Sexual harassment claims can be dramatic and even sordid but others can be somewhat innocent in nature. Some time ago, we encountered a claim that originated from an unmarried dentist dating one of his unmarried dental assistants. The relationship was consensual and continued for several months. Eventually, the dentist ended the personal relationship and the assistant left the practice soon after. Within a couple of months, the dentist received a letter regarding a possible EPLI lawsuit from an attorney representing the former assistant. The assistant claimed that she felt pressured to engage in a sexual relationship with the dentist, her boss, and that he abused his position of authority within the practice. The dentist refuted the allegation contending that they were both single adults and were not only colleagues but also friends outside the practice. He further explained that the romantic relationship had evolved naturally as part of their working relationship and personal friendship. He believed that the allegations were a response to her disappointment that the romantic relationship had failed.
The harsh reality is that the dentist’s position was impossible to defend. Even assuming that the dentist’s account of the relationship was completely factual, the ruling of the case would still have been in favor of the assistant. Ultimately, the dentist’s EPLI insurer negotiated a settlement with the assistant and her attorney and a trial was avoided.
EPLI claims can arise from seemingly natural human interaction (though in reflection here the fallacy might be apparent). The point being that EPLI claims don’t only arise in situations where overtly inappropriate behavior is present.