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Monthly Archives

October 2013


By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

Here’s a newsflash: Management is responsible to employees, but not for employees. The whole notion that we’re somehow responsible for employees came out of the control and domination era of the manufacturing age. ” Just do what we tell you to do, don’t think yourself, follow our agenda until you’re 65, and we’ll take care of your health and finances until you pass away actuarially at 67.”. Here are some examples of when you know you’ve been stuck in the position of being responsible for employees rather than responsible to them:

  1. You find yourself doing too much for them. When people can’t get their jobs done, do you step in and save them? Or do you let go of control and allow them to take responsibility for their results?
  2. You think that you have to bribe them to perform well. Frustrated parents will try to buy their children’s behavior. It’s a mistake when managers try to do the same thing.
  3. You’re overprotective. You won’t share an employee’s true shortcomings with them because to do so would put them at risk. As a result, you’ll start engaging in a codependency with this person, thus enabling continued poor performance.
  4. You micromanage.. Do really want to spend your time trying to control a bunch of adults, anyway? Smart managers are clear about their objectives then empower employees to reach them.
  5. Your meetings are one-way communications. You spend time lecturing employees as if they were schoolchildren, rather than empowering them to share problems, ideas, and solutions.
  6. You fail to draw a line in the sand. Many managers will never draw this line because they’re playing “savior games.” You know you should fire an employee, but you’re also aware that if you do so this person might go into a financial tailspin. As a result, you keep the employee, which harms both them and the company.

When you’re responsible to employees, you put them in a position where they become capable of success. It then becomes their responsibility to succeed. You can identify your expectations, express your limits, and provide feedback and judgment without trying to fix things yourself, and encourage but not enable them.

Finally, realize that you and anyone that you manage will make some mistakes. Don’t freak out when this happens; just ask yourself what can be done so it never happens again. In this situation, explore your responsibility and allow the employee to explore theirs.


By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

Your business needs an employee referral system that rewards and encourages employee referrals properly. The feature story for Inc. Magazine Database May 2013 issue, discusses how social media is replacing job boards as the primary outlet for sourcing candidates. . According to the Aberdeen Group, 50% of companies with high retention rates decreased their investment in job boards last year. The most popular site use by recruiters is LinkedIn. The most popular tool used by job seekers to find work is Facebook.Interestingly, JobVite stated that employee retention rates skyrocket when they’re referred by other employees. After three years, 47% of referrals were still around, compared to only 14% of job board applicants, (not sure what happened here).

Interestingly, JobVite stated that employee retention rates skyrocket when they’re referred by other employees. After three years, 47% of referrals were still around, compared to only 14% of job board applicants were. As mentioned on this previously, have an employee referral system that properly rewards and encourages employee referrals.


By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

Wage claims keep rising. According to the Seyfarth Shaw law firm, there were 7,764 federal lawsuits alleging the failure to pay overtime and other wages in the year ended March 31, 2013 –a record high, up 10% from the previous year.

An article in Corporate Counsel magazine discussing the Seyfarth Shaw report, state that these claims usually fall into one of three categories: 1) salaried employees who believe they are owed overtime pay; 2) hourly workers who contend that they weren’t paid for all hours worked, and 3) restaurant workers who claim that they received no additional pay under the FLSA “tip credit” provision. According to Seyfarth Shaw partner Noah Finkel, DOL investigators have been focusing on hospitals and restaurants. Finkel points out that although these cases have been traditionally filed in California and Florida, states such as New York, Missouri, Georgia, and others are experiencing more and more claims. He and other attorneys suggest that you conduct an audit or assessment of your wage and hour practices.

Here are some additional recommendations:

  1. If you’re uncertain whether employees are exempt or nonexempt, treat them as if they were nonexempt. They can end up getting paid the same amount at the end of the year as long as you calculate the appropriate wage rate when including overtime payments.
  2. Use a tool such as the Employee Compliance Survey to find out if there are in fact any concerns about wage payment and follow-up on any “yes” answers.
  3. Consider the hours worked by employees both before and after work. For example, in a recent case, a warehouse that required all its employees to go through a security search before they left had been required to pay wages for employees going through that screening.
  4. Know the rest and meal period requirements in your state. Because federal law doesn’t govern this, make sure you that you know your state provisions Check out your BNA State Law Summary on HR That Works.


By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

I remember my wife and I going to a parenting class and learning the mantra, “firm, but fair.” It’s okay to have clear rules in your household and enforce them; however, you want to do so in a fair manner. When we’re clear about the rules, we can be firm. . I’m sure you’ve shared my personal experience where parents or bosses have punished you for rules you never knew existed –until after you were punished for them!Often, the knowledge is so “commonsensical” to the parent or boss that they just assume the child or the employee know it also. Never mind that it took 20 years for that boss or parent to finally “get it” themselves. When we’re clear on the rules, there’s predictability. There’s integrity. There’s consistency. The rules don’t change overnight based on emotions. When we’re out of balance on the side of clarity we’ll see people begin to fear us, rebel against us, and leave us – not a good outcome at home or work!

When it comes to being fair, the first thing to remember is that life wasn’t designed to be fair, either at work or at home. Life was designed to be a learning lesson. However, fairness has become the filter of today’s workplace. Everyone wants to feel they’re being treated fairly. ‘A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.’ Of course, what might seem fair to me could seem onerous to you. We treat people fairly when we follow the Golden Rule. By asking how we can serve and help others, practicing kindness and compassion despite any differences we may encounter along the way. We understand to separate the conduct from the person.

Managers will continue to struggle with employees about work hours, compensation, communication, expectations, safety, insubordination, conflict, and more. Great managers, like great parents, strike the appropriate balance between firm and fair.


By Construction Insurance Bulletin | No Comments

Wrap-up or “Wrap” Construction insurance can be a highly effective tool on large or complex building projects to reduce premiums, minimize cross-litigation, and speed the claims process by providing General Liability, Workers Comp, and possibly other coverages for the general contractor and most – if not all –subcontractors under a single package policy. There are two basic types of Wrap coverage: owner-controlled insurance programs (OCIPs) and contractor-controlled insurance programs (CCIPs).

Although each type has its advocates, more and more project owners prefer have the general contractor sponsor the program because they:

  • often use the same subcontractors, who are familiar with the safety requirements of the program – an essential element in a successful OCIP; Shouldn’t this read CCIP?
  • usually have more control than owners over safety programs and are more experienced in the administration of OCIPs: payroll reporting, claims management, working with the insurance company, and so forth
  • have a financial incentive to minimize accidents and injuries on the project (because insurers usually require the general contractor to pay a six-figure deductible, andin many cases, to prefund these potential losses)
  • often have more financial resources than the project owner to provide letters of credit, collateral, or sureties the insurance company requires for projected and developed claims under the program.

However, in some cases, an OCIP can be a better solution than a CCIP. For instance, many owners might be ready to assume the risks of a Wrap-up – and to share the savings with the general contractor for a job completed safely. Picking the best approach for each project should be a win-win for all parties involved. Our Construction insurance specialists would be happy to offer you their input.


By Construction Insurance Bulletin | No Comments

Accidents involving vehicles or mobile equipment (excavators, dumpers, etc.) on building sites kill more than a dozen workers a year and injure hundreds more. To help make sure that your workers and outsiders can move around your job sites safely,and keep your insurance premiums down, experts recommend using this checklist:

Keep pedestrians and vehicles apart:

    have separate entry and exit gateways for pedestrians and vehicles

  • provide safe pedestrian walkways that take a direct route where possible
  • make sure drivers with access to public roads can see both ways
  • don’t block walkways or vehicle routes
  • install barrier between roads and walks

Minimize vehicle movements:

  • provide offsite parking
  • control entry to the site
  • have storage areas so that delivery vehicles don’t have to cross the site

Control people on site:

  • recruit drivers and equipment operators carefully
  • make sure that drivers, operators, and those who direct traffic are trained
  • manage the activities of visiting drivers

Maximize visibility:

  • provide mirrors, CCTV cameras or reversing alarms
  • designate signalers to control maneuvers by drivers or equipment operators
  • install lighting for use after sunset or in bad weather
  • make sure that all pedestrians on the site wear high-visibility clothing

Provide safety signage and instructions:

  • ensure that all drivers and workers know and understand the routes and traffic rules on the site
  • use standard traffic signs where appropriate
  • provide safety instructions to all visitors in advance

For a comprehensive – and free– review of vehicle and mobile vehicle safety practices on your job sites, just give us a call. We’re here to help at any time.


By Construction Insurance Bulletin | No Comments

Because construction projects are complex operations involving a number of subcontractors under your supervision, onsite accidents or injuries resulting from their work can easily lead to litigation against you. To protect yourself against claims, losses, and expenses if disputes arise during the project, make sure that all subcontractors sign a “Hold Harmless Agreement” clause.

The terms of these clauses will vary from state to state. In some cases, this clause will protect the contractor from claims by corporations or companies that did not sign the agreement.

There are three types of hold harmlessagreements:

Under the Broad Form, the subcontractor assumes all liability for accidents due to negligence of the general contractor, and combined negligence between the two parties. Because of its sweeping terms, this form is relatively rare – and some states prohibit it.

With the Intermediate Form the subcontractor takes on all liability for accidents and negligence, but will not be held accountable for the general contractor’s actions. It doesn’t matter whether the incident was the subcontractor’s fault. If both parties were negligent, the subcontractor assumes liability all for its acts or omissions. Intermediate form agreements are relatively common.

A Limited Form agreement makes the subcontractor liable only for the proportional part of its responsibility for a mishap. Other parties – such as subcontractors – will be held liable under their hold harmlessagreement(s) for their corresponding part of the accident or negligence.

The type of agreement that’s best suited for your needs will vary depending on the nature of the project and state laws. As always, we stand ready to offer you our professional advice.


By Construction Insurance Bulletin | No Comments

Falls are the leading cause of construction deaths. In 2010, fatalities from falls accounted for 264 out of 774 deaths in the construction industry.

To curb such deaths and injuries, OSHA has joined forces with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA).The Construction Nationwide Safety Awareness Campaign is comprehensive and based on three key steps for employers: Plan for safety, provide proper equipment, and train workers.

To ensure safety on job sites that involve working from heights, plan how the project will be done and the tools needed. When estimating job costs, include these resources and have them available on site. For example, on a roofing job, think about such potential fall hazards – holes, sky-light, leading edges, etc. – and then select appropriate fall protection equipment, such as personal fall arrest systems (PFAS).

Provide workers who are six feet or more above lower levels with fall protection and the necessary equipment including ladders, scaffolds, and safety gear. If roof work is involved, have a PFAS with a harness for each worker who needs to tie off to the anchor. Make sure the device fits and inspect all equipment regularly.

Finally, give workers “toolbox talk” training on potential fall hazards and the set-up and use of the safety equipment they’ll be using. The OSHA campaign has a number of training tools, job site posters, and other educational resources – (many of which target workers with limited English proficiency).

To learn more about how to keep your workers from falling down (literally)on the job, feel free to get in touch with our construction insurance specialists.


By Life and Health | No Comments

Tobacco users could face sticker shock when buying coverage in the state-wide health insurance marketplaces that opened for enrollment on October 1, thanks to a controversial clause in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The law seeks to discourage smoking, the nation’s largest preventable health hazard – which kills some 443,000 Americans a year at a cost of $193 billion in medical care and lost productivity,

To reach this goal without discriminating against smokers, the ACA will allow insurers to continue charging tobacco users a so-called “smoker surcharge” limited to 50% above what they charge nonsmokers, as of January 1, 2014.

However, combining this surcharge with another health reform rule that prohibits low-income applicants from using federal tax subsidies to help offset it could price some lower-income smokers out of the market. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a 50-year-old male smoker earning $15,000 a year would pay $8,100 a year for Health coverage, including a $2,700 tobacco-use surcharge. The federal low-income subsidy would reduce his premium to about $3,000. But if he didn’t smoke, his premium would be just $300.

According to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services before the ACA, health insurance companies could impose a surcharge far higher than 50% on smokers – or refuse to cover them. Tobacco users can avoid the 50% surcharge if they live in states that set lower limits on surcharges or prohibit them – or by enrolling in a stop-smoking program.


Says Rick Curtis, president of the Institute for Health Policy Solutions; ”Long story short, smokers usually won’t pay more for insurance compared to current or previous years. Most of them will have better access and more affordable premiums under the ACA restrictions.”


By Life and Health | No Comments

Although both term life insurance and permanent life policies have their advantages, if you prefer permanent life, here are key guidelines to help you choose the best option:

    1. All policies are not created alike. Whole Life insurance combines a fixed premium with a guaranteed cash benefit and a death benefit. Universal Life offers a flexible premium plan that works like a combined term life insurance policy and bank account; you pay as much money as you want and the leftover funds paid will earn a variable interest rate. Variable Universal Life is similar, except that you can choose between mutual funds in which to invest your cash value.
    2. Because permanent life is written for a lifetime, rather than a limited term, you will be required to take a medical exam – the better your health, the lower your premium.>/li>
    3. Permanent life provides a tax-free investment vehicle. In most cases, a loan against the cash value of your policy will not be not taxable – and cash withdrawals (for tuition, medical expenses or other emergencies), up to your basis in the policy, will be tax free. What’s more, the “forced savings” of permanent life can help you build a financial safety net.
    4. Check the reputation and financial stability of the insurance company, as well as the underlying performance of its investments.


  1. You’ll pay more for permanent life than for the same amount of term insurance. Premiums depend on your health, age, and gender, as well as how much coverage you buy. Permanent life policies have sales charges, administrative fees, a mortality risk charge and fund management fees. If you cash in your policy during a certain period, you might be charged a surrender fee.

Our Life insurance professionals stand ready to offer you their advice on making this important decision.