More Firms Being Sued for Discrimination over Medical Marijuana

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.

Beware of Parking Lot Hazards at the Holidays

parking hazard

During the busy holiday season, there are many distractions that make parking lots a fairly dangerous place to be.

The combination of early sunset, increased traffic and pedestrians, scam artists, vandals and thieves, and people in a rush, can sometimes be a deadly combination. Just a momentary distraction or lapse in judgment can lead to tragedy.

Parking lot accidents can also turn into a liability for your company or result in an employee being injured and filing a workers’ comp claim.

Fourteen percent of all collisions in the U.S. each year happen in parking lots, and can result in costly insurance claims for vehicle damage. Even worse, it one of your employees strike and injure a visitor, the costs are even higher in terms of both dollars and emotional distress.

Disseminate these basic tips to your employees to help keep everyone safe during the especially busy holiday season:

  • Check your surroundings before you get in your car
  • Backing up is dangerous. Be certain that nothing and no one is behind you before backing out of your parking space
  • Keep your foot off of the gas as you back up, and be ready to break in an instant
  • Look in every direction before pulling into a spot, or backing out of one
  • Don’t text and drive
  • Slow down and pay close attention to speed limits
  • Be careful of pedestrians who may dart in and out between parked cars
  • Park only in areas that are well-lit
  • Keep your car windows closed and your doors locked
  • Watch for cars that may cut diagonally through the parking lot

If you own a building with a parking lot you can also have some liability.

Generally, the owner of the parking lot (whether it is a person, a business, or a property management company) has a reasonable duty to take care that people don’t get hurt on their property. This means that they have to take certain precautions to make that parking lot as safe as possible.

If there are cracks or uneven areas in the pavement, the owner needs to warn people of the danger or repair any hazards that could cause a person to slip and fall. If the parking lot becomes icy, the owner has a responsibility to make it as safe as possible, perhaps by clearing the snow and putting down salt or ice melt.

The takeaway

By training your employees on parking lot and winter driving safety as well as your keeping your parking lot free of hazards you can greatly reduce the chances of an accident and injury happening.

And it goes without saying that you should have commercial general liability (CGL) insurance, which protects you and your business from claims of injury, property damage and negligence related to your business activities.

One of the most essential parts of a CGL policy is premises liability coverage. This portion of your commercial general liability policy offers bodily injury and property damage coverage related to the ownership or maintenance of business premises.

Struggling for Survival: Businesses That Went Thin on Insurance

business 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. The 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.

The Holidays Have Their Own Workplace Perils

office holiday party

All year long you have been reminding your employees to “work safely … don’t take short cuts … prevent accidents.”

To do this they have to keep their minds on their work, but this time of the year as the holidays near, their minds might be everywhere else but on work.

They may be thinking “what to buy for everyone for Christmas – I hate shopping!” and “how will I pay for Christmas?” Meanwhile, relatives coming to stay add yet more distracting thoughts.

For some employees, the holiday period is a wonderful time, and for others it is dreadful, but it is stressful for most anyone. Normal routines and schedules are disrupted, and there is a lot of rushing around the town to crowded and chaotic stores and malls.

Be aware that accidents may be more likely to happen at this time of the year at the workplace, on the road or at home. Employees tend to take extra physical risks ― such as when hanging lights and lugging trees around.

And when roads and freeways are jammed, auto accidents increase.

In-office safety

When planning decorations for the office, it is important to keep holiday safety in mind.

Decorating the office helps workers enjoy the spirit of the season together, but remember that proper safety precautions should be observed at all times:

  • Be mindful of potential fire hazards when selecting holiday decorations and where you place them.
  • Be careful of stapling holiday lights, do not add too many strings of lights and make sure illuminated items are turned off.
  • Verify that all fire extinguishers are in place and fully charged and accessible.
  • Do not block exits, hang decorations on fire extinguishers, fire alarms or fire hose boxes, or obstruct the view of exit signs.
  • Do not hang decorations from sprinkler heads or electrical panels.
  • Without proper planning, holiday decorations can create tripping hazards. Extension cords should not be run through traffic areas where they pose trip hazards and, if you have to use an extension cord, use the proper one.
  • Avoid placing trees, freestanding decorations and presents in traffic areas.

Holiday party

The holidays bring office parties and, if alcohol is being served, keep in mind the liability involved.

Provide plenty of alternatives to alcohol, such as soft drinks, coffee, tea, water and cocoa. Consider non-alcoholic beers and virgin drinks at the bar.

Also, so your staff is safe on the way home, stop serving alcohol a few hours before the party ends.

It’s essential to make transportation arrangements for employees who should not drive – whether the party is held at the office, restaurant, your home or any other location.

The takeaway

If you keep in mind that the holidays put extra pressure on everyone, it may help you to keep your workplace free of accidents.

By following a few simple safety tips, it will be easy to enjoy the holiday and the events at work without dealing with injuries or damage to property.

When planning for the holidays, incorporate safety precautions into the planning process.

Need Gift Ideas for Your Christmas Party?

Give a gift of safety that just might save a life. Here are some ideas of safety items we don’t think about until we need them and/or it’s too late:

  • A smoke detector and batteries.
  • A quality fire extinguisher.
  • A flashlight and batteries, or light sticks.
  • A first aid kit.
  • An automobile safety kit including jumper cables, flares, fix-a-flat and reflectors.
  • A carbon monoxide detector.
  • An emergency kit flashlight, energy bars, batteries and first aid kit ― packed in a small travel bag.
  • A radio that runs by cranking rather than batteries.

More Employers Get Premium Bills for ‘Misclassified’ Workers

contractor

One outgrowth of a new California law that applies more stringent criteria for what constitutes an independent contractor is that many employers are likely to see more audits and calls for additional premium from their workers’ comp insurers.

In fact, it’s already happening in some industries, according to the insurance industry trade press. More and more employers are being hit with sizeable surprise bills for additional premium by their insurers for allegedly misclassifying independent contractors as employees, according to one article in the Workers’ Comp Executive trade publication.

And this problem is only like to get worse in 2020 as the full effects of this year’s landmark independent contractor law, AB 5, take hold.

What’s happening now

The Workers’ Comp Executive reported that the California Department of Insurance’s administrative hearings bureau is receiving an increasing amount of complaints from employers that are disputing their workers’ comp insurers’ request for additional premium for workers that had originally been classified as independent contractors.

The publication cited the case of a construction company that State Compensation Insurance Fund says misclassified 42 individuals who worked for the company as independent contractors in 2017 and hence should pay an additional $114,000 in premium for that year. The dispute is currently in front of the administrative hearings bureau.

In 2018, the California Supreme Court handed down a game-changing decision in the case of Dynamex Operations West, Inc. vs. Superior Court, in which it rejected a test that’s been used for more than a decade to decide who qualifies as an employee or independent contractor.

The court instead said that California employers must answer ‘yes’ to the following three questions if they want to classify a worker as an independent contractor:

  • The worker is free from the control and direction of the hirer in relation to the performance of the work, both under the contract and in fact;
  • The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hirer’s business; and
  • The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation or business of the same nature as the work performed for the hirer.

The impact of AB 5

In 2019, Assembly Bill 5, which essentially codifies the Dynamex decision into state law, was signed into law ― and it will take effect Jan. 1, 2020. But while the Dynamex decision specifically excluded the independent contractor test from use in applying workers’ comp premiums, AB 5 does not. The new law will apply to workers’ comp on or after July 1, 2020.

The law is not retroactive, however, so insurers should not be able to apply the new test for workers’ comp premium assessment purposes for policies that took effect before July 1.

Industry observers say they expect more California employers to receive additional premium calls from their workers’ comp carriers after the law takes effect. The law will have the most significant workers’ comp implications on industries including construction, real estate, professional services and fitness, which often have many workers classified as independent contractors.

Your workers’ comp insurer will not send you a demand for additional premium without conducting an audit of your payroll. If the insurance company deems any independent contractors that you use as employees, then it will calculate the amount of back premium it thinks you owe for them.

For employers who think the insurance company erred, they can usually challenge the decision with the insurer. However, if that fails, businesses have a second opportunity: to file a complaint with the Department of Insurance.

Monitoring Employees without Getting Sued

monitor record employee meeting

As a business, you have to keep employees happy but still maintain workplace discipline. And it’s important that you protect your customers and your assets without making it seem you don’t trust your employees.

Companies employ a variety of methods to make sure their workers stay on task and aren’t goofing off. But you don’t want to be overbearing or act like a taskmaster in the process.

One way to monitor workers is by using modern technology to keep an eye on them. But there is a fine line between monitoring and invading their privacy, and you have to make sure you don’t cross it.

A 2017 study by the American Management Association and The ePolicy Institute found that:

  • 66% of employers monitor employees’ internet connections.
  • 65% use software to block employees’ access to some web sites.
  • 43% monitor workers’ e-mail.
  • 45% monitor the time employees spend on the phone and the numbers they call.
  • 16% record employees’ phone conversations.
  • 9% monitor voice mail messages.
  • 7% monitor workers’ job performance using video surveillance.

Also, in certain industries, employers search workers’ workstations and lockers, perform drug tests and physicals, investigate their backgrounds ― and even monitor their activities outside of work.

When an employer disciplines or fires a worker based on the information it learned through one of these methods, the individual may become angry enough to sue the company for invasion of privacy.

How to keep lawsuits at bay

While federal and state laws generally permit employers to monitor workers’ activities and use of employer property, some suits succeed and all of them divert financial and human resources away from the employer’s main business.

There are several things you can do to avoid this:

  • Establish a workplace policy about non-business phone and internet use, and include it in the employee manual. The policy should describe the extent to which you will monitor phone and internet use, if any, and the consequences should employees violate the policy.
    Ensure that employees are aware of the policy by discussing it at staff meetings and asking them to document that they have read it.
  • Be careful about audio recording of conversations. While state and federal laws generally permit employers to use video monitoring of employees, some restrict the ability to make audio recordings or to listen in on conversations. You should become familiar with the wiretapping laws in your state before using audio monitoring.
  • Keep employee e-mails confidential. Employers have the right to monitor their employees’ use of the business e-mail system, but making e-mails public (absent some legal or business requirement) may violate employee privacy rights.
  • Include in the employee manual a written policy regarding employer searches of desks, workstations and lockers. This should describe your right to conduct searches, the reasons you may do so, and the consequences should an employee refuse to cooperate.
    Conduct searches only when absolutely necessary for business or legal reasons, and take care to respect the employee’s dignity by doing the search out of the view of other employees.
  • Perform drug tests for legitimate business reasons and at appropriate times, such as during the hiring process and following a workplace accident. If you will administer random drug tests, you should have a written policy stating as much in the employee manual ― and you should conduct the tests with as little privacy infringement as possible.
  • Obtain a job applicant’s written consent for a background check, and investigate only those factors relevant to the position. For example, a credit check may be appropriate for a position that requires handling money.
  • Keep employee information safe from individuals outside the company. Instruct managers and staff not to discuss personnel matters with outsiders and employees who do not need to know the information.

The takeaway

Employers must run an efficient operation, maintain a safe workplace free of harassment, make employees feel comfortable in their work and make a profit. Following the above steps will reduce the chances of employee lawsuits and allow your business to focus on its core mission.

One-third of Workers Are Sleepy, Leading to Safety Issues and More

sleepy worker

More than 35% of workers in the U.S. are not getting enough sleep, a new study has found. That can lead to serious workplace safety issues, especially for occupations that use heavy machinery, people who work in factories or warehouses, construction or as drivers.

Among workers in other occupations it can lead to costly mistakes, friction among staff and poor communications, all of which can have a detrimental effect on your operations.

The study by researchers at Ball State University looked at self-reports of sleep duration among 150,000 adults working in different occupations between 2010 and 2018. Researchers found the prevalence of inadequate sleep, defined as seven hours or less, had increased from 30.9% in 2010 to 35.6% in 2018.

Lead researcher Jagdish Khubchandani, a professor of health science at Ball State University, identified these factors as being behind the increase:

  • Rising stress loads for a variety of reasons, due to pressure at work and at home, and
  • Thanks to the rise of smartphones, people are not unplugging from work and continue checking their phones for work-related messages. Because of this, many people are dealing with work issues up until they go to bed, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep.

Sleep deprivation can have a number of detrimental effects in the workplace, including:

Decreased communication — A worker who is sleepy may not communicate as well as they normally do. This can include mumbling, poor enunciation, slurring, running words together and not speaking in complete thoughts.

Decline in productivity — Workers who don’t get enough sleep are slower at performing their jobs and often make mistakes, which requires them to go back and do things over again.

Increased distraction — Sleep-deprived individuals often have trouble maintaining focus on their tasks, keeping track of events, maintaining interest in outcomes and doing work they consider non-essential.

Impaired driving — Getting behind the wheel after not having enough sleep can be akin to driving under the influence of alcohol. But it’s not only company drivers you have to be concerned about. If you have forklifts, lawnmowers or operators of any type of machinery, there is a greater chance they’ll make a mistake when operating those vehicles or machines if they are sleep-deprived.

More mistakes — A lack of sleep results in a decline in cognitive abilities, which can result in workers making mistakes. These include errors performing tasks or failing to perform tasks. Mistakes especially are likely in subject-paced tasks in which cognitive slowing occurs, and with tasks that are time-sensitive, which cause increases in cognitive errors.

Memory can suffer — Short-term and working memory can decline due to sleep deprivation.

Poor mood — Not enough sleep can make people moody and can result in inappropriate outbursts, impatience, lack of regard for social conventions, inappropriate behavior and irritability — all of which can affect a positive work culture.

Increased risk-taking — Judgment can be affected by not sleeping enough, which can result in risky decision-making, which in turn can result in workplace accidents and injuries.

What you can do

If you suspect you have staff who are not getting enough sleep and that it may be affecting their work performance, you can:

  • Ensure they have a reasonable work schedule. That includes not working them too much and asking them not to take work home with them.
  • Offer more flexibility. You can offer staff the ability to work from home a few times a week or per month.
  • Cut down on e-mails and meetings. Set a company policy for communication and encourage brief, face-to-face meetings and phone calls instead of drawn-out e-mail discussions.
  • Provide employees time to recharge. Offering time to recharge, along with flexibility and a healthier workload, can improve employee restfulness and ease workplace pressures.
  • Don’t require staff to answer work e-mails at home.

New Law Prohibits Mandatory Employment Arbitration Agreements

sign-document-agreement

After years of trying and rejections by former governors, a bill banning mandatory employment arbitration agreements in California has become law.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Oct. 10 signed into law Assembly Bill 51, which prohibits almost all employment arbitration agreements, starting Jan. 1 next year. But because the new law conflicts with federal law, it will most certainly be challenged in court.

That said, because it is now the law of California, employers would be wise to understand just what it does and how they should change their employment policies and agreements to keep from running afoul of AB 51.

AB 51 broken down

The new law bars employers from requiring applicants, employees and independent contractors to sign mandatory arbitration agreements and waive rights to filing lawsuits if they file a complaint for:

  • Racial discrimination
  • Religious discrimination
  • National origin or ancestral discrimination
  • Disability discrimination
  • Sex or sexual orientation discrimination
  • Age discrimination
  • Discrimination based on pregnancy or related conditions
  • Sexual and other forms of harassment
  • Wage and hour issues
  • Other protections under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and California Labor Code.

In addition, the bill creates a new private right of action under the state’s FEHA, meaning that a company that requires staff to sign a mandatory arbitration agreement could be subject to a lawsuit by that employee. This provision exposes California employers to another layer of costly litigation related to arbitration agreements.

And any employee who successfully challenges a violation of the law would also be entitled to attorneys’ fees.

Legal issues

One problem for this new legislation is that it may violate federal law, as former Gov Jerry Brown noted when he vetoed a similar bill in 2018. He said at the time: “Since this bill plainly violates federal law, I cannot sign this measure.”

Many legal analysts predict that AB 51 will be overturned once challenged in court on the grounds that is preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), which would eventually invalidate the law.  Such a challenge could mean that the law’s validity may remain unsettled for some time.

The FAA was enacted in 1925 by Congress to ensure the validity and enforcement of arbitration agreements. State laws attempting to interfere with arbitration have been repeatedly and consistently struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, as preempted by the FAA.

What you should do

AB 51 applies to contracts entered into, modified or extended on or after Jan. 1, 2020. If you require new employees to sign arbitration agreements, you could be at risk of violating the new law.

Do not consider including an opt-out clause in your agreements, as the bill prohibits employers from using voluntary opt-out clauses.

The best course of action is to contact your legal counsel to see if you should continue including mandatory arbitration agreements in new employment contracts, and also whether you need to modify any existing agreements you may have.

As Cyber Threat Mounts, More Companies Take Measures

cyber attack protection

As attacks on businesses’ networks continue increasing at unprecedent levels, cyber risks have become the top concern among organizations of all sizes for the first time, according to a new survey.

The “Travelers Risk Index” found that 55% of executives surveyed said they worry “some” or “a great deal” about cyber risks. That’s more than they worry about medical cost inflation (54%), employee benefit costs (53%), the ability to attract and retain talent (46%) and legal liability (44%).

And the most common types of attacks, and which pose the biggest security threat to businesses, are phishing and fake e-mails. They are the hardest to combat because of the human factor involved, according to another survey, the “2019 Cyber Security Breaches Survey” published by the U.K. government.

In phishing e-mails, the cyber criminals will pose as colleagues or vendors to dupe an unsuspecting employee to hand over a password or click on a malicious link that will give them access to the company’s network.

In addition, ransomware has brought many businesses and government agencies to a standstill as the same technique is used to freeze an entire network and render it unusable until the company pays a ransom for a key to unlock the network.

As concerns about cyber threats have grown, more businesses say they are taking proactive measures to safeguard against cyber risks – even though a large percentage have not implemented preventive best practices.

The steps that companies are taking, according to the Travelers survey, are:

  • Purchasing a cyber insurance policy (51% of survey participants, up from 39% in the 2018 survey the insurer conducted).
  • Creating a business continuity plan in the event of a cyber attack (47%, up from 38%).
  • Taking a cyber-risk assessment for themselves (49%, up from 45%).
  • Taking a cyber-risk assessment for their vendors (41%, up from 37%).
  • Updating computer passwords (74%, up from 71%).

The fact is that a single cyber attack can put a company out of business. Taking the threat seriously and implementing a risk management program that addresses possible exposures can help a business not only avoid an attack, but also recover from one as quickly as possible.

How to lower the chances of an attack

The insurance company Chubb recommends the following steps to reduce the chances of a cyber attack on your organization:

Identify your sensitive data – Credit card and personally identifiable information is often the target of cyber attacks.

Educate your staff – Instruct your employees about cyber attacks and how to protect the network. The most important thing for them to remember is to not to open attachments from people they don’t know or in e-mails they don’t expect.
You should also post procedures for encrypting personal or sensitive information, and require them to change their passwords regularly.

Have security in place – You should have a web application firewall in place to protect your website, in addition to a firewall for your company’s network. If you accept credit card payments, you should have an e-commerce platform that is compliant with payment card industry data security standards Level 1.

Secure your hardware – Data breaches can be caused by physical property being stolen, too. If your servers, laptops, cell phones or other electronics are not secure and easy to steal, you are taking a big risk. Physically locking down computers and servers is a good idea.

Cyber insurance

As the cyber threat becomes more sophisticated and changes, cyber-insurance policies have evolved to meet businesses’ needs. There are many types of policies in the marketplace that are tailored for specific types of businesses. The key is getting a policy that best fits your organization and covers any eventualities that you may encounter.

Some coverages you may want to consider for inclusion in your cyber insurance are:

  • Business interruption – Covers the loss of business income due a cyber attack.
  • Computer fraud – Covers theft of money, securities and other forms of tangible property through computer fraud and social engineering schemes.
  • Data breach – Covers claims of failure to protect personally identifiable information and protected health information of clients.
  • Property damage – Covers replacement cost of computers damaged by a cyber attack.
  • Identity theft expenses – These are related to the business owner or their employees after identity theft.
  • Advertising and personal injury – Covers damage caused by defamation on website or social media.
  • Transmission of virus or malicious content – Covers failure to stop the transmission of a computer virus or malicious content.
  • Errors and omissions – Covers loss caused by failure to provide proper network security.

Some policies are stand-alone products, while others are endorsements to existing polices like a business owner’s policy.

Harassment Training Deadline Pushed Back for Some Employers

harassment training

As you should already be aware, any employer with five or more workers is required to conduct sexual harassment prevention training for their staff by the end of 2019 under a California law passed in 2018.

Due to concerns that many employers in the state may not be ready to comply, Gov. Gavin Newsom has now signed a bill into law that extends the compliance deadline for some employers.

Under the new law, SB 778, all employees, both supervisory and non-supervisory, must be trained by Jan. 1, 2021, which extends the deadline by a year.

The original law, SB 1343, required all employers with five or more staff to conduct sexual harassment prevention training to their employees before Jan. 1, 2020 – and every two years after that.

Prior to the law that took effect in 2018, employers with 50 or more employees were required to provide only supervisors with anti-sexual harassment training every two years.

Here are the new rules:

  • If you trained your staff in 2019, you aren’t required to provide refresher training until two years from the time the employee was trained.
  • If you trained your employees in 2018, you can maintain the two-year cycle and still comply with the new January 1, 2021 deadline. For example, if you trained your staff in November 2018, you would not have to train them again until November 2020.
  • If you trained supervisors in 2017 under prior law, known as AB 1825, you should train those employees this year in order to maintain your two-year cycle.

The deadline was not extended for employers of seasonal and temporary employees, who are hired to work for less than six months. Starting Jan. 1, 2020, these employees must be trained within 30 calendar days after their hire date or within 100 hours worked, whichever occurs first.

The rest of the law remains intact:

  • Supervisors must receive two hours of training and non-supervisory employees must receive one hour.
  • Training must take place within six months of hire or promotion, and every two years thereafter.

The reason the new law has been enacted is that employers who trained their employees in 2018 would need to train them again in 2019, resulting in those individuals being trained twice within a two-year period, which went against the spirit of the law.

SB 778 was essentially clean-up legislation to correct that problem by extending the training deadline under SB 1343 from Jan. 1, 2020 to Jan. 1, 2021 for those employers.