Safety Tips That You May Not Have Considered

It’s always a good time to double down on your workplace safety efforts to see if there are any areas that you may be overlooking.

While your safety regimen may be top notch, there is always room for improvement and you can consider these options as recommended by EHS Today:

Use a 10-second rule

Workers should consider using the 10-second rule before resuming a task after a break or disruption. During this time before resumption, the worker can conduct a mental hazard check, which EHS Today refers to as STEP:
S – Stop before resuming a job or beginning a new task.
T – Think about the task you are about to do.
E – Ensure that any potential hazards have been identified and mitigated.
P – Perform the job.

Take advantage of OSHA training

The OSHA Outreach Training Program provides training for workers and employers on the recognition, avoidance, abatement and prevention of safety and health hazards in workplaces. The program also provides information regarding workers’ rights, employer responsibilities, and how to file a complaint.

Through this program, workers can attend 10-hour or 30-hour classes delivered by OSHA-authorized trainers. The 10-hour class is intended for entry-level workers, while the 30-hour class is more appropriate for workers with some safety responsibility.

Through this training, OSHA helps to ensure that workers are more knowledgeable about workplace hazards and their rights.

Reward employees for attention to safety

Many companies reward individual employees who are especially mindful of safety procedures. Rewards don’t have to be extravagant. Low-cost rewards such as $10 gift cards for everyday necessities (gas, groceries, fast food) are perfect for on-the-spot rewards or as redemption options in a point-accumulation program.

Communicate with non-English speaking workers

Non-English speaking laborers have more workplace accidents than their peers. Some safety experts blame this on the language barrier that may exist. The language barrier may keep them from reporting workplace hazards and they may not understand your safety instructions.

If you have non-English speaking workers:

  • Ensure that training is fully understood.
  • Try to get any safety training materials also printed up in Spanish, and other languages prevalent in your workplace.
  • If you have one, provide them contact in your organization that speaks their language, so that they can get answers to any questions they may have or to report concerns.

Urge your employees to speak up

Let your workers know that there will be no retribution for reporting perceived workplace hazards, no matter how minor. You can also implement the third suggestion above and reward employees that point out safety issues.

Temp workers need safety awareness too

Temporary workers often slip through the cracks when companies are training staff on safety. And it’s easy to forget when you get a temp that comes in for a day or two that they need to be aware of the hazards in the workplace and how to avoid getting injured.

The issue is especially important in terms of your company getting cited. Federal OSHA has made the safety of temporary workers one of its priorities. OSHA in 2014 published a guide for protecting temporary workers. To access the guide and for tips, check out: http://www.osha.gov/temp_workers/

Make your training engaging

The best safety training programs are those that employees remember. Some good ways to make sure the information is retained include using real-life examples, story-telling, skits and strong video presentations.

Do more than OSHA requires

OSHA’s regulations are meant to be comprehensive, but every workplace is different and for a truly effective safety program you should fine-tune your safety requirement specifically for your workplace. In other words, you can go a step beyond what OSHA requires.

Watching each other’s back

You should also instill a sense of responsibility among your staff to look out for each other. If a worker sees another performing a job in an unsafe manner, the worker should step in to offer assistance. This can be done without being intrusive or confrontational.

Some good approaches include: “Hey, would you like me to watch out for your safety?” and “As you know, you need to be wearing cut-resistant gloves to perform that task.”

Establish a leadership-driven safety culture

A safe workplace starts from the top. The company’s leadership needs to buy into its safety culture. “If your employees see leadership investing time and money into workplace safety, they’ll understand that it’s a priority for your company. And ultimately, they’ll make it a priority for themselves as well,” EHS Today writes.

How to Keep Your Safety Meetings Engaging and Fun

Are your safety meetings a drag for your workers? Are they shifting in their seats as they sit through yet another presentation on slip and fall hazards?

Safety meetings are a key part of a safety awareness program and are one of the best methods to motivate workers to take safety out of the classroom and into the field. But they don’t have to be boring. You need to keep your employees’ attention and make sure they retain what you teach them, because their lives could depend on it.

But, it’s not easy to keep the meetings motivating and interesting to your workers. Here are some tips to keep your workers engaged while also making them more aware of safety in the workplace.

  1. Have people with management experience organize your safety meetings. Too often, people leading the meetings are certified in safety, but have no experience in management. In other words, safety engineers may get too wonkish for your workers, who can then lose interest. To be most effective, have a manager conduct the meeting with the safety expert, who can answer the technical questions.
  2. Build an agenda and circulate it before the meeting. Work with a small group. Focus on the specific. Define what success will mean. Create an expectation of value and participation. Anticipation is a powerful emotion.
  3. Don’t look backward. Don’t make the meeting all about reliving one bad accident that happened in the workplace. Instead, review the accident or close call and what led up to it in the first place, so you can discuss with participants ways to make sure the incident is not repeated in the future.
  4. Vary your techniques. Individuals learn differently. If you must use Power Point slides, use them sparingly with one idea or image per slide. Videos can be helpful in combination with discussions and games. Involving people helps them retain the message.
  5. Tell stories and use real life examples. Have a story or an example to illustrate every point. The best safety meeting is just hanging out and talking about a subject and telling stories. Talking about the individuals involved in the story helps personalize it.
  6. Use games and competitions, but be sure they have a purpose to either educate or inspire. Think “Safety Bingo” or “At-Risk Jeopardy.” You can hold competitions between teams of workers to see who knows the most about a certain safety issue that is typical in the workplace. Competition really brings out the best in people and helps them learn.
  7. Have fun. Fun during safety meetings can help people feel like they are part of a team and create a sense of belonging. It also helps create a shared company culture. Try something unique, like a Shakespeare play that turns on safety.
  8. Follow up. Reinforce the key points of the meeting by getting back to the participants. Send them articles, bullet lists, and links with resources, as appropriate, a few weeks after giving a safety talk.

 

The most successful safety meetings are well-planned, with management involvement  and documented.

 

Fresh ideas

Selecting a topic for a safety meeting is not always easy. Sometimes you may be wondering what to feature, especially when you have covered some topics many times. If you are fresh out of ideas, consider your topic by:

  1. Reviewing new laws and industry standards,
  2. Reviewing new company policies and procedures,
  3. Evaluating existing safety hazards in the workplace,
  4. Considering future industry events that may impact specific work procedures,
  5. Asking your employees for issues they would like to see discussed at the meeting.

 

The best time to schedule a safety meeting is the start of the work shift. Before you start a safety meeting (on time), have the participants sign in.

 

Sample meeting agenda

  • State the primary purpose of the meeting.
  • Review old business from previous safety meetings.
  • Ask for suggestions for future meetings.
  • Present material for the current safety meeting, using visual aids, such as video, overhead transparencies, slides or printed handouts to stimulate the employees’ interest.
  • Review or give a quiz to participants.
  • Present an agenda for the next meeting.

 

The takeaway

You should do all you can to ensure your workers’ safety, and a key part of that is to train them properly in the safety issues that confront them at work.

Employees have often sat through several safety meetings, so the key to driving home the point effectively is to make them engaging, stimulating and above all, memorable.

Coverage Disputes Over Online Attacks Grow

A federal court has ruled that an insurer’s professional liability policy must pay out $6 million for a company’s losses from a business e-mail compromise scam, even though the business lacked cyber coverage.

The ruling is part of a growing trend of businesses that haven’t purchased cyber insurance seeking coverage for cyber-related losses from other policies they do have, such as business liability, professional liability, and directors & officers (D&O) coverage.

Seeking coverage for cyber losses and for e-mail compromise scams from other than cyber policies is not often successful, and whether the insurer will pay out can depend on the nature of the loss.

In this latest case however, a judge in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York ruled that American International Group must cover $5.9 million that a company had been duped out of by Chinese hackers in 2016.

AIG had disputed the claim saying that the professional liability policy the business had does not cover “criminal acts,” adding that it had never sold the company a cyber policy.

These disputes are becoming more common and you should pay attention to your policy exclusions, as well as consider cyber insurance, if you have assets that could be exposed through a cyber attack or fraud.

 

How was the business scammed?

SS&C Technologies received spoof e-mails that purported to come from one of the company’s clients, Tillage Commodities Fund, a commodities investment firm. The e-mails instructed the company to make six wire transfers to a bank account in Hong Kong.

The scammers masqueraded as Tillage employees with e-mail addresses that spelled “Tillage” as “Tilllage.”

But according to court documents, there were telltale warning signs that the e-mails were fishy:

  • One e-mail asking SS&C to wire $3 million contained only the words “How was your weekend?” and then the wire transfer details.
  • E-mails included grammatical errors and unusual syntax like “Let’s round up business today.”

 

Based on the above, staff at SS&C were not too diligent in looking out for possible

business e-mail compromise scams involving a third party hacker posing as someone else (a client, a vendor or even a manager or president of the targeted company) via e-mail and requesting a wire transfer into a bank account.

This type of scam, which cost organizations $300 million every month in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Treasury, is covered by a standard cyber insurance policy.

SS&C did not have a cyber policy, so it sought coverage under its professional liability policy for the losses it sustained when transferring those funds. AIG did pay for SS&C’s legal defense costs after Tillage Commodities sued, but refused to cover the $5.9 million in stolen funds.

According to court documents, AIG’s policy included a clause that it would not provide indemnity coverage for losses arising from “dishonest, fraudulent or criminal acts.”

 

What this means for your firm

While this case worked out for the insured party, businesses should not rely on their non-cyber insurance policies to continue paying claims. As costs for cyber attacks like ransomware, malware, stolen data and business e-mail compromise scams grow, insurers are increasingly including clauses that explicitly exclude coverage for those risks.

If you have any important company assets in digital form and/or make or receive payments online, it would be wise to secure a cyber insurance policy.

If you don’t, you can try to seek coverage under other policies. That it may be difficult to obtain, but not impossible.

For example, if your company has D&O liability insurance and/or crime insurance, it may be able to seek coverage for any ransomware events since those policies will typically include coverage for kidnapping and ransom.

Some insurers are now providing – either deliberately or unintentionally – kidnapping and ransom coverage that applies to ransoms paid in response to cyber extortion. Among the events that these policies may consider cyber extortion are:

  • Threats to poison a computer system with malware.
  • Threats to change, damage or destroy programs or data stored on a system if the owner does not pay a ransom.

 

That said, many insurers who provide this coverage likely did not anticipate covering ransomware losses and have started changing their D&O and crime policies to specifically exclude ransomware.

Other insurers have added deductibles to the coverage, mirroring the terms of cyber policies, while others have capped the amount of business interruption coverage they will provide for cyber-extortion losses.

Struggling for Survival: Businesses That Went Thin on Insurance

Imagine several small businesses located around the country. Each is well-established and profitable. Each of them bought business insurance – property, liability, automobile and workers’ compensation.

They told their agents they wanted the lowest possible price for coverage, and the agents came through. But they didn’t also take their agents’ recommendations to purchase additional coverage.

Unfortunately, they each suffered losses that threatened the very survival of their businesses. This is how they each got into such a fix:

The underwater restaurateur

The owner of a restaurant on the south shore of Long Island, NY, rejects his agent’s offer of flood insurance when he sees the price.

He relies on property insurance instead. Superstorm Sandy hits in 2012, and the restaurant has 38 inches of water in it, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

That’s when he learns that his property insurance provides no coverage for flood losses.

 

Sofa seller on shaky ground

A furniture wholesaler in Modesto, California, buys an “all risks” property insurance policy at a low premium. 

One day, a major earthquake shakes his building, breaking internal water pipes, collapsing racks of furniture, and damaging several high-priced pieces and some forklifts.

He has to close until city engineers can certify the building as safe. The losses from water damage and breakage are well into six figures, not including the lost sales.

But, when he submits an insurance claim, he learns that his policy does not provide any coverage for earthquake damage.

 

Tech trouble

A Pennsylvania contractor does work for a national chain of retail stores. Employees in the contractor’s office receive e-mails from what they believe are trusted sources.

However, the e-mails contain malicious software that steals network passwords. The perpetrators of the e-mails use the stolen passwords to log in to the retailer’s networks.

Credit card and personal information records on 110 million people are exposed. The contractor never even considered buying cyber liability insurance.

 

Tragedy on the grounds

The owner of a small apartment complex in Kentucky considers himself well-insured with commercial general liability insurance limits of $1 million for each occurrence, and an umbrella policy with another $1 million limit.

One night, a 29-year-old woman visiting a friend is attacked in a dark parking lot. Because of her injuries, she will never be able to resume her practice as a hospital pediatrician. She sues the apartment complex for more than $20 million, including medical costs, pain and suffering, and lost future earnings. 

The owner finds himself significantly underinsured.

 

Small shop, big troubles

A Virginia tool and die manufacturer suffers a major fire. The owners carried $20,000 of business interruption insurance, assuming they could be back in business within a couple of months in case of a disruption.

However, the shop cannot produce anything without two special machines made by a German manufacturer. It will take six months for the replacements to be ordered, manufactured, shipped, installed and tested.

The shop’s lost revenue will far exceed the $20,000 of business interruption insurance.

 

The takeaway

All of these situations could have been avoided had the businesses not limited themselves to securing the minimal insurance they could get by on. They key is knowing what your risk is, and then seeing if it can be addressed with insurance.

There is certainly going to be a greater cost with securing the insurances a business truly needs, but the cost of not having necessary coverage can be much greater.

Worse yet, it can put you out of business. If you think you may have some blind spots, give us a call so we can go over your coverage with you.

 

More Firms Being Sued for Discrimination over Medical Marijuana

More and more companies are being sued for discrimination by job applicants who have legally been prescribed medical marijuana, after they failed pre-employment drug screenings or because of their use of the substance.

The issue of medical marijuana is difficult in terms of the employment picture, especially now that 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized its use. Of those states, 16 provide workplace protections, either through their own law or case law since their medical marijuana laws were enacted.

To confuse the issue further, marijuana is still illegal under federal statutes, putting employers in a difficult position when they are deciding whether to hire someone who uses it for medicinal purposes.

Courts are increasingly siding with workers and job applicants who are using medical marijuana when they sue employers for discrimination. Most recently, in November 2019, the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna Count in Scranton, PA ruled that while the state’s medical marijuana law does not explicitly permit a private right of action by an employee who is allegedly discriminated against because of medical marijuana use, it does so implicitly.

There have been similar rulings in federal and state courts, including in Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island. Legal experts say the Pennsylvania case and the others have opened the door for people in other states filing similar actions.

More and more courts have therefore been willing to treat workers who use medical marijuana in the same way as those who have to take other prescription drugs.

 

Litigation pathways

There are two avenues for litigation for workers who use medical marijuana, if their employers take adverse actions against them:

  • Discrimination – Claiming medical marijuana as a “reasonable accommodation” for someone’s disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (or a comparable state law), and that the employer should accommodate the worker’s use. Courts have usually drawn the line at using at work to define reasonable accommodation. In other words, it would not be discrimination if an employer bars medical marijuana-using employees from using at work, but it would if they bar them from using during non-working hours.
  • Protection from adverse actions – This could include firing, demotions or similar actions against someone who uses medical marijuana off the clock and does not come to work impaired.

 

What you can do

Experts recommend that employers make an effort to engage in an interactive process with workers in states where medical marijuana has been legalized.

They recommend engaging any workers who have been prescribed medical marijuana in the interactive process, as prescribed by the ADA. Through this process, the employer can see if they have an underlying disability that requires accommodation.

One of the key considerations for employers is that the reasonable accommodation should affect a worker’s ability to safely perform their job.

If you are in a state whose laws protect medical marijuana users from adverse employment actions, you should review your policies and workplace rules to make sure they are in line with the law.

In addition, since other states have been starting to side with workers in discrimination cases, if you are in a state with legalized medical marijuana, you may want to conduct the same internal review.

If you do conduct drug testing, you should consider which positions you want to test for. Many employers have started only testing for positions that are safety-sensitive, such as those that include operating heavy machinery.

Coverage Gap Concerns as Cyber Threat Grows

Small and mid-sized businesses are increasingly bearing the burden of cyber threats, as criminals consider them low-hanging fruits that often do not have the resources in place to mount a strong defense.

A severe attack on a small company can incapacitate its ability to do business, and the expenses of getting operations back on track coupled with loss of goodwill can easily force many firms into bankruptcy. That’s why it’s important to not only have safeguards in place to avoid being compromised in the first place, but to also take out the proper insurance.

Unfortunately, with more data breaches hitting the news, one of the main concerns that executives have is if their insurance will cover the costs associated with recovering from an attack. Many business owners and executives worry whether the policies they have in place will be adequate in case they are hit by a breach.

If you are running a small or mid-sized company, do not underestimate the growing threat to your business.

According to a survey by online insurance news service Advisen and Nationwide Insurance Co., the types of cyber losses mid-sized business incur are:

  • Malicious breaches resulting in data losses, 52%
  • Unintentional data disclosure by staff: 16%
  • Physical loss or theft of data: 13%
  • Network or website disruptions: 5%
  • Phishing, spoofing and social engineering: 5%
  • Other: 9%

 

Insurance concerns

One of the chief concerns for executives is any overlap or gaps between their property, liability, crime and cyber policies when it comes to covering the costs of recovering from an attack, according to the report by Advisen and Nationwide.

Some companies feel they don’t need cyber coverage because they believe their property and liability policies will cover any related losses.

Here are some of the main findings:

  • 95% of respondents named data breach as the number-one risk they expect to be covered by a cyber insurance policy.
  • 94.5% said they expected cyber-related business interruption to be covered by a cyber policy.
  • 89% said they expect their cyber policy to cover cyber extortion or ransom demands.
  • 36% said they have cyber-related property damage/bodily injury coverage under another policy, reflecting the belief that some coverage for cyber-related losses can be found under traditional policies.
  • 60% of respondents said they are concerned about perceived gaps and overlaps in their insurance coverage.

For funds-transfer fraud losses, the majority of respondents believed coverage should be found under the crime policy, but also stated they would like to be able to recover under both crime and cyber policies ― or have separate policies with higher limits.

These findings show that businesses are seeking clearer differentiation between cyber and traditional policies, and an understanding of which events are insured and which are not.

 

The takeaway

One thing to be aware of is that since cyber insurance is a new and still evolving product, all policies do not cover the same thing. That’s why it’s important for businesses to weigh their choices carefully with our guidance.

While the cyber threat has grown, more insurers have also changed language in their property and liability policies to limit coverage of cyber events.

Typical property insurance policies offered higher limits for business interruption for covered property damage. And because of the high costs associated with a data loss, more executives want to see similar limits for business interruption coverage on their cyber stand-alone policies.

This market demand may drive insurers to refine their cyber insurance policies, including increasing cyber-related business interruption limits up to the level of standard property forms, according to the report.

It’s important that when shopping for a cyber policy, you work closely with us to find the one that best fits your needs. We can help you evaluate your risks and coverages and identify any gaps by looking at your existing policies.

How to Avoid Running Afoul of Wage and Hour Laws

With increases in litigation and federal and state enforcement of wage and hour laws, employers should make sure they comply with laws at both the federal and state levels.

All businesses should conduct periodic self-audits addressing the various wage and hour issues that are applicable to their workplace, in order to avoid the most common source of litigation by workers against their employers.

The goal of an audit should be to ensure that:

  • Exempt classifications are properly applied to each employee;
  • Exempt employees are paid on a “salary basis,” and that absence and leave policies comply with Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and state law requirements regarding authorized and unauthorized deductions;
  • All forms of pay required to be included in overtime calculations are, in fact, included;
  • Non-exempt employees are paid for all hours worked;
  • Payroll records are complete and accurate and are retained for the proper amount of time; and
  • To the extent that state law requirements exceed those of the FLSA, such stricter requirements become the standard.

Any issues you identify in a periodic audit should be addressed immediately. At the same time, employment policies and actions should be implemented to create an environment in which compliance becomes part of your operational mindset.

The compliance strategies below cover some of the more common potential errors in the wage and hour context.

Meal and break laws

  • Implement written policies regarding meal and break times of non-exempt employees, and require approval for additional hours worked.
  • Implement measures to ensure that breaks are uninterrupted and employees taking such breaks are completely relieved from duty.
  • Tell supervisors not to assign tasks to non-exempt employees or allow them to perform work during their breaks.

Misclassification errors

  • At the time of hiring, inform employees of their exempt or non-exempt status, review job requirements and descriptions and describe in writing terms of their payment ― for straight time and overtime.
  • Periodically review duties performed by exempt employees after they are hired, to ensure they remain properly classified.
  • If you find you’ve made an exempt/non-exempt classification error for an employee, immediately consult your attorney to determine the appropriate remedial action, such as a change in status from exempt to non-exempt and making payments to such employee.

Overtime/off-clock errors

  • Adopt clear written policies on schedules and hours of work, and require approval for overtime work.
  • Adopt written policies requiring employees to report all time worked, and that you will pay for all time worked.
  • Train employees and managers on timekeeping policies and discipline for violations of policy.
  • Do not pressure employees to meet deadlines or perform assignments that can only be met by working off the clock. Workload expectations should be realistic.
  • Regularly review overtime records. If you find overtime was not paid, pay it immediately, even if work was not authorized.

Record-keeping mistakes

  • Implement and disseminate a timekeeping policy. The policy may, for example, require exempt and non-exempt employees to complete time sheets on a weekly basis, and to note meal and other breaks.
  • Require non-exempt employees to review and sign their time cards or time sheets every week, and to initial any changes made to them. This is your evidence if sued for an off-the-clock violation.
  • Retain time and payroll records for all employees. This will help you quickly correct any mistakes you uncover, and helps work with an employee who says they were short-changed on their paycheck. Also, accurate records are the best defense in a wage and hour complaint.

Most Commercial Insurance Lines Seeing Increases

A new report by Willis Towers Watson predicts that most commercial insurance lines will see increases in 2020 as the market continues to harden almost across the board, with the only exception being workers’ compensation.

Overall, 19 commercial lines are expected to see price increases according to the report, with property, umbrella, and public company directors and officers (D&O) experiencing the most widespread hikes (20% and higher) and a retreat by some insurers.

Commercial auto has been pressured for many years as distracted driving has driven up accidents that result in injuries, as well as increasing repair costs for modern vehicles.

For property coverage, the increasing amounts of natural catastrophes in many parts of the country have forced many insurers to raise rates, curtail their underwriting or leave markets altogether.

“We’re seeing the biggest upward price shift in years. We expect rate hikes and capacity constrictions will continue throughout 2020 and likely into 2021, but a more orderly market to emerge by mid-2020,” Joe Peiser, global head of broking at Willis Towers Watson, said in a prepared statement.

Another line of business coverage that is seeing new rate increases is liability, partly tied to the deteriorating auto insurance market as well as increasingly costly litigation.

“We are experiencing what appears to be a fundamental and systemic change in liability losses – and not for the better,” the report states. “Loss severity in auto and general liability, and therefore umbrella, is spiking due in large part to so-called ‘social inflation,'”, it adds.

Of the 19 commercial insurance lines that are expected to see price hikes, six will see a mix of increases or decreases or flat renewals. The latter include:

  • Fiduciary,
  • Environmental,
  • Marine,
  • Kidnap & ransom, and
  • Terrorism insurance.

 

The rest, including property and casualty lines, will all see increases. Here’s what’s happening with the two lines that are seeing the highest rises:

 

Property

The steady stream of natural catastrophes has taken its toll on the insurance industry and policyholders. Hurricanes are increasing in both number and intensity and the destruction is severe as real estate developments have continued in high-risk areas and coastlines. In addition, rising tides are contributing to increasing floods during storms and hurricanes.

The West of the U.S. has had its worst fire seasons ever in the last five years. Many insurers have therefore started raising rates on commercial properties in high-risk areas and are requiring property owners to reduce the chances of their properties catching fire by building buffer zones around their structures. Those who don’t may not have their policies renewed.

Insurers are tightening underwriting in any parts of the country that have been experiencing increased levels of natural disasters. Additionally, some insurers have decided to curtail the amount of policies they are willing to write, while others have pulled out of the market altogether.

While overall rate increases vary from region to region, properties with greater exposure to catastrophes and claims histories have been seeing the largest increases.

 

Liability and umbrella

This includes the liability portion of auto policies, which has been the driving force in increasing personal and commercial auto insurance rates.

Since the advent of the smartphone, there has been a steady increase in automobile accidents and injuries. The growing economy also meant more cars on the road and more people driving to work, which has translated into more accidents.

Another issue is that companies are increasingly being sued for societal issues where they may have been an actor or middleman. A good example is the opioid litigation that is catching many companies in its web – not only the opioid makers, but also doctors who prescribe them and pharmacies that dispense them.

Also, with the advances of social media, when a company may have injured someone through its actions, the word spreads, which can lead to others coming forward and suing.

On top of that, jury awards keep growing. Businesses are easy targets for litigation, and juries consider that they have deep pockets and can afford to pay out substantial awards.

Willis Towers Watson adds that another reason liability claims continue climbing is the increasing cost of health care, and often liability claims include those where a third party is injured and needs medical treatment of some kind.

Searching Social Media During Hiring Process

If you are hiring, you should not overlook the importance of vetting prospective employees through social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

A recent survey by CareerBuilder found that 70% of hiring managers said they had used Facebook or other social networking sites to research job candidates in 2018, up from 60% the year prior. Also, 11% of hiring managers said they planned to start using social networking sites for screening.

With so many people posting their lives online, employers can learn a lot about candidates. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to look at the social networking profiles of prospective hires.

Employees in sales, public relations and customer service serve as representatives for the companies they work for, so employers have a legitimate interest in ensuring potential workers won’t embarrass the company,

The most commonly checked social media accounts are Facebook and LinkedIn. Some employers even search for blogs or look at a candidate’s Twitter account.

The search can pay off for the employer.

More than half of employers (54%) in the CareerBuilder survey reported finding content on social media that had caused them not to hire a candidate. But also, many employers reported finding positive things on someone’s social media accounts that had helped them decide to hire the applicant.

 

Top Reasons Found on Social Networking Sites for Considering a Job Applicant:

  • Profile provided a good feel for candidate’s personality and fit within the organization: 50%
  • Profile supported candidate’s qualifications: 39%
  • Candidate showed creativity: 38%
  • Candidate showed solid communication skills: 35%
  • Candidate was well-rounded: 33%
  • Others posted good references about candidate: 19%
  • Candidate received awards and accolades: 15%

 

Top Reasons Found on Social Networking Sites for Passing Over a Job Applicant

  • Candidate posted provocative or inappropriate photographs or information: 53%
  • Candidate posted content about drinking or using drugs: 44%
  • Candidate bad-mouthed prior employer or clients: 35%
  • Candidate showed poor communication skills: 29%
  • Candidate made discriminatory comments: 26%
  • Candidate lied about qualifications: 24%
  • Candidate shared confidential information from prior employer: 20%

 

Don’t overstep – Be warned, though. There is a fine line of overstepping when looking at candidates’ social media pages. Here are some tips:

Be fair – Review every applicant in the same manner.  If you investigate one applicant’s social media accounts, you should look at every applicant’s accounts. This is to avoid the appearance of discrimination.

Never ask for access to an applicant’s accounts – Demanding passwords could violate a multitude of different laws (a number of states have passed laws barring employers from demanding username and passwords for social media accounts), and could also put the applicant in violation of the terms of service of most of the major social media sites.
In other words, any review should be limited to public information.

Keep it timely – Complete searches later in the hiring process, and preferably after an offer of employment has been made. That sounds counter-productive, but if you learn that an applicant is a protected class by virtue of a social media search, unconscious bias steps in, and you will be in a more difficult position should a discrimination issue arise.
As with any other part of the hiring process, document everything that is done, including saving screen shots of social media pages reviewed.

Protecting Your Company Data During Layoffs

One of the most perilous times for a company in an employment relationship is when a worker is leaving. Departing employees have taken customer lists, vendor lists and sometimes company secrets on the way out the door, whether they were laid off, fired or quit on their own.

This unethical, and sometimes illegal, time-honored tradition has been made all the easier in the digital age with a trove of data easily e-mailed, uploaded to the cloud or downloaded on a thumb drive.

Minimizing the risk of laid-off or leaving employees absconding with sensitive company data requires planning between management and your legal counsel. There are a number of measures you can employ to preserve the value of your intellectual property and other important company proprietary information, such as:

Having employees sign non-solicitation agreements – In many states, non-solicitation agreements are enforceable. Such agreements often address the protection of proprietary, confidential information, like a list of customers and suppliers.

If a non-solicitation agreement is crafted properly, it can serve as a strong measure preventing departing employees from soliciting a former employer’s customers and suppliers at their next place of employment.

Using non-disclosure agreements -If you have company data that competitors could use to the detriment of your business, it would be wise to require your staff to sign non-disclosure agreements, which hold employees to their fiduciary obligations under law.

A typical non-disclosure agreement identifies the employer’s proprietary and confidential information and requires the employee to acknowledge the value of preserving the secrecy of such information. The agreement requires that the employee keep such information secret for a certain period of time.

Before writing up a non-disclosure agreement, management and legal counsel need to take an inventory of all the data the employer wants to protect. In order to be enforceable, a non-disclosure agreement must be supported by “adequate consideration” (which means evidence of employment, such as the payment of a wage for the employee’s services).

Requiring the return or destruction of property – Before employees leave your employ, make sure that they have returned all of the company’s property, particularly any items that contain confidential information. That may include laptops, originals and any copies of company documents that the employee has made.

Also make sure that company information, electronic files or other information stored on the employee’s personal or home computer is deleted.

Changing or deleting access codes, passwords – To make sure that a former employee does not access sensitive company data, you should change or eliminate any access codes, passwords for company e-mail, voicemail, telephone conference lines and computer systems, or access to your facilities via doors with coded locks.

Also collect any company ID cards. If you have concerns you can also notify customers, suppliers and others that the employee no longer works for you.

Making an exit record – Make sure you have a record (a checklist, for example) of the measures required of departing employees. This checklist will confirm that each departing employee has complied with your measures.

Also, have each departing employee sign an acknowledgment that all of the company’s property has been returned or destroyed, and that they have read, understood and agree to be bound by their ongoing obligations under their non-disclosure and non-solicitation agreements.

Conducting exit interviews – The final thing you should do is conduct a formal exit interview with each departing employee. During the exit interview, try to ascertain the confidential information known to the departing employee and ensure that all records of that information have been returned.

This is the time to remind the employee about their obligations under the non-disclosure agreement and the ramifications of violating the agreement either directly by disclosure or indirectly by performing work for other employers or for themselves that requires use of this confidential information.