We’ve all seen The Office. A show where Michael Scott is blind to the fact that his sexual innuendos and “that’s what she said” jokes are constantly offending his staff because he thinks he’s the funniest guy in town. While a misplaced joke may seem innocuous, when presented to the wrong crowd, it may be perceived as harassment.
These well-known Office examples can be easily transferred to a fitness setting as gyms and trainers also run the risk of abuse and molestation claims. Cultivating a sense of community with your coaches and clients is just as important as demonstrating proper movement and mechanics. Being aware of physical touch and overly familiar relationships is essential. When everyone is comfortable, it is easy to forget that this is a professional setting; you and your coaches are at work.
In early 2018, a North Carolinian gym was in hot water after the owner posted pictures of several female members on the gym’s Instagram with captions such as “#humpday” and “Dayum.” When later asked his opinion on the incident, the owner stated, “I can’t control the way this is being portrayed.” The gym nearly shut down due to “a false narrative” regardless of the “informal loving family” that had been cultivated at the gym.
Perception is key. While abuse is a bit more straightforward, it is no less important to be vigilant about and keep in mind.
What is Abuse and Molestation coverage?
A lot of people only connect abuse and molestation coverage to working with kids. While this is important, it isn’t accurate. The #MeToo movement and the explosion of sexual harassment stories amongst adults that have been plaguing social media and the news are all a testament to that fact.
Abuse and molestation coverage is here to help combat those issues. It offers protection from claims alleging abuse and/or sexual molestation no matter how baseless. However, if the action in question is proven to be intentional, coverage will not be extended.
Safeguards that will put you in the best position possible.
- Conduct background checks on all employees, contractors and volunteers.
Know who you are employing. If you do not currently request background checks on your employees, contractors, and volunteers, we strongly advise implementing this procedure. Our comprehensive background checks are $19.50 per report and you can complete the online application here. Each one should take no more than 5 minutes.
- Implement an Abuse and Molestation policy.
This is an easy way to ensure that all your employees are on the same page about your policies and procedures. If you don’t already have one, we have a sample written standard for sexual abuse and molestation that we provide to clients. Just let us know that you need one and we’d be happy to send you a copy.
- Ensure that children are not left alone one-on-one with adults.
While the risk of abuse and molestation does not have an age limit, kids are more vulnerable. Ask a parent or guardian to supervise, have more than one coach around, or work with kids in groups. There is safety in numbers for both parties!
- In the event of an incident, make sure that your members know who they can talk to.
Designate 1 or 2 individuals that work at the gym, owners or employees, that your members can talk to should an incident occur. This way, the incident can be properly reported to upper management and addressed promptly.
- Discuss boundaries with clients.
As you work with your clients, chat with them about physical contact when you are coaching and correcting form. Everyone has different comfort levels and establishing boundaries is crucial to not only preventing a lawsuit, but to making sure your clients are comfortable.
So, is it worth it?
The cost is minimal compared to the amount of coverage you’ll get. Depending on the carrier, the cost ranges from free to $250 a year.
A small abuse and molestation claim can easily cost more than $5,000 worth of legal fees! Abuse and molestation claims can easily exceed six-figures when expenses and damages are finally totaled. Small businesses can be “financially wiped out.” If cost isn’t an issue for you, then the time spent will be; a meritless claim can take months to defend.
The bottom line is yes, this coverage is worth every penny! The amount of money you’d have to pay out of pocket to cover the cost of an uncovered abuse or harassment claim pales in comparison to the $100-$200 a year you’ll pay annually in insurance.
Our society has become ever more litigious, especially in the United States with over 15 million civil cases annually. At NEXO, we want to make sure you and your employees are covered adequately and understand the risks of foregoing valuable coverage.
 For $100,000 per occurrence and $300,000 aggregate limits.