Innocent employers go to court every day

Misunderstandings can lead to disastrous consequences for your company, but there are things employers can do to protect your business. Imagine these scenarios:

  • A manager terminates an employee based on negative performance evaluations. The terminated employee sues the employer for pregnancy discrimination, alleging she was fired based on her pregnancy and leave of absence.
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sues a manufacturing company for race and gender discrimination in their hiring procedures. The EEOC alleges Asian applicants were turned down for all positions except administrative ones.
  • A former employee alleges that after he informed his employer of the need for a kidney transplant, he was terminated.

Even if the employers in these examples were completely innocent and the allegations are unfounded, they may nonetheless incur significant defense costs. What would your company do if these claims were filed against it? Would your company have the resources to pay for litigation costs that may take months or even years to resolve?

HOW DOES INSURANCE FIT IN?

Employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) protects your company against the financial consequences of employment-related lawsuits and from allegations that an employee’s rights were violated. Lawsuits can result in defense costs and possible state or federal fines and penalties if your company is found liable. Complaints and charges could be brought by past, present or prospective employees.

Allegations could include:

  • Wrongful termination of employment
  • Wrongful failure to employ or promote
  • Failure to create and provide workplace employment procedures
  • Violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
  • Wrongful retaliation
  • Breach of oral or written employment contracts

Top-trending employment practice claims also include:

  • Pregnancy discrimination
  • Illegal background checks
  • Health-related employment discrimination
  • LGBT gender identity discrimination
WAYS TO REDUCE RISK

Take action to mitigate the risk in employment decisions:

  • Discuss employment practices liability insurance with your attorney, risk manager and local independent insurance agent.
  • Minimize the risk of lawsuits by educating your managers and employees.
  • Create employment procedures that extend from pre-employment all the way to termination and beyond.
  • Maintain accurate and thorough documentation regarding any employment action that occurs, including steps your organization takes to prevent and solve disputes.
  • Develop an employee handbook detailing company policies for discipline, termination and prevention of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
  • Ask interview questions that are nondiscriminatory when recruiting and selecting talent.

Employee-related complaints, charges and allegations could seriously damage the reputation and bottom-line results of your company or organization. Take action. Seek advice from your attorney and your risk management team, including your Ayres Group Agent.

Courtesy: Cincinnati Insurance

Ho! Ho! Ho! Santa reviews his insurance policies

Santa is a busy man this time of year, making toys and preparing his sleigh for the big day. Like many business owners, he relies on his local Ayres Group Agent. Santa has the policies he needs to cover his workshop, employees and their products. Do you?

Read Santa’s insurance list, then contact your local Ayres Group Agent to help you check yours.

 

santa-small-infographic

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company

Maintaining a safe following distance

How close are you to that vehicle in front of you as you drive down the road? Would you have enough time to slow down if the other vehicle suddenly braked? Your answers depend on many factors.

You may have learned in drivers’ education class to allow for one car length between you and another vehicle for every ten miles of speed you are traveling. This is great advice for private passenger vehicles and light trucks, but it can be difficult to calculate.

Three second rule
An easier rule of thumb for a following distance is the three-second rule. Pick a fixed object on or near the road, such as a road sign or lane stripe. Once the lead vehicle passes the object, start counting one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, one-thousand-three. If you reach that fixed object before you’ve said one-thousand-three, you are following too closely.

Driving commercial vehicles
Commercial vehicles like large trucks take longer to stop and should have an even farther following distance. If you’re driving a larger vehicle and your speed is less than 40 mph, the rule of seconds suggests that you allow at least one second for each 10 feet of your vehicle length. For speeds of more than 40 mph, add another second to the total time.

Likewise, the next time you pass a large truck and get in front of it, ask yourself if you’re giving the trucker enough space to stop in an emergency. You may still be able to stop suddenly, but will the trucker be able to stop before he or she strikes the back of your vehicle? If you’ve encroached in their following distance, the odds may not be in your favor.

The suggested distances apply during favorable weather and road conditions. Driving through rain, fog, heavy traffic, or on poor pavement will require even more time to stop in an emergency.

Tailgating
Tailgating can be seen as aggressive behavior by other drivers and can lead to road rage incidents. Saving a few seconds during your trip isn’t worth increasing your chances of being involved in a collision. Even a minor fender-bender will be an inconvenience to all of the parties involved, and the repairs could be expensive and time consuming. An incident involving a fatality is life-altering to many people, including loved ones. Being late to an appointment beats not making it there at all. If someone is tailgating you, focus on maintaining your proper speed so you remain in control of your vehicle.

Driving is a privilege, not a right. Driving safely is everyone’s responsibility, and maintaining an adequate following distance helps to ensure everyone’s safety.

Ride sharing may create insurance gaps

Drivers and riders who participate in ride-share alternatives to taxi services may be subject to significant insurance gaps. If you participate in ride-share services as a driver or if you use these increasingly popular services, make sure you have appropriate insurance coverage.

Ride-share programs on the surface sound like a win-win situation: if you need a ride, you can download an app to your mobile device to find and arrange transportation in a driver’s personal vehicle. A simple swipe of your credit card pays the driver. So, instead of hailing a taxi cab  ̶  which can sometimes be hard to do  ̶  you can quickly get where you need to go and the driver is paid for his or her time and distance traveled.

Ride-share drivers, passengers, other drivers on the road and even pedestrians could all be affected by the insurance protection provided by the network companies that coordinate the ride-share relationship. Some ride-share network companies advertise that they have insurance policies that can protect drivers and their passengers. But there is no standard policy, and without a policy in hand, it becomes difficult to know which specific circumstances trigger coverage or what situations might be excluded.

Additionally, the insurance coverage provided by the ride sharing company may apply only while a passenger is actually in the vehicle. The policy may not provide coverage when the vehicle is on the way to pick up a passenger or after a passenger is dropped off. To complicate matters even further, protection provided by the primary insurer of the driver’s vehicle may exclude coverage while a passenger is in the vehicle or even while the ride-sharing app is turned on or enabled, whether or not a passenger is in the vehicle. This could result in a significant coverage gap for the driver in the event of a loss.

If you or a driver in your family is interested in providing transportation services through a ride-share service, check with your insurance agent first to learn about uninsured liability you may be assuming and what, if any, coverage is provided by your personal auto policy. Personal auto policies were not designed to cover exposures such as ride-sharing, and livery is typically excluded. Ride-share drivers cannot assume that their personal auto insurance will provide protection for anyone injured or any property damaged in an accident, even if they provide transportation-for-hire only on a part-time or incidental basis.

Riders planning to use ride-share services also should consider the risks. If you are injured while using one of these services, will your medical expenses be covered? Would you be compensated for the time lost from work that your injury might cause? Ask to see proof of insurance before using a ride-share service.

The ride-share industry is changing rapidly, and states are gearing up to provide more oversight and regulation. Until they do, consider carefully the risks you take on as a rider or driver.

 

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
blog.cinfin.com

Tasting rooms and tours: Consider guest safety first

Most breweries, wineries or distilleries offer tours and a tasting room where guests can enjoy a sample of the product or purchase drinks made on-site. These operations present a different set of exposures than a typical beverage manufacturing facility. If you own a beverage business, closely evaluate your operation to ensure guest safety.

The most common source of liability claims for these businesses are slip-and-fall hazards. To complicate this exposure, many establishments also offer tours that lead guests through the manufacturing side of the establishment, the vineyard or storage areas.

Tours are a terrific way to display your establishment, help guests understand how the product is made and further engage them in your craft. Use caution when creating your facility tour to ensure guest safety.

Here are some items to consider when planning your tour route, tasting room or taproom space:

  • Use nonskid flooring wherever possible, and make sure all spills are cleaned up immediately.
  • While it’s best to have a level flooring surface throughout, if there are changes in elevation, make sure all steps are marked appropriately and are well lit.
  • Ensure that handrails on stairways are secured, that stair treads are a solid surface or that carpeting is properly secured and free of tears.
  • Be sure walkways around the exterior of the establishment (including parking areas) and outdoor gathering areas are in good condition and well lit.
  • Use surveillance cameras where possible.
  • Assign guides for all tours, and train them in safety procedures. Limit the number of guests per tour. Keep guests at a safe distance from operational traffic, moving machinery and hot surfaces.
  • Don’t permit guests to carry food or beverages with them during the tour.
  • Post warnings and liability disclaimers at the tour site and on your website to assure visitors understand potential physical and operational hazards.
  • Provide any necessary safety gear, such as safety glasses or hearing protection.
  • Be sure to follow any state or local safety regulations or health restrictions, including occupancy restrictions for fire evacuation.

By ensuring a safe visit, you protect your business while building customer goodwill. Contact The Ayres Group for more information on specialized insurance solutions for your brewery or distillery.

Booming beverage industry has special insurance needs

The craft beverage industry is booming. Breweries and wineries operate in all 50 states, and the number of distilleries has more than doubled since 2013.
Growth stems primarily from states welcoming breweries, brewpubs, wineries and distilleries – granting new licenses and drafting legislation to ease excise taxes – and from the desire of consumers to buy locally.

Proprietors in the craft beverage industry have special insurance needs. If you’re the proprietor of a brewery, winery or distillery, you’ll be glad to know that insurers offer products designed to protect your enterprise. Speak to your local, independent insurance agent to explore the options.

Something for every palate…

Look for property coverages that address exposures common to the industry, such as:

  • selling price and market value clauses
  • tank collapse
  • tank leakage
  • contamination and adulteration of your product
  • temperature change

Valuable liability coverages include:

  • blanket additional insured status for vendors/distributors
  • product recall expense
  • liquor liability

A round for the house!

Make sure that the insurance you purchase is adequate to cover special events you may host or attend: from tours and tastings to festivals and weddings. Talk to your Ayres Group Agent about products that provide loss control consultations to identify potential hazards and develop and implement procedures to  ensure visitor safety.

Protecting your craft beverage equipment

While means and methods will vary, one item that all craft beverage manufacturers share is dependence on their equipment. That’s why it’s important to make sure you include equipment breakdown coverage as part of your insurance portfolio if you’re a craft brewer, distiller or winery owner.

When most of us think about insurance protection, we think of insuring against fire, wind, theft or injury to other parties due to our negligence. But what about an electrical arc that interrupts the power supply, a sudden compressor failure on a glycol chiller or the sudden breakdown of your grape crusher/destemmer? These can be expensive items to repair or replace, and the downtime may prove more costly due to the lost revenue and time it may take to get replacement equipment.

Most traditional property insurance policies exclude the sudden and accidental breakdown of mechanical, processing and heating and cooling equipment. A separate equipment breakdown policy or endorsement (a policy addition) is often required to insure these items properly. Many machinery and equipment policies include coverage for ammonia contamination and product spoilage due to temperature or humidity changes when vital equipment is suddenly damaged.

Consider these scenarios:

  • Your heating boiler explodes, causing extensive damage to your brewhouse and building. Equipment breakdown coverage can cover the damage to your equipment and your building.
  • A gear in a bottling line suddenly breaks, shutting down production. Equipment breakdown coverage can pay for your cost to repair or replace the damaged gear, up to the limit of your policy, and could also cover your lost income or extra expense caused by the accident.

In addition to covering the specialized equipment used in your craft, consider routine breakdown of equipment common in many business categories: air conditioning equipment, air tanks, electric motors, electronic data processing equipment, fans and blowers, water heaters and more. All of these can be covered under an equipment breakdown policy or endorsement.

Consider this important coverage to round out your insurance protection. By insuring your equipment against failure or breakdown, you can greatly reduce the financial impact to your business when they occur. For more information or to find a Ayres Group agent, go to theayres-group.com

In Case of a Flood-Protecting You and Your Family

 

Watches / warnings:

  • Flood watches are issued when rain is heavy enough to cause rivers to overflow.
  • Flood warnings describe the severity of the situation and indicate when and where the flood will begin.
  • Flash flood watches are issued when heavy rain is occurring or is expected to occur.
  • Flash flood warnings are issued when flooding is occurring suddenly. In the event of flash flooding, move immediately to high ground.
  • Educate your family and yourself about your community’s flood warnings.

Evacuation:

  • Plan an evacuation route.
  • Develop a plan for you and your family to communicate if you are separated when a flood comes.

Protecting Your Property

  • If you are moving into a new home, apartment or business location, make sure you have adequate insurance coverage. Your bank, local officials or insurance representative can inform you if your location is at risk of flooding.
  • Flood insurance is excluded under homeowners and renters policies, but it is covered under the comprehensive section of standard automobile insurance policies and some coverage is available for floods under special commercial insurance policies.
  • Flood insurance for homeowners, renters and businesses is administered through the federal government and can be purchased from an insurance agent or company under contract with the Federal Insurance Administration (FIA), part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency(FEMA). Flood insurance is only available where the local government has adopted adequate flood plain management regulations under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Most communities participate in the program.
  • Flood insurance covers direct physical losses from floods and losses resulting from flood-related erosion caused by waves or currents of water exceeding anticipated cyclical levels and accompanied by a severe storm, flash flood, abnormal tide surge or a similar situation which results in flooding. Flood insurance also may cover mudslides.
  • Coverage for the structure and contents of the home are sold separately. Buildings are covered for replacement cost but content coverage is available on an actual cash value basis only.
  • Maintain a supply of emergency materials: plywood, plastic sheeting, nails, hammer, shovels, sandbags, flashlight, batteries, battery-operated radio, first aid kit, medication, sturdy shoes, emergency food and water, cash and credit cards.
  • Install a system to prevent flood water from backing up in sewer drains.
  • Locate switches to turn off gas, electricity and water.
  • Make an inventory of your possessions and store it off the premises. If your stuff is damaged, this list will help facilitate the claim filing process.

©Insurance Information Institute, Inc.

Contact your Ayres Group representative for information on flood insurance.

Top Safety Tips for Landscapers

Landscape contractors and their employees face increased threats of injuries because of the nature of their work – some as a result of nature itself.

Severe weather, biting insects, sun exposure, and even animals are just some of the hazards that present safety challenges. Add back-breaking work, high-powered equipment use, and chemical applications, and you have a recipe for risk.

Landscape contractors face a number of challenges when it comes to keeping their
employees safe. These challenges may include risks like hot weather, power equipment,
heavy lifting, and repetitive work. Employers should take a proactive approach by
providing proper equipment, pre-season and regular training, and safety talks, especially
for new hires. Some measures that improve safety awareness on job sites include:

General safety
• Instruct employees to report chronic health conditions to their supervisor/employer (allergies, heart problems, asthma, diabetes, etc.).

• Report all incidents, including near misses, immediately to supervisors
• Enforce a zero-tolerance policy for working under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
• Wear protective equipment for job-specific tasks, such as boots, gloves, safety glasses, hearing protection, high visibility vest, head protection, and respirators.

• Be aware of heat exhaustion and take preventive measures for sun protection,
including SPF lotion, water, and protective clothing.
• Follow proper lifting techniques. Bend at the knees, place hands under the
object, and push up with knees to lift. Get help if an object is too heavy.
• Identify dangerous plants, animals, and surroundings, and maintain a safe working distance.

Lawn mower/equipment safety
• Provide training on various equipment per manufacturers’ specifications.
• Fuel and start equipment on level ground. Let equipment cool before refueling – remove the cap slowly and never over-fill the tank.
• To avoid smoke inside a trailer, place the exhaust system facing out.
• Do not operate equipment during severe weather conditions, including windstorms and thunderstorms.
• Walk through the job site prior to mowing to remove stones, bottles, pine cones, sticks, and objects that can create a hazard. Be aware
of standing water.
• Keep hands and feet away from blades and moving parts.
• Never pull a push mower backward or operate a riding mower in reverse. Mow from the bottom to the top of a hill.
• Only use a riding mower on a slope less than 15 degrees. Mow up and down slopes, turning around on level ground.
• Ensure that the motor is off and the spark plug wire is disconnected before changing blades or performing repairs.
• Use two hands to hold equipment, wrapping thumbs and index fingers around the grip.
• Operate weed eaters close to the ground.

Pesticide safety
• Review Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), and keep them readily available. Make sure all pesticides are labeled. Follow mixing
instructions and be aware of recommended medical assistance.
• Designate trained employees to handle pesticide applications.
• Do not smoke, drink, or eat while working with pesticides, and know the location of decontamination sites.
• Place pesticides in rear section of truck and make sure containers are secured and in good condition.
• Clean up spills immediately (control, contain, clean).
• Wash hands after working with pesticides, and wash soiled clothing separately from other clothing.

Protecting Your Craft Beverage Equipment

While means and methods will vary, one item that all craft beverage manufacturers share is dependence on their equipment. That’s why it’s important to make sure you include equipment breakdown coverage as part of your insurance portfolio if you’re a craft brewer, distiller or winery owner.

 

When most of us think about insurance protection, we think of insuring against fire, wind, theft or injury to other parties due to our negligence. But what about an electrical arc that interrupts the power supply, a sudden compressor failure on a glycol chiller or the sudden breakdown of your grape crusher/destemmer? These can be expensive items to repair or replace, and the downtime may prove more costly due to the lost revenue and time it may take to get replacement equipment.

Most traditional property insurance policies exclude the sudden and accidental breakdown of mechanical, processing and heating and cooling equipment. A separate equipment breakdown policy or endorsement (a policy addition) is often required to insure these items properly. Many machinery and equipment policies include coverage for ammonia contamination and product spoilage due to temperature or humidity changes when vital equipment is suddenly damaged.

Consider these scenarios:

  • Your heating boiler explodes, causing extensive damage to your brewhouse and building. Equipment breakdown coverage can cover the damage to your equipment and your building.
  • A gear in a bottling line suddenly breaks, shutting down production. Equipment breakdown coverage can pay for your cost to repair or replace the damaged gear, up to the limit of your policy, and could also cover your lost income or extra expense caused by the accident.

In addition to covering the specialized equipment used in your craft, consider routine breakdown of equipment common in many business categories: air conditioning equipment, air tanks, electric motors, electronic data processing equipment, fans and blowers, water heaters and more. All of these can be covered under an equipment breakdown policy or endorsement.

Consider this important coverage to round out your insurance protection. By insuring your equipment against failure or breakdown, you can greatly reduce the financial impact to your business when they occur. For more information or contact The Ayres Group.