Tuesday, November 25, 2008

1991-- the Pivotal Year for EAPs that Wasn't

What were you doing in 1991 when the U.S. Congress passed the 1991 Amendment to the U.S. Civil Rights Act? If you were like me, you were oblivious to its implications for the employee assistance field, but it was earth shattering and monstrous.

The only reason the EAP field didn't feel the 9.0 quake rumble under its feet was because all of us, or nearly so, were on the wrong side of the mountain mining what little gold there is in the Managed Care industry. We were trying to understand it, team with it, fight it, and for some surrender to it. Some really famous EAPs sold themselves completely--and vanished.

Where we should have been was digging for the mother lode was on the other side of the mountain. We should have been teaming up with the Property-Casualty insurance industry. That's because the property-casualty insurance industry is not interested in keeping employees from accessing their behavioral health insurance benefits and using EAPs as gate-keeping devices to save health insurance dollars--what little there is to be saved.

These big boys want everything an EAP can throw at a company to reduce behavioral risk exposures. They want--they need the core technology. Why? They pay for the lawsuits that were made possible by the 1991 Civil Rights Act. They are the insurers for damages caused by bad employee/manager/management behavior.

Are you beginning to see the picture?

So what happened in 1991? You will answer this question for yourself in just a minute.

Let me ask: Are you aware that a corporation like Denny's, Toyota, or any business entity can be sued for unlimited punitive damages for sexual harassment and racial discrimination?
Did you know that 10 years ago the average out-of-court settlement for a wrongful discharge claim was $100,000. Even better, did you know that the average jury award for wrongful termination/discharge is $500,000?

So how expensive, or better said, how cheap is an EAP that can help prevent these payouts using its tools and resources so problems never become problems? Call it "dollars recovered from loss."

Ask yourself: How many times have you, as an employee assistance professional sat in your office and had an employee grumble, "I'm going to sue this place." If your experience has been similar to mine, you will probably say, "quite a few times." Of course, if you're a pro, your approach is to help such an employee get their needs met in more effective ways than suing the employer. Unfortunately, these vital successes probably aren't statistics in your annual reports.

The 1991 Civil Rights Act relates to behavioral risk exposures of employees and managers--ones that EAPs deal with all the time. But here is the kicker: Insurance policies were developed in 1992 to protect these companies. But who is protecting the insurers? Enter EAPs.

EAPs, with their education, intervention, assessment, proactive program development, supervisor training, and effective follow up can reduce these exposures. Are you aware of the psychomedical aspects of worker injury and recovery? I would suggest you investigate it. It is rich territory for EAP application. The goal: reducing Workers Comp payouts.

EAPs haven't seen their best days yet. They're ahead. They lie in protecting companies against financial loss associated with human behavior. But these programs can't be watered down. They need to represent the robust approach that the core technology suggests.

Head for the other side of the mountain--and bring a shovel.