at risk of significant financial damages if its conduct or negligence is found to have played a part in harassment against a worker, warns Monkhouse Law, which made that comment in an article in the context of provincial human rights and occupational health and safety legislation.

“If an employer is aware of potential harassment but does not investigate the complaint or conducts a poor investigation, it can still be liable for damages stemming from workplace harassment,” Toronto-based Monkhouse law wrote in the article Harassment in the Workplace: What Can Employees Do? That article was published before the pandemic and did not comment specifically on inappropriate behaviour while videoconferencing, nor did it comment on Amos.

In addition to Zoom etiquette claims, Travelers is observing EPL claims arising from disputes over hours and wages, Williams said May 13 on A.M. Best TV.

“One of the challenges, for employers, is how do you track employees working from home and their hours? Some folks may have young kids at home and they may need help with homework. Some of those employees probably are not working a traditional workday, because it is not feasible to do so, so they may be working later in the day [and early in the morning or late at night to make up for that].”

Feature image via iStock.com/Atstock Productions