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Monthly Archives

December 2016


By Employment Resources | No Comments

istock-6152028-xsmallRecruitment bonuses can be a powerful tool for growing your workforce. To set an effective price point for employee referral bonuses, consider:

  • The cost of using recruiters (up to 25% of the employee’s first-year salary)
  • The rate of turnover in the position
  • The income generated by the position
  • How strong the need is to find the employee
  • How much your competitors’ referral programs are paying

Now that you have a referral amount in mind:

  • Define the skills, experience, and personality desired on a one-page sheet that employees can use to describe the job opportunity. This reduces the variance in describing the opportunity.
  • On a separate sheet, give them a place to fill in follow up contact information for job prospects.
  • Consider paying the bonus in installments (for example, 1/6 every 30 days). Make it clear that the total award will be paid only if the new employee works the full six months.
  • Some companies include vendors, customers, clients, and others in this process using the same approach. The only caveat here is to watch potential conflicts of interest.

One company that hires predominately customer service reps gives every CSR a stack of business cards so that when they interact with someone who offers good service, they can hand them a card. The back of the card says something to the effect of, “You’ve given me good service today. Our company is always looking for people who can provide good service. If you’re interested, contact us at (123) 456-5678 or go to company.com.” It’s important to provide guidelines for avoiding conflicts of interest. The last thing you want your employees to do is hand those cards out at a client’s office!

Don Phin, Esq. is VP of Strategic Business Solutions at ThinkHR, which helps companies resolve urgent workforce issues, mitigate risk and ensure HR compliance. Phin has more than three decades of experience as an HR expert, published author and speaker, and spent 17 years in employment practices litigation. For more information, visit www.ThinkHR.com.

AGE DISCRIMINATION SUIT – Be Careful About What You Say.

By Employment Resources | No Comments

mp900385346-2In a case that illustrates how a supervisor’s ill-advised comments can come back to haunt a company, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently revived a discrimination case by an older employee who had been laid off.

In Sharp v. Aker Plant Services Group, Inc., the plaintiff accused his employer of age discrimination because it terminated him while retaining a younger worker whom he had trained. His supervisor allegedly told him that the company had a succession plan “where you bring in younger people, train them, so that when the older people leave, you’ll have younger people.” The plaintiff also had a recording on which the supervisor said: “We’re all of the same age and we’re all going to retire; I had the opportunity to bring the next generation in, so that’s what we decided to do.”

A lower court held that these statements expressed only a concern for maximizing the firm’s return on investment by retaining employees who would stay with it longer. The appeals court disagreed, arguing that this concern about employees’ potential longevity with the company could be considered a smoke screen for direct evidence of age bias. What’s more, although the supervisor stated that the younger employee was a better performer, he had written a strong letter of recommendation for the plaintiff.

The moral of the story: Keep a close eye on termination decisions that involve older employees.

Article courtesy of Worklaw® Network firm Shawe Rosenthal (www.shawe.com).

Commuting to and from work

By Employment Resources | No Comments

A frequent question at the Job Accommodation Network is whether the ADA requires employers to provide accommodations for a disabled employee who has trouble getting to and from work because of his or her condition. A related question is whether it makes any difference if the employee’s only disability-related problem is the commute; if once at work, he or she has no problem performing the job.

The answer to the first question is “yes”; employers must consider some accommodations related to commuting problems. The answer to the second question is “no;” it doesn’t matter whether the employee is able to perform the job fully without the need for accommodations at work.

According to informal guidance from the ADA Policy Division of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, although employers don’t have to actually transport an employee with a disability to and from work (unless the employer provides this as a perk of employment), employers might have to provide other accommodations, such as changing an employee’s schedule so that he or she can access available transportation, reassigning an employee to a location closer to home when the length of the commute is the problem, or allowing an employee to telecommute.

The underlying reason why employers might have to provide such accommodations is that the employer usually controls employee schedules and work locations; so, when a schedule or work location poses a barrier to an employee with a disability, the employer must consider reasonable accommodation to overcome this problem. As with any accommodation under the ADA, when considering accommodations related to commuting, employers can choose among effective accommodation options and do not have to provide an accommodation that poses an undue hardship.

Linda Carter Batiste, J.D.

The Job Accommodation Network

HO, HO, HO, Host Liquor Liability

By Business Protection Bulletin | No Comments

mp900382941The holidays are almost upon us and alcohol will be flowing at company parties throughout the land. Beware! If an employee or guest gets inebriated at a social function sponsored by your business and then injures another person, you could be held liable.

Consider this scenario: After polishing off four eggnogs in an hour at the company’s Christmas party, one of your workers toddles off to his car. The employee almost makes it home when he runs a red light and T-bones a car. The car is damaged and injures the driver. The driver then sues your business for negligence in allowing the employee to drive home although he was clearly “under the influence” at the company party.

What’s more, under state and local “social host” laws, your business might face a fine or even imprisonment for continuing to serve alcohol to an adult who is legally drunk.

Under your comprehensive general liability policy is a clause for host liquor liability. The insurance company will pick up the tab for property damage and bodily injuries, up to “each occurrence” or “general aggregate” limits for the CGL. This coverage will also pay for court costs, legal fees, and other expenses – and these payments will not apply to the limits.

Be sure not to confuse host liquor liability insurance with Liquor Liability coverage, which protects businesses that manufacture, serve, or sell alcoholic beverages (such as liquor stores, bars, and taverns) against claims for injuries caused by intoxicated customers. If you’re in one of these businesses, you’ll need both types of policy.

To learn more, feel free to get in touch with our agency at any time.


By Construction Insurance Bulletin | No Comments

mp900406748Cold weather will be with us for a few months which can cause a variety of problems for contractors and their employees who work outdoors in winter weather.

To help your workers stay warm and safe on the job, follow these precautions:

  • Make sure that they keep their body temperature at or about normal by wearing layers of clothing, both inside and outdoors.
  • Provide proper rain gear, gloves, good waterproof boots, and an extra pair of clean, dry socks.
  • Have workers protect their neck and ears; they can lose a lot of heat from these areas.
  • Treat frostbite properly. The most important symptom is a numbing effect, which many workers tend to ignore. Other symptoms can include red skin turning to white, poor blood circulation, and blisters. To provide first aid: 1) never rub the frozen part in snow or immerse it in hot water (you can use warm water); 2) cover the affected area with extra clothing or a blanket; 3) get the worker out of the cold; 4) apply loose fitting, sterile dressings and splint and elevate affected extremities if possible; and 5) seek immediate medical attention.
  • Make sure that portable heaters are maintained and inspected on a regular basis. Defective ventilation and incomplete burning of fuel can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Locate fuel containers, regulators, piping, and hoses and secure them in sites where they won’t be subject to damage. Protect the valves from damage also.

Remember, the more effectively you help your employees stay warm and safe on the job, the higher their productivity,– and the lower your insurance premiums.

For more information, please feel free to get in touch with our agency’s Construction insurance specialists at any time.

Five Disappointingly Boring Methods of Hackers

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

hacker-keyboardThe movies tell us that hackers are hip young rebels and international secret agents with black leather jackets, cool shades and wild haircuts. They might work for secret organizations or they might be anarchists trying to shake things up. They stare at fields of green text that only they can comprehend and dance their fingers along the keyboards while shouting about jacking into mainframes and subverting the dot matrix.

Screenwriters have a lot of fun coming up with exciting ways to present the computer criminal, perhaps because the reality is so boring. Here are some of the more disappointing methods hackers use to swipe your stuff:

Mass Data Theft

The recent Ashley Madison hack is eye-opening for a number of reasons, one being that it helps to dispel the myth that hackers tend to specifically target their marks. Selecting a specific individual to steal from, and then succeeding in breaking their security, is actually a lot tougher than stealing from hundreds of people at a time through a single website hack, and hoping you wind up hitting a high-value target.


123456 is the most common password on the planet. It’s easy enough to just guess passwords until you get one right, but it’s even easier to keep trying to log in to different accounts until you find one with 123456 as its password. Again, hackers aren’t picky. They don’t really aim to bust into the White House’s networks or steal code from Apple, they tend to just keep trying different targets until they find one that’s poorly secured.

Physical Theft

Some hackers don’t even use computers, they steal actual credit cards and receipts. Here, again, they tend to be opportunists. Why pickpocket when you can just hang around a coffee shop and wait for someone to forget their wallet on a table?

“Stay Logged In?”

If you ever feel like becoming a cybercriminal, hang around a library for a day, or anywhere else where computers are free for public use. Every time someone packs up and leaves, hop on their computer and find out if they forgot to log out of their bank accounts, Paypal accounts, or email providers. Nine people out of ten remember to log out, but it’s worth turning up nine misses for one hit.


And then there’s just good old fashioned peeking. It’s not hard to watch someone’s hands as they enter a password, or look over their shoulder when they read their emails.

Data thieves who have any real computer skills are actually relatively few and far between. The vast majority are opportunists. Many of whom might never have considered data or identity theft until they saw that someone forgot their card in an ATM. This is why it’s important to stay secure, not because hackers are so gifted, but because most of them are not, and an unsecure network is a prime target for a lazy opportunist.

3 More Cyber Security Myths

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

cyber-feb-2016-1We’ve covered the subject of cyber-security myths before, but all it takes is one critical misunderstanding to harm your network, and we could write a phone book’s worth of content on all the misunderstandings floating around out there.

The Internet’s Safer Now

Some users are under the impression that the Internet is no longer the Wild Wild West that it was in the late nineties and early 00’s. Your computer is probably safer, cyber-security software has gotten more advanced, the general public has gotten smarter about web safety, but the Internet itself is still a Petri dish of viruses and worms that have only had greater opportunities to evolve and proliferate over the last two decades. Viruses don’t disappear from the Internet, they keep floating around out there, finding new means of distribution. The Internet is more dangerous than ever, we’ve just gotten a lot tougher.

Security is the Tech Team’s Job

Put simply: leaving security to the techies on staff is a little bit like leaving a tire to the mechanic when it’s low on air. There are a lot of things that you and the rest of your team can do to make the tech team’s job a little easier, and to keep the ship running a little more smoothly. Brief your people on basic security protocol, and you’ll be far less likely to have your tech guy come to you saying that he needs to hire three more people to handle all this extra workload.

It’s All in the Cloud, so What’s at Risk?

Your definition of valuable data might not quite be the same as a hacker’s. You’re thinking about work-related data and personal information. A hacker is looking for any access they can find. A hacker who gains access to your network might not even have any interest in accessing the encrypted information you keep on the cloud, they might be satisfied with simply using your system as a proxy through which to attack other users. Your system is a gateway, it isn’t just a locker for sensitive data, so keeping it empty won’t keep it safe.

Keeping your network safe isn’t that great of a challenge. All it takes is the right software, a little bit of common sense, and a basic sense of responsibility. Invest a little time, money and effort into your system, and it’s not hard to keep it running clean.

Is There Any Such Thing as a Virus-Proof Device?

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

app-1013616_960_720Is there any such thing as virus-proof? Although devices aren’t typically advertised as being “virus-proof,” many developers certainly enjoy the extra profits that come with being “commonly known” for being virus-proof. The question remains as to whether any device or operating system can ever truly be impervious to infection. Let’s do some myth-busting:When people sing the praises of Linux, un-infectability usually makes the list.

Without judgment, it’s fair to say that there’s an elitist bent to a lot of Linux communities. It’s not the operating system you install on your grandma’s laptop, it’s an OS for techies. If you’re technically inclined, then it does offer a ot of benefits over Windows and Mac operating systems, but is it virus-proof?Well, according to the official website: No.Put simply: Any computer attached to the internet is at risk. So scratch Linux off the list.

Mac Devices and Computers

Apple has been something of a holdout in the push towards open design, which has made it difficult to develop security software for. A great op-ed from back in 2012 does a good job of explaining the company’s mentality. It boils down to: People think Apple products are virus proof only because there aren’t a lot of iOS viruses out there right now. It’s easier to create viruses and worms for Windows, and Windows has been around longer. But more recently, we’ve seen that iOS is anything but impenetrable.


The Android is known to have been designed from the ground up to be virus-resistant, from hardware to operating system. This isn’t the same thing as being virus-proof. Unfortunately, the Android’s permissive app-approval process is a double edged sword, allowing developers to pack apps with all the viruses they like. In short: Android doesn’t make the list, either.There is essentially no such thing as virus-proof. Some devices and operating systems are more resistant to viruses than others, but as long as you’re using the internet or USB drives or any other sort of data-input, you’re at risk.

Pumping Concrete

By Business Protection Bulletin | No Comments

con_1211-02One of the most cost-effective advances in the construction industry has been the use of concrete pumps. Older style bucket operations took significantly longer and frequently affected the quality of the job. Modern concrete pumps allow crews to move massive amounts of concrete while maintaining the quality of the product. The bottom line: Concrete pumps move concrete quickly and efficiently in a wide variety of applications.

Despite the benefits, you’ll need to make sure that pump crews take special precautions to make the placement of concrete as safe as possible:

  • Wear proper personal protective gear, including hardhats, safety glasses, rubber boots, and water-resistant gloves.
  • Check that safety pins installed between the discharge hose and the boom are positioned properly.
  • Make certain that no one’s working directly under the boom.
  • Maintain at least a 20-foot clearance between the boom and power lines.
  • Use a signal person if the pump operator can’t see where the concrete is being poured.

Although the pump operator plays an important role in the safety of the operation, job safety is the responsibility of the entire crew. Following basic safety suggestions can make concrete pumps safe to use, as well as cost efficient.

Construction Industry Injuries

By Construction Insurance Bulletin | No Comments

lalaThe experience modification indicates relative claims experience by offering a credit modification, lower premium, for positive claims experience and higher premiums, debit modification, for poor experience.

But does an experience modification help you understand the rate of injuries in your operations rather than the raw cost? Frequency of claims correlates to safety more so than the costs associated with those claims.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/iag/tgs/iag23.htm), full-time construction professionals suffer four injuries per year for every 100 employees on average. Half of those injuries result in loss of time or light duty assignments.

The average time lost is one and one-half days.

First, four injuries out of 100 employees may not sound like a high average, but that rate makes construction a very hazardous occupation. Personal protective gear and safety awareness over the past few decades has helped reduce jobsite claims, but this rate can be reduced further.

Slips and falls are the most common claims and yet very avoidable using proper techniques for ladder safety and spill clean-up. Tie ladders off or use a buddy to steady it; clean spills immediately and thoroughly.

Back pain from lifting incorrectly or excessively is common in the construction industry. Again, avoidable using a weight limit per lift and a buddy system for heavier loads.

Use your insurance carrier resources to reduce and eliminate injuries through advanced and aggressive loss control techniques. Use government resources like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (www.OSHA.gov) which can provide safety regulation awareness or instructions in Spanish and other languages.

Workplace safety is an employee benefit. Can you prove your work sites are safer than average? Do you have light duty options for unfortunate injuries? Do you investigate all injuries and find a cause of and prevention for each incident?

Worker safety pays in cash and improved morale.