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10 Union Liability Claim Scenarios

Jillian Otten - Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Union leaders perform a valuable mission to improve the lives of working men and women, but this difficult job carries high personal risk. Union leaders face professional liability lawsuits brought by members, employees and regulatory agencies. If accused of dishonesty or personal wrongdoing, a union leader may be personally responsible for all of his or her legal defense costs until proven innocent.

1. EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES/SEXUAL HARASSMENT
A female union employee alleges that she is subjected to a hostile work environment when her male co-workers display professionally inappropriate pictures around the office. Her supervisor fails to address the situation after repeated offenses. As a result, the employee files a lawsuit against her union employer for sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and a hostile work environment. The lawsuit settles before trial for over $300,000, and the union’s attorney’s fees exceed $100,000.


2. EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES/WRONGFUL TERMINATION AND DISCRIMINATION
A union organizer of twenty years alleges that she was wrongfully terminated and replaced by a candidate with less professional experience. The former organizer files a lawsuit against the union seeking over $5 million in damages for wrongful termination from employment and racial discrimination. The claim settles before trial for $250,000.


3. DUTY OF FAIR REPRESENTATION
A union member is terminated by his employer following a drug-related criminal arrest. After the criminal charges are dropped and the member’s criminal record is expunged, the union member’s employer fails to reinstate him to his prior position. The member requests that his union file a wrongful termination grievance against his employer. The union inadvertently misses a deadline during the grievance process, which causes the grievance to be dismissed. The union member, in turn, files a lawsuit against the union claiming breach of duty of fair representation and seeks damages, including lost wages and front pay. The court finds the union liable for breach of its duty of fair representation and awards over $300,000 in damages caused by the union’s negligence.

4. PERSONAL INJURY
A union officer files a lawsuit against his union employer alleging that he was forced to leave his job and that his reputation suffered irreparable harm as a result of defamatory statements about him in a union publication. The lawsuit alleges defamation, libel and slander charges against the union. The parties settle the lawsuit for $500,000. The additional cost of defending the union is close to $400,000.

5. FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT
Union leaders are responsible for properly managing and protecting the financial assets of their union organizations and face liability for the mishandling of these assets. When a union is accused of inappropriately managing members’ dues, the union can face lawsuits from its members and possible bankruptcy. If a lawsuit is filed, the union is responsible for paying the defense costs and any settlement charges.


6. ILL/CONFLICT OF INTEREST
An internal review board files charges against a local union’s official alleging misappropriation of funds in connection with an election campaign. The union official is personally responsible for covering his own defense cost. The ILL endorsement provides defense cost protection for the official.

7. ILL/PERSONAL PROFIT
An internal review board charges a union official for accepting monetary kickbacks in association with an attempt to impose a substandard collective bargaining agreement which would cause union members to receive less pay and benefits. The union official is personally responsible for covering his own defense cost. The ILL endorsement provides defense cost protection for the official.

8. JATC/EDUCATOR’S LIABILITY
JATCs have risk exposures when their graduates utilize their job and safety training in the workforce. If someone files a lawsuit against those graduates, that suit may name the entity which provided the initial training and claim that the JATC failed to properly educate its students. Educator’s liability provides coverage such as reimbursement of defense costs, damages, judgments and settlements for that exposure.


9. JATC/DISCRIMINATION
Third party discrimination coverage is available, which is important protection for JATCs during their student selection process in case students or prospective students file charges. For example, if a JATC does not choose a female prospective student to enter training that is particularly rigorous and instead chooses all male students, the female prospective student may accuse the JATC of sexual discrimination.


10. PERSONAL LIABILITY EXPOSURE
Ullico Casualty protects unions and their individual labor leaders from these exposures and many others related to managing a union organization. Coverage for defense, settlement and appeal are built into our Union Liability policy. We understand unions’ needs because we know unions, and we are committed to treating our policyholders with respect. As a union leader, you have personal liability exposure and need Union Liability insurance protection. Choose the risk solutions provider for the union workplace.

Union Liability insurance is available through authorized Ullico insurance brokers such as Union Services Agency. Contact us to find out more about Union Liability Insurance.

Please note that the above are sample union liability insurance claim scenarios. Please note that the following scenarios are descriptive only and does not constitute a part of, or endorsement to, the policies. The claim scenarios provided are for illustration only and are not a guarantee of coverage.

Reprinted with permission by Ullico, Inc.

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