Tips You Can Use



One Insurance Mis-Step Can Risk Your Business

Posted by on Aug 11, 2017 in Down to Business, Uncategorized | Comments Off on One Insurance Mis-Step Can Risk Your Business

In 2008 Leo Welder started ChooseWhat.com. Within a year he was being sued by J2 Global for using the term “e-fax”. It was totally out of the blue and unexpected. Sadly, he found his insurance didn’t protect him from this claim. Yes, he purchased insurance but was missing coverage for intellectual property litigation.

Both companies eventually settled but only after Mr. Welder had invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. (How many startups have that amount of capital freely available?)

After the lawsuit, Mr. Welder decided to add an E&O policy to help protect his company from these concerns.

No matter how smart you are or how diligent you are in caring for your clients, you can still find yourself in legal and economic problems. However, even with these concerns, many startups haven’t investigated getting necessary insurance for their risk profile. (Typically because they are either trying to save money or as an oversight.)

The critical thing to understand when contemplating risk management is that problems arise from gaps in protection. With that in mind, here are recommendations from business owners and insurance experts to avoid liability problems in a business.

Cover All Your Bases

Every organization needs basic liability insurance coverage. This can protect your business from a huge number of costs from libel to customer injuries. The average liability plan is one of the least expensive types of insurance protection you can own.

Most business owners admit that they avoid insurance to keep costs low. The question to ask… is it worth it? Be sure to talk to your insurance agent and review any needed changes for your risk profile.

Here are some areas of risk to ponder:

* Do you have company cars?
* Do you or employees drive personal cars for business related activities?
* Do you attend trade shows?
* Do you store client data online?
* Is your company dependent on a key employee?

The list above is an example of what an insurance advisor will walk through with you. What you’ll end up investing in insurance is going to depend a great deal on your specific risks. (If you run a business that has low liability footprint such as copywriting or consulting you’ll have a different risk profile than if you are a construction contractor.)

If you are just starting your business, take a close look at Business Owners Plan. This could include some or even all of these policies into one affordable package. In order to qualify, you’ll probably need to have a business that employs less than 100 workers and has less than $5 million in annual sales. These policies are designed specifically for start-up companies and smaller companies. They work to decrease your risk to lawsuits.

Important: Update Your Policy As Needed

Your company is always changing and insurance isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. Be sure your insurance coverage keeps pace.

If your business size rapidly changes, if your employee count changes, if your services change… all of these are reasons to review your insurance.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a statistic. Yes, one insurance misstep can potentially damage your business. The good news is one call to our team can help you understand your risk profile and help you be certain you have the exact coverage you need for your company.

Telling White Lies Can Void Your Car Insurance

Posted by on Aug 2, 2017 in Personal Protection | Comments Off on Telling White Lies Can Void Your Car Insurance

Many motorists feel car insurance costs are higher than they want to pay. Rates are indeed on the rise. But some folks have taken to telling “white lies” to mislead insurance companies and get lower car insurance rates.

A nationwide survey conducted by a leading online financial firm showed that almost 85% of survey participants had given misleading information to keep the cost of their car insurance as low as possible. This figure is far higher than the estimates previously thought.

Drivers have come up with all sorts of creative story-telling. According to the survey quoted above, the following ranked as the basis for the top five “white” lies that drivers used to lower insurance costs:

1. Failure to accurately report on accident history and previous insurance claims.

2. Falsification of details regarding where the car is parked overnight.

3. The use or purpose of the motor vehicle – family, social, business, traveling, etc.

4. Falsification of the estimated annual mile driven.

5. Failure to properly identify who the primary driver of the vehicle is.

Why mislead on the above?

The main motivation for these little white lies is monetary. The insured knows very well that tinkering with the truth can save money on premium costs.

However, this is a risky move. Carriers are on the lookout for these and if they catch you, your insurance policy can be nullified. That can be especially problematic if you make a claim and the carrier determines you didn’t tell the truth on your insurance application. They will not honor your claim and you’ll be unprotected.

And remember, you’ll be on the hook for more than the damages to your car. You could be responsible for medical expenses of everyone involved in an accident found to be your fault.

A “little white lie” to save a few bucks simply isn’t worth the risk.

And that is not all. That little white lie could very well get you into trouble with the law. It is a criminal offense to falsify the details required by an insurance underwriter as you are seeking for a car insurance policy. Insurance fraud is a thing best avoided.

And remember, this applies to who is driving the car the most as well. Many parents think they should list themselves as the primary driver on a car that their teen mostly drives. This again is the kind of “white lie” that can result in all the previously mentioned problems.

What are the Long Term Effects of Non-disclosure?

As discussed above, failure to give all the necessary details on an insurance application can result in a claim not being honored as well as potentially being taken to court for fraud. YIKES!

And if you’re “found out”, such non-disclosures can have a negative impact on your ability to get a great rate on future policies.

The good news is that our team of specialists strive to help you find the best rates on auto insurance by obtaining multiple quotes from different carriers. We make insurance companies compete for your business and that helps you pick the best mix of budget sensitive features to fit your exact needs.

If you need to review your auto insurance, please reach out to us. We’re here to help!

Cyber Insurance: What is it? Do You Need it?

Posted by on Jul 28, 2017 in Down to Business | Comments Off on Cyber Insurance: What is it? Do You Need it?

Technological advancements have revolutionized the way online advertisements, promotions, and shopping are done. This has brought immense benefits to companies, who have now found new ways to interact with the existing and potential buyers. The opportunity offered by social media alone is rich for companies that intend to conduct exhaustive marketing activities. However, social media platforms have also become avenues of cyber-attacks. This has wrought untold financial losses to all types of companies – small, medium and large. A case in point is the latest attack from “wanna-cry’’, a ransom ware that affected businesses on a global scale. Cyber-attacks can originate from almost anywhere. Businesses large and small have to be vigilant.

There are a number of ways that companies can react to the threat of cyber attacks in order to protect themselves and their clients. Some threats are avoidable through proper implementation of policies like requiring strong passwords. Others may require more advanced software and monitoring. But regardless, if you deal with clients online, or if you keep important personal information, you likely need cyber insurance.

What is the Role of Cyber Insurance Providers?

Cyber Liability Insurance Protection (CLIC) is an insurance plan that is meant to offer protection in the event of a cyber-attack. Companies face massive losses and expenses in the event of a cyber-attack and the cyber insurance plan is meant to mitigate such eventualities. The concept of cyber insurance has grown tremendously since 2005. It is projected to reach close to $8 billion in premiums within the next three or so years. Many companies in the US have realized the need for investing in a cyber insurance policy. Presently, close to 35% of US businesses have acquired cyber insurance policies of some kind, and their number is growing daily.

The cyber insurance industry is evolving at a breathtaking rate. However, the magnitude of the cyber-attacks threat has not been fully appreciated for a couple of reasons. One, many companies fail to report the full extent of the damages they face from cyber-attacks for fear of negative publicity. Second, the nature of cyber-attacks is often changing. The two reasons straddle underwriters with a challenge on how to value the financial impact of an attack.

Generally, a cyber-insurance policy will cover the following expenses:

1. Forensics Examination

Once an attack takes place, it is vital that a forensics examination is conducted. The examination will reveal the full extent of the damage and what needs to be done to rectify the situation. The forensic examiners will advise the company on what needs to be done to successfully avert or withstand any future cyber-attack threats.

2. Expenses Arising from Lawsuits and Extortion

The policy will cater for expenses that arise from lawsuits preferred against the company. Such lawsuits may be occasioned by a breach of client confidentiality occasioned by a cyber-attack. The policy also covers any statutory fines that may be imposed on the business, the cost of legal negotiations and any costs incurred as a result of cyber extortion.

3. Service Losses

The cyber insurance policy will meet the cost of loss as a result of failure by the company to deliver service due to the cyber-attack. The service interruption may be as a result of network downtime or otherwise. Other service costs that are covered by the cyber-insurance policy include those of recovering any lost data and carrying out the necessary PR activities to repair the firm’s dented image.

4. Information Alerts

The policy caters for information alerts to customers following a breach. This also includes monitoring the credit rating of customers whose credentials and identity might have been compromised during the assault.

What do you look for in Cyber-insurance Coverage?

A number of cyber insurance companies offer a list of items that are covered by their insurance policy. The buyer can use these lists to compare and contrast various providers before they settle on the one they perceive to be most receptive to their needs. You can also leverage an independent insurance agency to help you shop for the best value. For example, because we are independent, we can shop between multiple carriers for all kinds of insurance needs. Whatever the case, you must ask about the following aspects of a cyber-insurance plan:

a. Does the insurer customize the insurance coverage plan to the needs of their clients, or does it offer a one-size-fits-all kind of policy? Of course, as the buyer, you will be more interested in an insurance firm that is willing to customize their products for your firm.

b. How do deductibles compare amongst the various insurers? Be sure to compare and contrast deductibles among various insurance providers to determine the ones with the best deals.

c. Does the insurance policy include coverage for third-party providers? What are the limits? If third-party providers have cyber-insurance, how will this influence the terms of my contract?

d. Does the insurance policy cover APTs (Advanced Persistent Threats) and other network attacks?

e. Does the insurance policy offer protection in the event of a strike?

The strikes could be targeted at the company, or the company may be affected by collateral damage. How does the insurer propose to handle this?

f. Does the insurer offer E&O protection that caters for an injurious action done inadvertently by an employee?

g. For how long will the policy offer protection against the risk of APTs?

How Do Insurance Companies Determine Insurance Coverage?

A cyber-attack insurance provider expects potential clients to have put certain measures in place before they can underwrite them. For example, the buyer must ensure that they have done a risk evaluation and created a detailed cyber risk profile. They also must have solid protections against potential cyber-attacks. The insurer will request that the buyer educates its workforce on the best security practices to prevent, control, or successfully withstand a cyber-attack.

The buyer is encouraged to consult moral hackers with a view to getting an insight on the buyer’s most vulnerable spots and how to protect them.

Cyber insurance buyers may be asked to provide a detailed audit of their company’s procedures and practices. This will be to enable the insurer to assess the vulnerability levels of the company. Insurers may ask companies to change some aspects of their administrative practices if they are deemed to be a threat.

The Importance of Cyber Insurance Coverage for Businesses

Companies that partially or fully conduct their businesses over the internet need to contact a reputable insurer for a cyber-attack insurance policy. This is because such businesses stand the greatest risk of being assaulted and losing their assets. Statistics clearly show that cyber-attacks are on an upward trajectory. A shocking observation: small businesses are being attacked at a higher frequency than expected. For example, a report by two leading internet security providers found that about 30% of the cyber-attacks recorded 2 years ago targeted small businesses. Shockingly, the attacks against small businesses increased by 15% (to 45%) last year. This in itself should be a wake-up call to small businesses to safeguard their businesses against such attacks.

(It is estimated that the impact of cyber crimes on the world’s economy has skyrocketed to $580 billion per year, from the $350 billion experienced just a few years ago.)

The cost of a cyber insurance plan is dependent on how the buyer’s industry is organized. The industry dictates the policies and procedures of the firm, the kind of services offered, and their risk profile. Small businesses with profits of between $90,000 and $500,000 will have lower premiums than larger organizations.

If you have questions about cyber insurance, definitely reach out to us so that we can put you in touch with the best available resource.

Top 5 Insurance Products All Startups Must Have

Posted by on Jul 18, 2017 in Down to Business | Comments Off on Top 5 Insurance Products All Startups Must Have

Start-up companies are popping up quickly in today’s fast-paced world and entrepreneurs often find that they’ve forgotten to get essential business insurance to protect their company.

While the owner may tell the board that the business has an insurance policy, this doesn’t mean that the company has the insurance needed. Every company needs insurance that is both adequate and optimized.

To get started, business owners should take these five forms of protection into consideration:

1. Comprehensive General Liability (CGL) Insurance Coverage

This is a type of insurance that protects companies against cases brought against them for the following: Third party bodily injury, building damages, loss of personal effects, and marketing and advertising injury.

What owners should understand about CGL insurance is that it’s designed to pay for your defense when a claim is brought against the company. Ideally, you are allowed to select your own lawyer to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.

The reason why you need this insurance is that many contracts require businesses have at least $1 million in this type of insurance coverage. Even if you don’t think your business needs this level of coverage, you’ll need to purchase it for this reason.

2. Directors and Officers (D&O) Liability Insurance

Although you may have highly influential individuals on your board to help grow your business, these professionals are going to insist on increased insurance coverage.

* Essential to any startup is side A D&O insurance coverage which protects directors and officers from cases of “wrongful acts” or situations where their decisions had a negative effect on the business’s value.
* Side “B” protection protects the company by indemnifying the director or office as well as paying for the defense costs.
* Side “C” coverage protects the firm in the case of a shareholder or class action over securities concerns.

When you have the choice of coverage, many companies select only A and B. These plans leave out judgments as well as any situations where individuals performed in dishonest actions that broke the law or acted in self-interest.

3. Cyber and Media Insurance

Since there have been several high-profile hacking situations for businesses today, the need for cyber insurance is obvious. However, there is not any basic cyber plan available and each insurance provider policies contain untried provisions, terms, and multiple interpretations.

Like the coverage described, these plans offer protection for defense and indemnity. They also can provide solutions for compliance with government and disclosure needs and also crisis management in the case of a breach or incident.

Because not all policies may have a “basic” option, your startup needs to take extra measure. Governments recommend following best practices and establishing firm policies so insurance firms are withholding claims from businesses that they believe did not follow industry standard programs to protect sensitive information.

4. Property Insurance

This type of coverage is designed to protect against any physical damages to the business property. There are a few options but the best choice for coverage is an “all risk” option which will protect against the building and also material and devices inside the building.

Any startup that has a significant infrastructure is going to need this coverage. Tech companies are certainly in need of this coverage option. The policies will safeguard against any damage to web servers and companies may also include disruption protection for any losses due to downtime needed to replace or repair any devices. Inclusions in these policies may be due to damage or loss that’s caused by equipment malfunction, normal aging, and defects.

5. Employment Liability Insurance (EPLI)

This is an important insurance to have and different from the worker’s settlement insurance policy that all states require. It may be purchased in a bundle with worker’s comp or even D&O coverage.

Because discrimination insurance claims are expensive for companies and difficult to work out, this protection is essential for any startup that employs individuals who are popular as well as highly competent.

It may seem like a lot, but each type of insurance covers specific risks that most small businesses face. If you are unsure of your current protections or need someone to help you understand your current risk profile, please reach out to our team of professionals right away. We’re here to help!

Why a Good Driver May Still See Auto Rates Go Up

Posted by on Jul 13, 2017 in Personal Protection | Comments Off on Why a Good Driver May Still See Auto Rates Go Up

Many motorists have noted, with justifiable concern, that car insurance costs went up by a significant margin in 2016. A closer look at the market trends gives the indication that auto insurance costs have been steadily rising for the last 5 years across the U.S.

And the reason for this is quite understandable: there are more accidents happening on our roads every year. This is directly because there are more cars on the road combined with an increase in accidents caused by driver inattention.

Insurance underwriters have had to raise the premiums on insurance as a result. Unfortunately, this increase in the cost of insurance has affected all auto owners – even those who have a clean, accident-free history. Many auto insurance policyholders are quite perplexed by this.

Why Has There Been a Rise in Cost of Auto Insurance?

a. Increase in auto accidents

Certainly, everyone understands that insurance firms are for-profit business entities. They need to ensure that they are giving profits to shareholders. But insurance firms primarily exist to protect clients from risk.

Insurance counts on the precise understanding of costs and risk and then creates rates based on that understanding. The goal is to ensure that an Insurance company can always meet its obligations to its insureds.

So a dramatic increase in claims related to auto accidents will translate into massive unexpected payouts. As a result, insurance companies have to raise rates to be sure they will always have the funds available to meet their obligations.

b. Medical Costs

The good news is that cars are getting safer. However, there are still many older vehicles on the road that lack the advanced safety features found in the latest automobiles. Injuries and death arising from motor vehicle accidents have been noted to be some of the biggest contributors to the increased auto insurance premiums.

People often assume that their medical costs are covered by their health insurance but the laws that govern this vary state by state. In many states, health insurance is specifically excluded from being responsible for covering the costs of auto accidents and medical costs are resolved through auto insurance.

c. Expensive Repairs and Replacements

Auto insurance costs are also guided by the cost of repair of the car or truck involved in the accident. As cars have become safer they have also become more expensive. The average cost for a family sedan today is what individuals paid for luxury cars not too many years ago.

Additionally, the “crumple zones” that are necessitated by safe car design mean more cars will likely end up being totaled. While this saves lives and reduces injuries, it also results in more vehicles that are unable to be repaired after an accident.

d. Government Policy

The government requires that every auto insurance company must have adequate reserves of funds to cover claims in case of unprecedented level of accidents resulting from disasters. Government agencies are always on the look-out to enforce this rule, and where they find the funds are too low they will advise the company to look for ways to raise it. Often, auto insurance companies realize the dangerously low level of their reserves when they conduct their own internal audits. Under such circumstances, the insurer has no alternative but to raise the level of reserves by adjusting the cost of auto insurance.

e. Unusual Weather

Nature can also negatively impact on the cost of insurance. In states that are prone to catastrophic climatic conditions and other freaks of nature, the cost of auto insurance is bound to be high. For example, American states that are to the South and South-East of the country are prone to tornadoes, hurricanes, and hailstorms. Customers in the states that are disadvantaged by nature will pay more auto insurance premiums… and will see rates climb in their markets if insurance carriers have had to make a significant number of payments resulting from recent, unanticipated bad weather.

f. Poor Credit Rating

Insurers have found that poor credit is a leading indicator of people making claims. In fact, 77% of individuals with poor or low credit will invariably make claims. If a carrier discovers your credit rating is low or has declined your rates may go up regardless of your driving history. Some states such as Massachusetts, Hawaii, and California restrict auto insurance providers from using the credit rating to profile customers.

What’s The Best Way to Handle to A Rise in Auto Insurance Premiums?

Even though insurance firms have every legal right to increase auto insurance premiums, there are two things you can do to ease the situation:

a. Seek an Explanation

If you see an unrealistic rise in your cost of auto insurance, call and talk with your independent insurance agent to review your specific situation. Sometimes insurance companies make computing errors as they factor in credit histories. Sometimes there are other computer glitches that fail to give you credit for the discounts you deserve.

Also, remember that not all insurance carriers are the same. What really matters is how you are treated during a claim process. Switching to a “cheaper” carrier to save 15% off the cost of your auto insurance isn’t helpful if they are notorious for bad claims processes.

b. Hunt for the Best Deal

Remember that your independent insurance agency is able to shop around to compare the auto insurance costs offered by different insurance carriers for packages that are similar. They may be able to help you find a better deal for your particular situation.

c. Adjust Your Policy

You may have coverages on your vehicle that you are paying extra for that may no longer be needed. For example, some policies have added riders in case you are underwater in your vehicle. (In case it is worth less than you paid for it.) But if your car isn’t underwater, you needn’t pay for that protection. Likewise, if your finances can afford a larger deductible, this can reduce your costs. Finally, if you are driving your car less than before, or if the car is no longer being used for a long commute into the city, all of these elements can be taken into consideration by your carrier when determining your rates.

d. Always Talk With Us

We’re here for you to serve your auto insurance needs. Our team of highly skilled insurance professionals is here to help you get the right insurance for your needs and budget. If you ever have questions about your policy or need money saving tips, let us know. We love helping our clients!

Do You Need Disability Insurance?

Posted by on Jul 10, 2017 in Personal Protection | Comments Off on Do You Need Disability Insurance?

Imagine for a minute that you run quite a bit as a part of your daily routine. You think you’re healthy. Because you value your time and independence you are self-employed. You’ve bought life insurance and health insurance but have never considered disability insurance…

You turn another year older and are suddenly diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a condition which is often called Lou Gehrig’s disease and eventually leads to paralysis. Some of the common symptoms of ALS include difficulty in performing daily activities and walking, tripping and then falling, hand weakness, clumsiness, trouble in swallowing, slurred speech, weakness in the ankles, feet, and/or legs, twitching of tongue, shoulders, and arms, muscle cramps, difficulty in holding the head up, difficulty in maintaining a healthy posture, etc.

What would you do? How would you cope?

Many individuals are offered a long-term disability benefit by their employer. But if self-employed, you may not have given much thought to this important coverage. Likewise, even if an employer offers a disability insurance program, sometimes the best benefits are achieved by purchasing a disability insurance policy of your own.

One advantage of this strategy is that you remain properly covered even after leaving a job. Buying a policy early in life is a good decision as older people usually pay bigger premiums for coverage. Another advantage of buying disability insurance is that if you ever need to submit a claim, all benefits earned through the policy will be tax-free.

It’s important to remember that once you are over 50, you may spend up to around 4% of your annual income for coverage. For instance, if you are a 50-year-old individual and have an annual income of $100,000, you could end up paying $4,000+ per year.

But for many, this is a small price to pay for the peace of mind that their income will be protected in case of a disability.

And like other forms of insurance, the best strategy is to talk with your insurance advisor for tips on how to address this topic.

Time to Review Your Employee Handbook?

Posted by on Jul 5, 2017 in Down to Business | Comments Off on Time to Review Your Employee Handbook?

Many issues face a company when they are bringing on employees. These include basic pay, family and sick leave, as well as general employee welfare.

These are critical issues but having and reviewing an employee handbook is also important. Largely how often you review your employee manual is a function of how large your firm is. The more employees you have, the more often you should review it. (Make sure it is relevant and accurate to your company’s current situation.)

In fact, one of the key things you need to do is to ensure your employee manual is customized to fit your company and that it is truly useful to employees.

As you examine your manual be sure you take current (and new) laws into consideration. New legislation that works in the employee’s favor should be brought to the attention of the worker.

At a minimum, you should review and update your employee handbook at least once a year. And if you’ve let your employee handbook lapse for a longer period than that, you may need the help of a specialist. For example, a lot of changes have taken place with regard to overtime tracking and payments. With changes at the state and federal level, keeping track of these details will keep you out of trouble.

(Another area of concern is in hiring… for example some states have barred companies from investigating a prospective employee’s criminal history…)

Some other recommendations include:

Be sure there is a mechanism in place for employees to sign verifying receipt of the manual including the date of receipt.

Electronic versions of employee handbooks should be made available with updates also being issued electronically. For these, incorporating a digital signature to confirm receipt (and to log the date signed) is also important.

Complete a review mid year and at the end of the year to ensure your company is maintaining compliance with the Fair Labor Act. Also be certain your basic pay and overtime policies are clear and compliant. And be sure you are actually providing employees with the requisite family and sick leaves.

Hopefully this has given you some great ideas. Please definitely reach out to us if you have questions about your business insurance to be sure you are taking care of things like EPLI risks as well as general business risk exposures. We’ll answer your questions and be sure you have an affordable policy in place designed to meet your unique risk profile.

Your Credit and Home Insurance Costs

Posted by on Jul 5, 2017 in Personal Protection | Comments Off on Your Credit and Home Insurance Costs

Poor credit report does not just affect just what you’ll pay on your home loan. It can cost you thousands of bucks in higher home insurance coverage sets you back too, inning accordance with a brand-new research.

In fact, house owners with “bad,” or below-average, credit history have to pay 114% more in costs than somebody with “excellent” credit score.

In some states, that gap can be much larger. In Arizona, for instance, an inadequate rating could force house owners to pay yearly premiums over of $2,820 a year, a 268% rise over typical prices of $765 in the state. In Oklahoma, a property owner with poor credit rating might have to pay 248% even more, or nearly $6,200 each year.

Your credit-based insurance rating is based upon a selection of consider your credit history, and is used by insurance companies to assist set rates. This score helps them “predict exactly how typically you are most likely to file claims, and/or exactly how pricey those insurance claims will be,” notes the American Insurance coverage Organization.

Sadly customers do not usually have accessibility to this sort of credit rating, as they perform with ones made use of by banks to figure out whether an individual can be provided a bank card. A lot of charge card loan providers allow you see your month-to-month FICO rating, given by one of the big 3 debt ranking companies, along with information concerning exactly what’s triggering your FICO to rise or done. Nothing like that exists for home insurance coverage.

Yet also having just “fair,” or typical, credit report can set you back. The typical homeowner with reasonable credit report invests 36% greater than a debtor with outstanding credit.In Indiana, that can bring about paying yearly premiums of greater than $1,500, instead of the state standard of $944. Nonetheless, there’s almost no distinction between property owners with reasonable as well as outstanding credit scores in North Carolina.

Wrongful Termination

Posted by on Jun 9, 2017 in Down to Business | Comments Off on Wrongful Termination

Although many states are fire-at-will states, there may be circumstances that allow legal action to proceed against employers. For example, a firm that appears to adhere to a plan of progressive discipline actions prior to terminating staff members and then terminates an employee while failing to following that plan can be putting themselves in legal danger. In one example of this, the California Appellate Court ruled that the employees claim could proceed even though the company was a fire-at-will company.

Proceedings in other states have had similar outcomes so it is worthwhile exploring what happened in this situation.

The case in question occurred with Barnes & Noble Booksellers and their employee Christine Oakes. Christine began working for B&N starting in 1987 as became store manager in 1989. She also managed the West Valley-Mission Community University Campus location from 2002-2010.

Several times throughout her career with Barnes & Noble, Christine acknowledge she had received and reviewed the B&N code of conduct. She also signed an acknowledgement that she understood she was an at-will employee.

The company’s employee manual also had a disclaimer that it was not a contract and was for reference purposes only. The manual made it clear that they were a fire-at-will company meaning they could let go of employees without prior notice and without cause.

The manual also contained a specific policy of employee discipline, specifying that managers use certain training tools and procedures to progressively discipline their employees. The discipline begins with a verbal warning and progresses through a written warning. The handbook also stated that if a significant offense was taken, the initial disciplinary steps could be skipped. Also, if the infraction was significant, the person could be terminated without any prior disciplinary steps.

Oakes’ received good annual performance reviews until 2009. While she was rated as satisfactory or exceeded criteria in many measurements, she was found to not meet standards in the area of liability, client focus, and interaction.

Barnes & Noble terminated Oakes on June 1, 2010 without prior warning. Likewise B&N failed to leverage the discipline process it outlined in its employee guide.

In April 2012 Oakes sued the company for wrongful termination. This was based on the concept that B&N was in breach of contract.

The company requested a summary judgment in 2013, asking for the claims to be dismissed before trial. They said that she was a fire-at-will employee let go for legitimate reasons. The court approved the motion but Oakes appealed.

In a deposition taken prior to the dismissal of the lawsuit, Oakes said that she had been told by B&N’s HR department to use the progressive discipline process outlined in the employee manual prior to letting go of employees. She also noted that if she terminated someone without taking these steps, she was reprimanded by the company.

To support her testimony, two other managers affirmed Oake’s testimony. They said that they were not aware of any other cases where employees had been let go without the handbook’s recommendations being followed.

Does employment agreement match actual practice?

Although California is a fire-at-will state, the appeals court noted that events in an employee partnership can alter that status.

Barnes & Noble had stated that they were a fire-at-will company in their handbook but there was indeed evidence that this policy was not their intent. The court noticed that the company was correct in their ability to be a fire-at-will employer. However they acknowledged the existence of a separate unwritten policy. The court found their actual plan was using progressive discipline before terminating an employer. The appellate court used this information to change the trial courts dismissal of the case and stated that a trial was needed to figure out exactly the terms of the employer’s policies and if Barnes & Noble had breached those terms.

Protecting your business from lawsuits…

An expert guideline in this case is that it is essential to understand that actions do speak louder than words. Although a business may state certain policies and procedures, their day-to-day running of the company may not be followed consistently. Not following policies consistently puts businesses at high risk for lawsuits.

If you have a business with employees, we highly recommend that you take a close look at EPLI or employment practices liability insurance. It helps protect you from claims of things like wrongful termination, discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation. Because while you may believe you are operating within the law, a court may disagree. Be sure to talk with us about affordable EPLI options for your business.

Separating Truth From Fiction With Employees

Posted by on Jun 9, 2017 in Down to Business | Comments Off on Separating Truth From Fiction With Employees

Philip Maltin, who was discussing the ways of spotting liars at the Society for Human Resource Management’s Skill Monitoring Conference & Exposition, began by explaining how we can misread some signs when trying to spot liars in the workplace.

According to Maltin, if someone folds her arms, fails to look you in the eye, and keeps massaging the back of their neck depicting nervousness and stress, it’s not mandatory that they are lying. Maltin feels that body movement of a person is just one of many cues that help us to understand whether that individual is a liar. According to him, an individual might appear worried even when he is looking to tell the truth; that’s because he might believe that people would start judging him after knowing the truth.

Maltin, who is currently a partner with the LA firm Raines Feldman LLP, protects organizations in cases involving employment insurance claims. His other endeavors include helping civil legal delegates in honing deposition skills and teaching district attorneys effective trial strategies. Maltin said that he has met many detectives, police officers, and prosecutors who have the habit of doubting supposed lawbreakers assuming that they have committed a crime. HR experts, who are expected to follow employee management best practices, are also often found to possess a similar tendency.

Maltin played an audio, in which a policeman was heard interrogating ex US Senator Larry Craig hurriedly after the latter was arrested in 2007 for performing vulgar acts at an airport restroom meant for men. Instead of examining Craig carefully and calmly while adhering to the facts, the law enforcement officer maintained an argumentative, accusatory, and confrontational behavior. This, according to Maltin, allowed the policeman to gather little information from the ex senator.

Maltin affirms that people won’t reveal themselves to you just because you are the boss or the head of HR. You will get desired results only upon asking flexible questions, hearing all answers carefully, and staying on track.

Here are a few tips to suss out the truth…

Study well before questioning

Before you question someone suspected of inappropriate behavior or wrongdoing, you must investigate thoroughly. The investigation process might require you to go through the person’s emails, computer history, account details etc. Video monitoring may also be needed. Maltin believes that it’s important to know your witnesses, suspect, and the questioning techniques you will be using beforehand.

Examine your suspect, but always play nice

You must know that accusatory and aggressive interrogation might make your suspect uncommunicative. This might even cause false admissions, which should never be the way to go. You should be irresistible when interrogating. The only way you can gather information is by making the accused individual talk with you. For that, you will have to get along well with the person. Allow the person narrate his story. This will provide you with the weirdest facts. Instead of asking directly about the misdeed you feel the person has committed, you should shoot an open-ended question towards him. For instance, you should begin by asking a simple question like, “How’s life treating you?” and then move your investigation forward based the responses you get.

Evaluate the suspect’s responses

Once your suspect finishes telling his tale, you should assess it. According to Maltin, phonies tend to share tales that are mostly illogical. The details provided by them are filled with uncertainty and discrepancies. He added that liars often use simple constructions for sounding incoherent. They also have a tendency of evading straight enquiries by altering the topic. Sincere individuals, on the other hand, tend to give lots of understandable details in a coherent order. Their narrations are always significantly more meaningful and interactive in nature.

You should question yourself

It’s true that it’s extremely important that you suspect one or more individuals based on the investigation carried out by you and in-depth evaluation of the responses you receive from your suspect or suspects. However, while suspecting someone else, you must also move a step back for locating loop holes in your own thoughts.

Maltin stated that anxiety might also be an indicator of sincerity. He added that feelings would never be able to tell you what factors are responsible for causing them. It’s impossible to know what has made a person mad or nervous or worried. As a result, an individual who primarily counts on his or her intuitions would not be a good lie detector.

Protect yourself from mistakes

We are constantly on the lookout for great information about employee management best practices and how to manage your business risks. Dealing with employees can be tricky. There are a number of EPLI concerns that can impact insurance risk.

The best strategy is to be sure you have an EPLI policy in place if you have employees. If you are curious about EPLI or If you want to review your current EPLI risk, be sure to reach out to us.