Prevent Workplace Harassment and Resulting Lawsuits

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines harassment as “unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.” Conduct of this nature becomes unlawful when it creates “a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.”

If an employee feels he or she has experienced workplace harassment, the company may be held liable. Resulting lawsuits can prove quite costly to the employer. This makes proper precautions to prevent workplace harassment vitally important to business operations.

To protect your employees from harassment and protect your company from lawsuits, take the following steps.

Create a written policy: Put your workplace harassment policies in writing. Be sure to include clear descriptions of various types of harassment, what employees should do if they feel harassed, and what actions will be taken by the company if this occurs.

Consult with professionals: To ensure your policy adheres to current laws, ask an attorney to review your statement. He or she can ensure that it clearly defines harassment and provides a complete picture of your policy. Your regional or district office of the EEOC is another good source for guidance in creating this written policy.

Revise the handbook: Once you have prepared your written policy, make sure it is included in your employee handbook. Your handbook should also include an equal employment opportunity statement and an at-will employment statement.

If necessary, revise the current book and redistribute copies to all employees. This may require some investment of resources, but it does no good to create a policy unless everyone is made aware of it.

Train your employees: Make training on workplace harassment mandatory for employees. This might involve a video, presentation, or a simple meeting to review your policy. Ensure every employee fully understands your procedures for the reporting, investigation, and resolution of workplace harassment complaints.

When employees complete this training, have them sign an acknowledgment form that states they understand the policy. Keep these forms in each employee’s file.

Take immediate action: If an employee reports an occurrence of workplace harassment, act on the complaint right away. Don’t ignore it. Don’t put it at the bottom of the priority pile. Fully investigate any claim of harassment.

Refer to your policy for proper protocols to handle the situation. An improper response can easily lead to a lawsuit or further incidents, so making the time is well worth the effort. An immediate response helps provide a safe work environment for employees and protects your bottom line.

Put coverage in place: Employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) offers coverage in the event an employee files a lawsuit regarding workplace harassment. The policy covers claims regarding discrimination, harassment, and wrongful termination as well as other employment-related matters. This insurance can be written as a stand-alone policy or may be provided as a Business Owner’s Policy endorsement.

Consult with your insurance agent to determine which type of policy and how much coverage are appropriate for your business.

Identity Theft: It Happens to Businesses, Too

In 2017, there were 10,000 cases of business identity theft in the United States. Credit agency Experian reports small and midsize businesses in North America are losing up to $1 billion a year to these imposters. Crimes include tax fraud, credit card use, and website ransom. Is your business protected?

Too often, smaller businesses are targets for fraudsters because thieves realize these companies have fewer resources devoted to protection.

Fortunately, there are several simple and affordable steps you can take to guard your company against identity theft.

Monitoring service: Businesses can enroll in a monitoring service that keeps watch over the company’s credit report. The service will monitor for red flags in credit activity.

EIN: Many entrepreneurs run their businesses under their personal Social Security number. To increase protection, obtain an employer identification number (EIN) and keep personal and business finances separate.

Data protection: If you maintain paper records, use a secure mailbox, shred unneeded documents, and keep sensitive information in locked files. To guard digital files, use firewalls, anti-malware technology, and antivirus software. Change passwords quarterly, using random password generators.

Insurance: Review your insurance coverage with your provider to verify appropriate policies are in place. Cyber insurance can help protect your company against significant loss related to identity theft.

Busted: Five Auto Insurance Myths You Might Believe

Of all the information circulating about auto insurance, what is rumor and what is real? Are you basing your choices on fact?

To cut through the fiction, keep the following myths in mind.

1. My car color affects my premium.

If you prefer hotshot red, go ahead and get it. You don’t have to worry about higher premiums because of the car’s color. Your insurance cost is based on several factors, but this isn’t one of them.

The car’s make, body type, model, age, and engine size affect the premium. The vehicle’s safety record, price, and the cost to repair it also come into play. If you want a lower premium, consider these factors rather than the paint job.

2. As my age increases, so will my premium.

Typically, the opposite is true. Those over 55 years of age may be eligible for discounts. These include reduced driving discounts and programs available through AARP. Discounts vary by region, so check with your insurance provider about your options and eligibility.

3. Bare-minimum coverage is sufficient.

Most states require drivers to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance. However, it is generally recommended to obtain coverage that goes beyond this bare minimum.

A serious accident can quickly generate expenses far exceeding the minimum coverage. A good rule of thumb is to have $100K in bodily injury per person and $300K per accident.

4. When I give my keys to a friend, my friend’s insurance takes over.

In many cases, the policy that covers the vehicle is considered primary. If an accident occurs while your friend is driving your car, it’s likely that your insurance will be responsible for coverage, not theirs.

5. My car is fully protected from all types of damage.

This could be true, but it depends on your policy type. A standard policy may not include theft, vandalism, or natural disasters. For full protection, choose collision and comprehensive insurance.

Peer-to-Peer Home Rentals: Here’s What You Need to Know

Are you considering renting out your home, guest room, or basement? Peer-to-peer home rentals and services such as Airbnb have grown in popularity. Discovering the income potential in these opportunities may entice you to hand over your keys.

While this may be a good option for you, it’s important to first consider the insurance implications involved. Do you have the right coverage for peer-to-peer rentals? If a renter starts a fire in the home, will you be covered? Always consult with your insurance provider before pursuing any rental arrangements.

If you will be renting all or part of your property on a regular basis, your homeowner’s policy is likely insufficient. You may need business coverage, such as a hotel or bed-and-breakfast policy. Month-to-month home-sharing liability policies may also be available that suit your circumstances. On the other hand, if the rental situation is a one-time occurrence, you might be covered by your current homeowner’s policy, or you might be required to add an endorsement.

Either way, notify your carrier about your intent to determine whether your current coverage is appropriate. Your agent can help you make any changes needed to ensure you and your property are fully protected.

Additionally, if you are considering renting someone else’s peer-to-peer rental space, confirm your coverage with your carrier. Typically, your homeowner’s policy will provide coverage for stolen possessions and accidental injuries you cause to others. However, you should verify this with your agent before making any rental agreements.

Which Should I Choose – Medigap or Medicare Advantage?

Do you know the difference between a Medigap and a Medicare Advantage plan?

If you choose a Medicare Advantage plan, you select one of many available plans, and the Advantage plan becomes your insurer. The plan sets the rates, determines copays, and chooses doctors in the network. Most Advantage plans have built-in drug plans.

If you have an Advantage plan, you are ineligible for a Medigap plan. For some of Medicare age, however, the Medigap plan may be more beneficial.

Medigap plans are known as Medicare Supplement Insurance. When you choose Medicare A and Medicare B as your primary health insurance, the Medigap plan covers the gap between what Medicare pays and what you are responsible for paying.

With a Medigap plan, if Medicare approves a procedure, Medigap pays the difference. With an Advantage plan, your doctor in the Advantage network manages your care subject to the insurer agreeing to the procedure. With Medigap, if your doctor accepts Medicare, they also accept your Medigap plan. If your health conditions require a higher level of care, a Medigap plan may be your best alternative. Choosing the best Medigap plan depends on your current medical conditions, where you are located, and how much you want to pay.

Medicare and Medigap do not offer prescription plans, so if you purchase a Medigap plan rather than an Advantage plan, you should purchase a stand-alone prescription plan as well.

Selecting a plan is one of the most important health decisions you will make. Don’t go it alone. An experienced agent can help you determine which plan best suits your needs.

Natural Disasters: Is Your Medical Bag Packed?

Fires. Tornadoes. Floods. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that natural disasters in the United States are on the rise. Are you and your family prepared if a natural disaster strikes your community?

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, the first step in emergency preparedness is to formulate an emergency plan. A critical part of this plan is to ensure access to your medications in an emergency. Since many people are on multiple medications, the first place to start is the development of a comprehensive list of all medications and dosages. Include your own, those of family members, and any pet medications.

Next, remain prepared with an ample supply. If storms are brewing that may result in a loss of access to your pharmacy, be sure to obtain early refills. If your drug plan provider resists, call and explain why you need the early refill. Never wait until the last minute to obtain refills. Keep at least seven to 10 days’ worth of medication on hand, including pet medications.

If you use a mail-order pharmacy, and a storm or another natural disaster is on the horizon, provide an alternative shipping address where your provider can send your medications. Additionally, take a picture of your health card, including the pharmaceutical information, in case the card is lost or damaged. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends keeping your pets’ medical records with you in case you must board your pet after a disaster. Proof of vaccinations and medications will be vital to your furry friend’s safety.

To further prepare, ensure your medications are in watertight containers if flooding may occur. If the disaster contaminates local water supplies, and your medication requires water, use only bottled water to reconstitute medications. Also keep in mind that power disruption often accompanies a natural disaster. Consider how you will store any medications that require refrigeration.

If you believe a catastrophe may have compromised your medications, contact your health care provider or a local pharmacy before you take them.

Looking for Life Insurance After Health Problems

Buying life insurance on the open market when you have had health problems can be a challenge, and it can be expensive, too. But it is not impossible.

When buying life insurance, you may have to complete a written and/or verbal medical questionnaire and complete a health exam, which could include blood and urine samples. Individuals in the best health typically get better rates on policies.

But what if you have had (and have recovered from) a health scare, such as a heart attack, stroke, or cancer? How do you get life insurance then?

First, look to your employer, which may offer coverage above and beyond your regular policy that doesn’t require a medical review.

If you cannot obtain more life insurance through your employer, another option is to search for so-called guaranteed-issue policies. These policies do not require a medical review, but they come with a cost. They are generally much more expensive than policies that require medical reviews.

Another option is to investigate a mortgage-term life-insurance policy. Offered by an insurance carrier working with the company that holds your mortgage, these policies, generally available for 15- or 30-year terms, are designed to provide your loved ones with money to cover your mortgage in the event of your untimely death.

They are simply another type of life insurance, and they may not be necessary for healthy individuals who already have life insurance. But those who have struggled with health problems may be able to get such a policy without a medical review.

Also note that once your illness is behind you by several years, and if you have a good prognosis, you may begin to find that insurance companies offer more options. Many cancer survivors, for example, find that they can get life insurance after being cancer-free for five years.

Consult with an insurance expert to determine the best options for your individual situation.