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Monthly Archives

December 2013

HOLIDAY PARTY REMINDERS & RELIGIOUS ACCOMMODATION

By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

Eggnog, latkes, old friends, parties – and a lot of beveraging! HR That Works wishes you a safe and happy holiday season! As the host of your company party, you have a legal obligation to make sure that attendees get home safe. Here’s our list of tips to help you meet this responsibility:

  • Make party attendance voluntary.
  • Hire bartenders trained to spot and handle intoxicated revelers.
  • Provide non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Give each guest a limited number of drink tickets, instead of an open bar.
  • Serve filling food – not just chips and pretzels – whenever alcohol is available.
  • Cut off alcohol service at least an hour before the party ends.
  • Stop serving intoxicated guests immediately; don’t wait until they’re ready to leave.
  • Never ask an apparently impaired guest if they’re able to drive home – they aren’t.
  • Provide a taxi service for guests who require or request it.
  • Have a friend or family member pick up intoxicated guests.
  • Arrange for discounted rooms at the event location or a nearby hotel.

Finally, have a fun party. Think like good ‘ol Mr. Fezziwig!

Accommodating Religious Needs

The holiday season is an ideal time to focus on religious accommodation in in the workplace. Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on religion. We’ve seen more of these claims in recent years, with thousands of claims filed in 2012. Unsurprising, many of these cases include allegations of discrimination based national origin (i.e. someone claims discrimination because they’re of Arab origin, as well as Muslim).

The EEOC offers this definition of “religion:”

“In most cases, whether or not a practice or a belief is religious is not an issue. However, the EEOC defines religious practices to include moral or ethical beliefs as to what’s right and wrong, which are sincerely held with the strength of traditional, religious views. The fact that no religious group espouses such beliefs, or that the religious group to which the individual professes to belong might not accept such belief, will not determine whether the belief is a religious belief of the employee or prospective employee. The phrase ‘religious practices’ includes both religious observances and practices.” Also, bear in mind that:

  • It’s unlawful for an employer to fail to accommodate reasonably the religious practices of an employee or prospective employee, unless the employer demonstrates that accommodation will mean undue hardship in conducting its business.
  • An employer may not ask about an employee’s religious background unless justified by business necessity.”

For more information on religious expression in the workplace, check out: 1) EEOC guidelines and FAQS on religious discrimination: 2) an EEOC memo on accommodating religious expression; and 3) religious accommodation practices at the University of Missouri ( a great education, period).

A NEW HR STORY

By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

Once upon a time, HR was viewed as a boring corporate wasteland “Oh no! Sally got transferred into the HR department… her career is over. Poor Sally!” Even though companies hired, managed, and fired people all the time, management still saw HR as an administrative backwater. That view gradually changed. Books such as Good to Great helped owners and managers understand that hiring great people was essential for greatness; and that to do so required strategic initiative. They began seeing they couldn’t rely on yesterday’s performance management approaches, created in an industrial era, when working primarily with knowledge workers. Managers such as Jack Welch, Herb Kelleher, Howard Schultz, James Sinegal, and Tony Hsieh used a strategic HR approach to build great companies – GE, Southwest Airlines, Starbucks, Costco, and Zappos. The result: cutting-edge executives and managers realized that HR provided a competitive advantage.

Then the recession struck – and management neglected HR to concentrate on survival and building productivity. When the economy began recovering, valuable employees moved on to greener pastures, either working for themselves or for a company where they could feel fully engaged. Once again, businesses became desperate to reduce turnover and find good hires.

Tomorrow’s successful companies will win the talent wars by attracting and challenging the best, brightest, and most productive employees to grow and innovate for themselves and their employer. This shift in culture will have the unintended effect of reducing workers comp, employment practices, cyber-liability, and other insurance exposures – with HR helping lead the way.

Businesses will see HR as a strategic resource that’s as essential as sales, operations, and finance. That’s the new HR story.

DOES TELECOMMUTING WORK?

By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

In early 2013 Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer decided to eliminate telework, with an eye towards innovation and collaboration. “Some of the best insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people and impromptu meetings,” said EVP of People and Development Jackie Reses, adding that “speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.” Best Buy also announced it was canceling its Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) program, largely supported by telecommuters.

Many believe that occasional telecommuting allows people to deal with one-time events and promotes a less stressful work environment – however, it comes with a price!

To learn more about the pros and cons of this issue, check our Telecommuting ThatWorks Training Program, which includes checklists, policies, forms and a training video. If you don’t have access to HR That Works send an email to don@hrthatworks.com and I’ll email you a copy of the report.

EDITOR’S COLUMN: 24 RECENT THOUGHTS AND STATEMENTS

By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

I do a lot of reading. Here are some thoughts inspired by the latest round:

  1. No person who produces from the heart will go for naught. Career success requires both inner and external engineering.
  2. As the scope of your life becomes bigger, less will be under your control.
  3. “I will be happy….. when” is meaningless. Be happy now!
  4. Comfort is an illusion if sought from the outside. Do you want to be comfortable or awesome?
  5. To map your career path, ask “Where can I help the most people with the least amount of energy?”
  6. When overwhelmed by information, we lose clarity of thought, which comes in the spaces between information – yet another reason to meditate.
  7. Do you identify with your limitations – and let them define you?
  8. Have these “limitations” blocked you from career success?
  9. Personal peace is about our internal chemistry. All happiness, despair and other human experiences have a biochemical basis.
  10. Every person is an energy field functioning at different levels of capability.
  11. How loyal, how engaged, and awesome do you want your people to be?
  12. You can’t bullshit yourself into well being.
  13. Situations don’t make you – they expose you.
  14. Use time off to reward employees.
  15. Personality comes from the word persona, which in Greek drama meant a “mask.” Like a mask our personality is a construct – a story we tell ourselves about ourselves.
  16. All creativity is an imitation of nature.
  17. Conduct scavenger hunts, field trips, lunch-and -learns, suggestion meetings, crossword puzzles, jeopardy games, volunteer projects, blood donations, fun clubs, etc.
  18. If people feel good, they will______________
  19. Over-committed heroes end up becoming martyrs. Avoid this behavior pattern!
  20. Can you be peaceful where you are or must you go someplace to feel that way?
  21. HR’s focus on the negative does a disservice to human well being.
  22. Work doesn’t cause stress; your reaction to it does.
  23. Have a plan for where you and your business will evolve.

PROTECT YOUR DATA IN ‘THE CLOUD’

By Business Protection Bulletin | No Comments

More and more businesses are storing data on off-site service providers (known collectively as “the cloud”) to reduce costs and boost efficiency. However, many companies either don’t realize how vulnerable this information is, or don’t have contracts that make third-party cloud providers responsible for lost, stolen, or corrupted data.

If there’s a data breach when you’re using cloud-based services, who should be held responsible? Storing software and/or databases on the servers of a cloud provider with shared infrastructure immediately eliminates many of your cyber security controls. Backing up data in multiple locations increases the likelihood that it will survive, but also raises the odds of a data breach. What’s more, shared infrastructure can leave this information exposed to malware or other computer viruses.

What about connectivity? After all, your cloud provider can’t guarantee that you’ll have access 100% of the time. If the remote server goes down or there’s a data breach, how long might it be before you’re able to restore operations? How might such an incident affect your company’s reputation, and its financial position?

An effective Cyber insurance policy can reduce these risks significantly by:

  1. allowing you limit the spread of sensitive or confidential information by reacting to cyber extortion as soon as possible
  2. notifying your clients that their data has been lost
  3. hiring a PR firm to get out the message to clients about the measures your company is taking to prevent future breaches
  4. providing the ability to set up a data center
  5. reimbursing customers and clients for confidential information compromised by the breach

Our agency can help you select comprehensive coverage that can protect your data in the cloud.

FREIGHT CARGO INSURANCE 101

By Business Protection Bulletin | No Comments

If you rely on shipping your products, you could lose a bundle, unless you have freight cargo insurance. Freight carriers are legally required to carry a minimum amount of insurance (“carrier liability”) of 10¢ per pound, and this total liability can be no higher than the invoice value of your shipment. Check with your carrier(s) for specific information on coverage, deductibles, and claims management.

Because your goods will probably be worth far more than these limits and freight is more susceptible to damage than smaller shipments, it makes sense to buy a freight cargo policy.

Some policies cover all modes of transit. Others only cover ocean vessels, or exclude warehouse storage. If you have separate insurance on your own warehouse, fine. If not, you’ll be vulnerable to a dangerous loophole for uncovered losses.

Anything can happen in transit from natural disasters, theft, damage, train derailment, accidents, fire, containers falling overboard, collision, to anything else you can think of. Freight cargo coverage sometimes excludes such perils as war and piracy. To learn which risks your policy does and doesn’t cover, read it carefully. For peace of mind, you can also take out “all risk” coverage (by paying a higher premium).

Bear in mind that freight cargo insurance covers only damage or loss to the goods transported, it will not reimburse you for lost time, labor, or shipping costs.

If you suffer a loss, file with a claim with your freight carrier and insurance company as soon as possible, preferably within 24 hours.

Because prices and coverages of freight cargo policies vary widely, our insurance professionals would be happy to help you shop for the best value. As always, we’re here to help.

YOU’VE BEEN HACKED! SPREAD THE WORD

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No matter how prepared you are – or believe you are – you can still suffer a cyber-security breach. What you do next can have a profound impact on the reputation of the business, customer loyalty, employee morale, and, ultimately, your bottom line.

An effective communication strategy should follow these guidelines:

  1. Notify key regulatory and legal authorities as soon as possible, unless this might impede a criminal investigation. Even if notification isn’t required by law, it’s an important courtesy.
  2. Make sure that staff roles and responsibilities for communicating the breach are outlined and understood clearly.
  3. Tailor the notification process to the audience – high-value customers, senior employees, or individuals who might particularly vulnerable (such as the elderly, the disabled, and minors) and to the nature of the breach; handle the theft of confidential client information differently than stealing employees’ Social Security numbers.
  4. Have legal counsel review the method and content of all communications.
  5. Prepare for media inquiries to deliver a clear message for parties affected directly or indirectly. Be sure that your spokesperson is qualified and trained to deal with the media.
  6. Provide ways for victims of the breach to ask additional questions and/or learn how to minimize potential harm.
  7. Test the plan: If you had to execute it, how well did it work, and how did you update it? Many businesses have discovered holes in their response plans after failing to consider the impact of a cyber security breach on daily operations, or underestimating the attention the event drew.

To learn more about spreading the word after a data breach, please get in touch with us.

BUSINESS CRIME CONTROL 101

By Business Protection Bulletin | No Comments

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, crime, from burglary and shoplifting to fraud and embezzlement, plays a role in up to 30% of business failures. To help protect your company (and keep your insurance costs under control), use this checklist:

Employees:

  • Do background checks on all applicants
  • Train employees on safe opening and closing procedures
  • Instruct them on what to do in case of robbery, make it clear that they should never endanger themselves by trying to protect money, property, or other valuable items.

Money:

  • Keep the amount of onsite cash to a minimum. Make bank deposits daily and vary your time and routes to and from the bank
  • Skim cash drawers throughout the day to ensure that large amounts of cash are not kept in the registers
  • Check cash register receipts against your deposits daily to reduce the threat of employee dishonesty
  • Immediately mark any checks received as “For Deposit Only.”

Property:

  • Make sure that all doors are locked during non-business hours
  • Keep rear doors locked from the outside at all times by installing panic locks. Do not use padlocks
  • Keep the interior and exterior well lit during non-business hours
  • Have a safe on site to store small amounts of cash, important documents, or other valuable items. Change the safe’s combination periodically
  • Install security cameras throughout the property, with all entranceways and cashier areas under surveillance
  • Set up a perimeter security system with appropriate signage to warn would-be criminals that the property is protected.

Our experts stand ready to review your security procedures at any time. Just give us a call.

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF WORKPLACE SAFETY

By Construction Insurance Bulletin | No Comments

Following these principles of leadership will help you and your employees focus on job safety:

  1. Don’t walk by. It is everyone’s responsibility to prevent any potentially unsafe acts and conditions they witness from turning into accidents.
  2. STOP! Encourage employees to stop working whenever they feel unsafe, no matter what reason they give.
  3. Focus on a safe working environment. If you expect your workers to work safely, make their workplace as safe as possible.
  4. Don’t blame the worker first. Unsafe ways of working, accidents, incidents, and ill health aren’t necessarily the worker’s fault. The problem often comes from less obvious causes, such as decisions by management.
  5. Use your workforce for ideas. Employees often have a more accurate idea than you or your managers about which safety and health practices will work, because they deal with these issues every day.
  6. Be patient. Don’t expect quick wins. Improvements will emerge over time, but only if you stick with them.
  7. Explain your decisions. Just telling workers that something is wrong or a safety risk isn’t enough. If they’re to act on the information you provide, they need to know why and how to avoid harm.
  8. Lead by example. Your behavior sends powerful signals. If you carry out your job in a safe way, your workers are more likely to do the same. If you don’t, they won’t imitate you.
  9. Focus on co-operation. Treat your subcontractors in the same way as employees by encouraging them to communicate with each other.
  10. Don’t neglect occupational health. If you look after the health, as well as the safety, of your workers today, you’re less likely to create problems for them or your business tomorrow.

Sound advice!

MATERIALS AND WASTE MANAGEMENT: PREVENTION PAYS

By Construction Insurance Bulletin | No Comments

Each year around 1,000 trips or slips on construction sites result in fractured bones or dislocated joints, often leading to permanent disability, harming workplace morale, reducing productivity, and raising insurance premiums. Many of these accidents are due to negligence in dealing with building materials or waste.

Safe site operation requires co-ordination between the client, contractor(s), and suppliers. Before beginning a project, agree with the client on arrangements for handling materials and waste. Larger projects should include this agreement in the construction phase plan.

To reduce the risk of mishaps in storing materials, experts recommend that you:

  • designate storage areas for materials, waste, and flammable or hazardous substances
  • don’t allow storage to ‘spread’ on walkways or store materials where they might obstruct access or interfere with emergency escape routes
  • store flammable materials separately and protect them from accidental ignition
  • install guard rails if materials are stored in high places
  • keep all storage areas tidy
  • plan deliveries to keep the amount of materials on site to a minimum

In dealing with waste, decide how to manage waste streams produced during construction and assign responsibility for collecting and disposing of these materials on site.

Waste risk reduction guidelines include:

  • Have all flammable waste materials (such as packaging and lumber) cleared away regularly to reduce the risk of fire
  • Make clearing waste a priority for all workers, and be sure that everyone is on the same page
  • Include enough space for waste bins and containers in accessible locations, and set a schedule for collection
  • Provide carts or chutes for safe removal of waste from the building safely

Our construction insurance professionals stand ready to advise you on keeping your workplace safe.