Why You Need ‘Key Man’ Insurance

board meeting

If you are operating a small business, you are likely relying on a small crew to get the job done.

Many employees in small firms have to wear several hats and, if one of them or an owner should die, the business could suffer greatly from that sudden loss of talent or one of the owners who is integral to the operations.

If you don’t have “key man” insurance, that setback could be devastating to the viability of your operations, whereas coverage would provide you with extra funding that you would need while recovering from the loss.

Key man insurance is simply life insurance on the key person in a business. In a small business, this is usually the owner, the founders or perhaps a key employee or two. These are the people who are crucial to a business ― the ones whose absence would sink the company. You need key man insurance on those people.

Key man insurance basics

Before purchasing coverage, give some thought to the effects on your company of possibly losing certain partners or employees.

In opting for this type of coverage, your company would take out life insurance on the key individuals, pay the premiums and designate itself as the beneficiary of the policy. If that person unexpectedly dies, the company receives the claim payout.

This payout would essentially allow your business to stay afloat as you recover from the sudden loss of that employee or partner, without whom it would be difficult to keep the business operating in the short term.

Your company can use the insurance proceeds for expenses until it can find a replacement person, or, if necessary, pay off debts, distribute money to investors, pay severance to employees and close the business down in an orderly manner.

In other words, in the aftermath of this tragedy, the insurance would give you more options than immediate bankruptcy.

Determining whom to cover

Ask yourself: Who is irreplaceable in the short term?

In many small businesses, it is the founder who holds the company together ― he or she may keep the books, manage the employees, handle the key customers, and so on. If that person is gone, the business pretty much stops.

Determining the amount of coverage

  • The amount of coverage depends on your business and revenue.
  • Think of how much money your business would need to survive until it could replace the key person, come up to speed and get the business back on its feet.
  • Buy a policy that fits into your budget and will address your short-term cash needs in case of tragedy.
  • Ask us to get some quotes from different insurers.
  • Check rates for different levels of coverage ($100,000, $500,000, etc.)

Employer Guide for Dealing with the Coronavirus

coronavirus

As the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus gains momentum and potentially begins to spread in North America, employers will have to start considering what steps they can take to protect their workers while fulfilling their legal obligations.

Employers are in a difficult position because it is likely that the workplace would be a significant source of transmission among people. And if you have employees in occupations that may be of higher risk of contracting the virus, you could be required to take certain measures to comply with OSHA’s General Duty Clause.

On top of that, if you have workers who come down with the virus, you will need to consider how you’re going to deal with sick leave issues. Additionally, workers who are sick or have a family member who is stricken may ask to take time off under the Family Medical Leave Act.

Coronavirus explained

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the virus is transmitted between humans from coughing, sneezing and touching, and it enters through the eyes, nose and mouth.

Symptoms include a runny nose, a cough, a sore throat, and high temperature. After two to 14 days, patients will develop a dry cough and mild breathing difficulty. Victims also can experience body aching, gastrointestinal distress and diarrhea.

Severe symptoms include a temperature of at least 100.4ºF, pneumonia, and kidney failure.

Employer concerns

OSHA — OSHA’s General Duty Clause requires an employer to protect its employees against “recognized hazards” to safety or health which may cause serious injury or death.

According to an analysis by the law firm Seyfarth Shaw: If OSHA can establish that employees at a worksite are reasonably likely to be “exposed” to the virus  (likely workers such as health care providers, emergency responders, transportation workers), OSHA could require the employer to develop a plan with procedures to protects its employees.

Protected activity — If you have an employee who refuses to work if they believe they are at risk of contracting the coronavirus in the workplace due to the actual presence or probability that it is present there, what do you do?

Under OSHA’s whistleblower statutes, the employee’s refusal to work could be construed as “protected activity,” which prohibits employers from taking adverse action against them for their refusal to work.

Family and Medical Leave Act — Under the FMLA, an employee working for an employer with 50 or more workers is eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave if they have a serious health condition. The same applies if an employee has a family member who has been stricken by coronavirus and they need to care for them.

The virus would likely qualify as a serious health condition under the FMLA, which would warrant unpaid leave.

What to do

Here’s what health and safety experts are recommending you do now:

  • Consider restricting foreign business trips to affected areas for your employees.
  • Perform medical inquiries to the extent legally permitted.
  • Impose potential quarantines for employees who have traveled to affected areas. Ask them to get a fitness-for-duty note from their doctor before returning to work.
  • Educate your staff about how to reduce the chances of them contracting the virus, as well as what to do if they suspect they have caught it.

If you have an employee you suspect has caught the virus, experts recommend that you:

  • Advise them to stay home until symptoms have run their course.
  • Advise them to seek out medical care.
  • Make sure they avoid contact with others.
  • Contact the CDC and local health department immediately.
  • Contact a hazmat company to clean and disinfect the workplace.
  • Grant leaves of absence and work from home options for anyone who has come down with the coronavirus.

If there is a massive outbreak in society, consider whether or not to continue operating. If you plan to continue, put a plan in place. You may want to:

  • Set a plan ahead of time for how to continue operations.
  • Assess your staffing needs in case of a pandemic.
  • Consider alternative work sites or allowing staff to work from home.
  • Stay in touch with vendors and suppliers to see how they are coping.
  • Consider seeking out alternative vendors should yours suddenly be unable to work.

How to Avoid Running Afoul of Wage and Hour Laws

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.

Car Crashes a Leading Cause of High-severity Claims

safe driving

Traffic accidents continue to be one of the leading causes of high-severity workers’ comp claims, according to research.

The National Council on Compensation Insurance found in a study that the cost of workers’ comp claims for accidents involving motor vehicles was 250% more than the average for all workplace accidents.

The study also found large differences between the cost of claims involving large trucks and passenger cars, as well as a reduction in the number of accidents during economic recessions. Besides a threat to other drivers on the road, any injuries your employees suffer while on driving for you on the job will end up being paid for by your workers’ comp policy as well any time missed from work due to the injury.

The study found:

  • While the frequency of truck fatalities is now very similar to the frequency of passenger vehicle fatalities, the frequency of non-fatal injuries is higher for passenger vehicles.
  • Motor vehicle accidents are more likely to result in multiple claims, and claims costs are higher for claims from multiple-claim events.
  • Motor vehicle accident claims are more severe than the average workers’ compensation claim.
  • Vehicle accidents affect a wide range of occupations other than just truckers.
  • Neck injuries are among the top diagnoses.
  • The duration of motor vehicle accident workers’ comp claims is more than a third longer than the average claim.
  • There is a significant amount of subrogation in workers’ comp traffic accident claims, with such claims accounting for more than half of all claims with subrogation.
  • Motor vehicle claims are three times as likely to involve a claimant attorney compared with other claims.
  • Distracted driving continues to be a leading cause of accidents and close calls.

Safe-driving rules for your staff

Encourage your employees to drive safely and abide by the safety rules you establish.

A good set of rules, drawn up by OSHA and which should be in writing for your employees, is:

  • Wear a seat belt at all times – driver and passenger(s).
  • Be well-rested before driving.
  • Avoid taking medications that make you drowsy.
  • Set a realistic goal for the number of miles that you can drive safely each day.
  • Do not use a cell phone while driving, unless you are wearing a hands-free device. Do not send text messages.
  • Avoid distractions, such as adjusting the radio or other controls, eating or drinking.
  • Continually search the roadway to be alert to situations requiring quick action.
  • Stop about every two hours for a break. Get out of the vehicle to stretch, take a walk, and get refreshed.
  • Keep your cool in traffic!
  • Be patient and courteous to other drivers.
  • Do not take other drivers’ actions personally.
  • Reduce your stress by planning your route ahead of time (bring maps and directions), allowing plenty of travel time, and avoiding crowded roadways and busy driving times.

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.

A Lesson in Timely Claims Reporting

file claims

A recent appeals decision denied coverage to a company on its directors and officers (D&O) liability insurance policies for taking too long to file the claim.

In this case, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans sided with an insurer that had denied a claim a company had made after being sued for failing to pay overtime wages to nonexempt employees.

The insurance company had denied the claim because the first employees’ claim was made in August 2014, but the company failed to inform the insurer of that and subsequent claims until September 2015.

This case illustrates the importance of filing claims in a timely manner.

When the employer actually got around to filing the claim it had an in-force D&O policy with the insurer, although there was an earlier policy in force when it had received the first claim of failing to pay overtime.

Under the policy in force at the time of the first claim, the insurer would have been obligated to pay all claims made against the company under the policy.

“That earlier policy would have provided coverage except that the insured failed to comply in 2014 with a notice provision. We conclude the district court was correct to rely on this difference,” the three-judge panel in the appellate court wrote in an opinion that upheld a lower court’s ruling.

Timeliness

One of the critical obligations of an insured is the duty to timely report claims or circumstances that may give rise to a claim. Failure to report a claim in accordance with the policy requirements can result in a claim being denied, or worse, having the entire policy voided.

D&O policies are “claims made” policies, meaning that coverage exists only for claims made during the time period the policy is in effect. Claims made while no policy or extended reporting period are in effect are not covered.

Claims-made policies also have retroactive dates. Ideally, the retroactive date is the day the insured started business, but it can also be the day that it first purchased professional liability coverage.

Assuming the retroactive date has not been advanced, the policy in force when a claim is made is the policy that will respond, regardless of when the negligent act, error or omission took place.

However, there is one important qualifier. This insurance applies to claims that took place after the retroactive date, but prior to the end of the policy period, provided that the insured had no knowledge of the claims prior to the effective date shown in the declarations.

In other words, if you knew of a claim prior to the time you renewed your claims-made policy but did not report it, and if a claim is subsequently made, the insurance company can deny coverage. It doesn’t matter whether or not it’s been continuously renewed by one insurance company, the policy excludes it.

This underscores the importance of timely reporting of all claims prior to renewal each year.

Business Growth Can Lead to Increased Risk

Business Growth

As the economy continues expanding, companies need to be careful about properly managing their risk, according to a report by Advisen Inc., an insurance research and data firm.

Increased activity typically means proportionally additional losses. For example, more trucks driving more miles will inevitably result in more accidents. However, there are other kinds of risk that can actually increase more than the jump in business activity. We look at three such areas here.

Workplace safety

Workplace injuries can increase as firms hire workers that have less experience. Typically, when employers expand their workforce to meet the growing demand for their products and services, the number of workers’ compensation claims tended to rise disproportionately.

New employees with less experience typically are more likely to sustain a workplace injury. At the same time, experienced staff may look for new job opportunities as compensation begins to take priority over job security.

What you can do: One option is to hire a temporary-staffing firm to fill positions. In these relationships, the client company is not responsible for covering temporary workers.

But you should be aware that OSHA requires what is known as the “dual employer doctrine”, under which temps are considered employees of both the agency and the company using them. And you are also not off the hook for providing them with a safe work environment and safety training specific to their job.

And remember: Check to make sure the temp agency has workers’ comp insurance.

Litigation increases

The risk of being sued rises as employees make mistakes due to pressure on existing staff to increase production, and again when less experienced workers are added to the payroll.

Your workers may be putting in extra hours. But fatigued workers make mistakes. For example, some of the worst industrial disasters have been in part the result of tired workers. Bhopal, Chernobyl and the Exxon Valdez oil spill all involved decisions made late at night or extremely early in the morning by people working long hours.

In addition, inexperienced employees are more like contribute to incidents where outsiders are hurt.

What you can do: Conduct thorough interviews, check references and carry out background investigations when appropriate to avoid hiring people with known problems. You are responsible for the actions of your employees.

Also, make sure that you are not overworking your staff. Provide proper breaks so they can rest, especially in jobs that require attention and strength.

Labor law violations

Trends in litigation and regulation make it more likely that companies will be charged with labor law violations. Employees are braver now about filing complaints, thinking they have a good chance of landing a new job if they are fired.

In addition, the federal and many state governments have cracked down on wage and hour law violations.

As well, some companies may try to add to their worker pool by using more independent contractors, in order to avoid hiring new workers. But the federal government has mounted a serious crackdown on companies that inappropriately classify employees as independent contractors.

What you can do: Pay close attention to your payment systems and audit your systems to make sure you comply with wage and hour laws as well as meal and rest break laws.

The takeaway

The lesson is to increase your vigilance in managing your risk and review your existing risk management strategies for gaps due to business growth.

You can take the following steps to reduce your chances of increased claims:

  • Maintain high standards when hiring new employees, such as conducting thorough interviews, checking references and, where appropriate, investigating backgrounds;
  • Properly train and supervise new employees during a growth phase;
  • Consider your current policies on temporary workers, and weigh the benefits of a flexible workforce against liability issues that temporary workers pose;
  • Revisit your policies about independent contractors, especially in light of the U.S. Department of Labor’s efforts to ferret out misclassification;
  • Pay attention to overtime rules to ensure compliance with the law; and
  • Keep shareholders informed as much as possible about any mergers or acquisitions, including terms of the transaction.

The Risks of Staff Using Personal Devices for Work

Bring your own device

As more employees use their personal mobile devices for work companies are being forced to confront the resulting security implications as well as how the devices are changing behaviors in the workplace.

That’s according to a report by Littler Mendelson, an international law firm specializing in employment and labor law. The report highlights the dangers and benefits of allowing employees to use their personal devices at work.

As more people buy smart phones and tablet computers and bring them to work to use to perform company tasks, businesses have responded by implementing policies that allow employees to use their personal mobile devices to create, store, and transmit work-related data.

This trend is generally referred to as “Bring Your Own Device” or BYOD. Some companies even allow employees to replace their work laptop computer with their own personal PC, which is sometimes referred to as BYOC.

The report highlights two broad categories of risks personal devices in the workplace pose: data risks and behavioral risks.

Data Risks

The report looked at five information security threats posed by BYODs:

Lost or stolen devices – According to study by the Ponemon Institute, 39% of respondents reported that their organizations had sustained a data security breach in 2011 as a result of lost or stolen equipment. Put simply, if your employees use their personal mobile devices for work, your company data is at risk if they lose their gadget.

Malware – In February 2012, Juniper Networks reported a 155% increase from 2010 to 2011 in the volume of malicious software created for mobile devices, and malware targeting the Android platform rose 3,325%.

Friends and family – A report by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network found that in 27.5% of suspicious activity reports filed by depository institutions between 2003 and 2009, the identity theft victim knew the suspected thief, who was usually a family member, friend, acquaintance, or an employee working in the victim’s home.

Links to the cloud – A number of apps for mobile devices allow users to store their documents and data using cloud-based storage, the report states. Employers must evaluate whether the sites provide sufficient security if the employee plans to store company information using the apps.

Security breach – If you have a breach in security, it could expose your company to government enforcement actions, civil penalties and litigation. There are both federal and state-level statutes and regulations on the books that govern storage of personal information in addition to contractual obligations, which increasingly are including responsibilities to safeguard against data breaches and the consequences for failing to do so.

Behavior issues

There is another downside that has not been much discussed. In the 2011 National Business Ethics Survey, the Ethics Resource Center reported that active social networkers (employees who spend 30% or more of their work day participating on various social network sites) are more likely to believe that certain questionable behaviors are acceptable, such as:

  • “Friending” a client or customer.
  • Blogging or tweeting negatively about your company or colleagues.
  • Keeping a copy of confidential work documents in case they need them in their next jobs.
  • Taking a copy of work software home for use on their personal computers.

In addition:

  • Wage and hour implications can arise from using a mobile device to conduct work while off the clock.
  • Both state and federal laws require employers to reimburse employees for expenses that arise in the course of doing their jobs. Once employees are using their own devices it raises questions of whether the employer is required to reimburse for the cost of the device, the data plan and monthly phone bill.

Littler Mendelson includes in its report a slew of recommendations for employers. When drawing up policies on BYODs, the employer should:

  • Decide which employees should be permitted to participate in a BYOD program. You may want to exclude senior executives whose data is more likely to be relevant in litigation, research and development employees and sales staff, who may store client information on their devices.
  • Create policies that address off-the-clock work.
  • Staff should know that if they BYODs the company must be authorized to access their devices for record retention or litigation holds or investigations.
  • Before allowing employees to use dual-use devices to perform work, companies should obtain their written consent to monitor the device, remotely wipe the device, install security software and copy data if necessary.
  • Follow good security practices.
  • Create policy barring friends or family from using the device.
  • Create a policy limiting the use of cloud-based storage.
  • Address safety issues, including a prohibition using the device while driving.
  • Your policy should include consequences for non-compliance.

As Cyber Attacks Rise, Is Your Business Protected?

Complex Circuit Board With Security Message

Cyber attacks on companies’ information systems and data have reached unprecedented proportions, and are growing with each passing year.

The biggest threat to an organization is if there’s been a breach of personally identifiable data or credit card information that it stores. That results in a number of costs, including notification costs, providing those whose data was compromised with credit monitoring, potential fines, legal costs if sued – and even reputational costs. If data is stolen, there are also restoration costs.

The threat is largest for smaller organizations. Because larger companies can afford to hire teams of technicians to thwart attacks, cyber criminals are increasingly targeting small and mid-sized organizations as they may not have the same resources to defend their data. The “2019 Internet Security Threat Report” by Symantec found that:

  • 48% of cyber attacks target small business.
  • Just 14% of small businesses rate their ability to mitigate cyber risks, vulnerabilities and attacks as highly effective.
  • 60% of small companies go out of business within six months of a cyber attack.

Ransomware

According to the Symantec report, in 2018, enterprises accounted for 81% of all ransomware infections. While overall ransomware infections were down, enterprise infections were up by 12% from the 2017 level.

With ransomware, hackers gain access to your IT system, lock it down and demand a ransom to release it. The ransom usually has to be paid in bitcoin or other cryptocurrency so that the criminals can avoid detection.

Phishing and malware

One of the most common ways for criminals to compromise an organization’s data is through phishing, a process through which employees are sent e-mails with links, which if they are clicked, gives the hackers entry into the company’s computer systems. Malware is usually the code that is inserted into the computer system to either slow systems down or to access the information.

What you can do

  • Install anti-malware software – This can weed out the latest malware before it does damage.
  • Keep your software up to date – Using up-to-date versions of operating systems, applications, firmware and browser plug-ins helps protect against the latest threats by patching security vulnerabilities.
  • Use strong passwords – Use a password manager tool to generate unique passwords and securely store your log-ins.
  • Lock down your devices – If your staff uses company-owned devices, or you allow them to use their own, require that the devices are locked with a password, fingerprint or other method.
  • Think twice before downloading – Remind staff to be cautious about downloading new software or browser plug-ins.
  • Click carefully – Teach your staff to look for telltale signs of phishing e-mails that prompt them to click on malicious links.

The ultimate protection

Cyber-liability insurance covers losses that result from data breaches and other cyber events.

While cyber-liability policies vary among insurers, there are some common threads:

Loss or damage to data – Many policies cover the costs to restore or recover lost, stolen or corrupted data, and may also cover the cost of outside experts or consultants you hire to preserve or reconstruct your data.

Loss of income or extra expenses – Many policies cover income you lose and extra expenses you incur to avoid or minimize a shutdown of your business after your computer system fails due a covered peril. The perils covered may be the same as those covered under damage to electronic data.

Cyberextortion losses – Cyber-extortion coverage applies when a hacker or a cyber thief breaks into your computer system and demands a ransom to unlock it, or to not damage the data. Extortion coverage typically applies to expenses you incur (with the insurer’s consent) to respond to an extortion demand, as well as the money you pay the extortionist.

Notification costs – Policies may cover the cost of notifying parties affected by the data breach by government statutes or regulations. They may also include the cost of hiring an attorney to assess your firm’s obligations under applicable laws and regulations.

Network security liability – This covers lawsuits that individuals or companies file against your organization alleging negligence on your part for failing to adequately protect data belonging to customers, clients, employees or other parties.

Marijuana Laws Require New Workplace Policies

Marijuana Medical Fast Shipping Express Delivery OnLine

As states continue to liberalize marijuana use, employers are left in a bind in terms of enforcing no-drug policies, respecting their employees’ right to privacy and keeping a safe workplace.

While a majority of states have medical marijuana laws on their books, only a handful of states require employers to accommodate (to a degree) staff who use medical marijuana. And many states, including California, have established case law stating that employers do not have to accommodate someone who has a medical marijuana prescription.

Complicating matters for employers, more states are legalizing recreational marijuana.

Since employers have to balance their legal obligations to their employees, they also have to be able to ensure they have a safe workplace that is free of drugs. Here’s a guide to the main issues facing employers:

ADA compliance

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of a disability, and the law requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation to them if needed. The word “reasonable” is there to ensure that the accommodation does not impose any undue hardship on the employer.

Often, medical marijuana is prescribed to people with disabilities who are considered protected individuals under the ADA. In many cases, the use of marijuana can be vital in allowing a disabled worker to do their job and also perform major life activities.

While the ADA bars discrimination against individuals with disabilities for employment purposes, courts in many states have ruled that medical marijuana use is not a reasonable accommodation.

But, in 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that employers have a right to drug-test and fire patients who test positive for marijuana, regardless of their medical use.

It based its decision on the fact that because the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act does not require employers to accommodate illegal use, an employer can lawfully terminate an employee who uses medical marijuana.

More recently, in 2012, the Ninth Circuit similarly held that the ADA does not offer job protection for medical marijuana users because marijuana is an illegal substance under federal law.

That said, as medical marijuana becomes more accepted, companies may want to consider revising their policies to include accommodations for use.

One way to do this is to create policies that bar marijuana use in the workplace, particularly smoking or vaping, but be more forgiving with use outside of work hours. If you also drug-test, you’ll need to make exceptions as employees can show positive for drug use at work even though they may have used marijuana the day before at home.

Your policies should take into account that you have a legitimate interest in ensuring that any medications the employee takes are used in a responsible manner and will not affect job performance. Your company policy could state that a prescription for medical marijuana does not entitle an employee:

  • To be impaired at work.
  • To compromise his or her safety, or the safety of others.
  • To smoke in the workplace.
  • To unexcused absences or late arrivals.
Recreational-use states

If you have a business in one of the handful of states that has legalized recreational use of marijuana, you should consider revising your company’s drug policies.

While you cannot legally bar employees from using cannabis outside the workplace, you can regulate them using it on the job or showing up intoxicated at work.

One good solution is to model your recreational marijuana policy after your current policies on alcohol.

To cover your operation, you should probably prohibit employees from smoking marijuana at the office or to come to the workplace under the influence of any psychoactive substance. The policy should outline the specific consequences for breaking the rule.

Some employers may consider prohibiting marijuana use in a recreational-use state and continue drug-testing of workers. But this approach could run into legal challenges and would be difficult to enforce if the employees are not using on the job.

The exception should be for workers that operate heavy machinery, or work in construction, transportation or other dangerous occupations. In these jobs, working under the influence of marijuana should be strictly prohibited, just as on-the-job alcohol use is. Companies can also alter drug-screening guidelines to exclude cannabis during routine drug tests.

Since the effects of marijuana can last many hours, you will also specifically need to spell out the rules for lunch breaks. Employees should be able to return from their breaks and be ready to start work again without being under the influence.

The takeaway

Overall, while it seems daunting, these issues will get ironed out over time. For now, you should try to set policies that will ensure that you can keep a safe workplace, while respecting employee privacy.

Over time, the policies that will be recommended for employers are likely to be similar to those for alcohol use and intoxication in the workplace.