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Three Cases Demonstrate Why Your Business Needs to Protect Against Employee Lawsuits
Many business owners sincerely try to treat their employees with respect and dignity. They expect employee lawsuits for poor treatment to happen to other businesses, not to them. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Any business can find itself on the receiving end of an employment practices lawsuit.
A California hospital thought it was dispensing justice equally when it fired two employees over an allegation of sexual harassment. A nurse who had worked there for 20 years with an excellent service record complained about a new supervisor. The supervisor allegedly made inappropriate comments, physical contact and lewd displays to him. He maintained that he never consented to such conduct. The supervisor claimed the opposite, that the nurse did consent and even participated in the interactions.
Following an investigation, the hospital fired both men for "unprofessional conduct." The nurse sued the hospital for wrongful termination of employment. A jury awarded him $238,328 plus interest and court costs. The hospital appealed the verdict. While finding that the trial judge gave bad instructions to the jury, the appellate court found that substantial evidence supported the judgment.
An employee of a water authority in upstate New York began to experience harassing behavior after he got engaged to a woman of another race. His supervisor and several co-workers allegedly cursed him, vandalized his property, threatened him, and made offensive comments that could be construed as racist. He complained to his superiors but did not file a formal complaint with the authority's human resources department.
At the same time, the authority was accumulating a file documenting instances of poor performance and misconduct by the employee. Ultimately, he was fired. He sued the water authority and 10 individuals who worked there, alleging physical assault and battery, unlawful discrimination, hostile work environment, disparate treatment, retaliation, deprivation of his constitutional rights, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
After dismissing the claims against five of the individuals, the jury awarded the employee $305,000 in back pay and $5,000 in punitive damages from each of the five remaining defendants.
A director with a New York City social services agency was allegedly subjected to disparate treatment, sexual harassment, and retaliation after she filed complaints. Her white supervisor treated her with hostility, excluded her from management meetings, and demoted her. Her new supervisor sexually harassed and threatened her. She was effectively fired shortly after returning to work following a mini-stroke.
She sued the agency, alleging a hostile work environment, disparate treatment, retaliation and sexual harassment. The trial court dismissed her claims, but an appellate court reinstated most of them. It dismissed the sexual harassment claim only because she had not followed complaint procedures under the law.
Even well-managed organizations can have employees who behave badly. For this reason, organizations should consider buying employment practices liability insurance. It covers the costs of defending and settling employee lawsuits for discrimination, harassment, retaliation and other offenses. General liability insurance policies do not cover these types of lawsuits, so this special coverage is essential.
Businesses need to protect themselves from the acts of their own employees. Employment practices liability insurance may prove to be one of a business's best purchases.
Speak to your agent about your insurance coverage and questions at HALO Insurance and Benefits Group 314-351-HALO(4256).
What Home and Auto Owners Need to Know about Deductibles
When insuring a home or vehicle, knowing how deductibles work ensures policyholders get the most out of their coverage. Deductibles are the amount a person pays as a share of damage costs. After that sum has been paid toward damages, the insurer covers the rest. However, there are limits, but these are outlined in the policy. When replacing personal belongings or repairing a home, the policyholder must pay it out of his or her pocket.
Deductibles are set as either a percentage of the insurance policy's total or as a specific dollar amount. If a person has a larger deductible, the premiums are usually lower. However, smaller deductibles come with bigger premiums. Deductibles are stated on the front page of a home or auto policy. If a person has a deductible of $1,000, that amount is subtracted from a claim. This means a loss of $20,000 is compensated as $19,000. When a policy is based on a percentage, the rate is calculated using the declared percentage against the home's insured value.
In several areas of the United States, deductibles have been on the rise. There are also special deductibles in areas of the country that are prone to hurricanes and other disasters when they occur. They usually are based on a percentage of the policy's limit, so they are higher than average. Property damage deductibles work in different ways than many other types of insurance. For auto and home coverage, the deductible applies for each claim. However, deductibles in hurricane-prone areas may only be applied per season instead of being applied for each incident. Percentages also apply to hail and earthquakes.
Raising Deductibles Saves Money
People who want to save money can raise their deductibles, which will result in lower premiums. This is true with both home and auto coverage. When deductibles are lowered with auto coverage, most people save a considerable amount on their premiums. However, keep in mind that lowering coverage amounts to save money is a bad idea. Liability insurance is crucial, and there are no deductibles for this part. Accidents can be costly, so consider the possibility of any assets that may be lost if the policy's maximum provisions do not cover the full cost of damages. With auto coverage, there are deductibles for comprehensive and property damage insurance.
Deductibles May Differ
Deductibles are different from one state to the next, and they also differ between various companies. This includes how they are implemented and how they are put into the policy's wording. As mentioned before, liability deductibles do not apply in auto coverage, and they also do not apply in homeowners coverage. They apply to incidents that do not put the homeowner in a place of liability. For example, the homeowner being sued would not result in a deductible, but extensive water damage from a burst pipe would activate the deductible.
Keep in mind that there is a difference between flooding and water damage. Flood insurance must be purchased separately. Water damage is damage that does not occur from weather-related flooding. Burst pipes, leaky roofs and other similar issues are considered water damage. To learn more about these types of insurance and deductible options, discuss concerns with your agent at 314-351-HALO(4256).
Using Home Inventory Apps to help Document your Personal Property
Hopefully, you never have to do a home insurance claim. But if you do, a bit of preparation will make it much easier for you to document your claim and get your settlement much faster. Among the key documents: A detailed home inventory - that is, an itemized list of everything of value in your home, proof of ownership, and an estimate of its insurable value.
For many years, homeowners have either neglected the home inventory altogether, or created a paper or spreadsheet inventory, which was hopefully stored offsite - so that it cannot be destroyed in the same event that destroyed or damaged the home and contents.
Fortunately, we now have a number of tools that make generating and updating a home inventory for homeowner's or renter's insurance purposes - which you can download right to your mobile device.
Why you need a detailed inventory
Having a detailed inventory of all your valuable possessions in your home can come in handy in many ways. Even if you never file a homeowner's or renter's insurance claim, your inventory can come in very handy when you prepare your last will and testament, when your children or heirs must settle your estate, and even determining an appropriate amount of insurance to carry in the first place. You can even use your inventory as a moving checklist and packing aid.
And if you do have a claim for a casualty loss not covered by insurance, your inventory will make it much easier to deduct those losses against your income on your tax return.
Today's online and mobile applications make it very easy to document your possessions for all of the above situations. Here are some of the best and most popular apps.
The KnowYourStuff app is the official home inventory application of the Insurance Information Institute. Its advantages are its cost (it's free!), ease of use, and its seamless integration with major carrier websites. Once you have it installed on your iOS or Android device, it's a snap to use: Open the app, point the camera, click, and make a few annotations on the property and you are done. Entries are automatically stored in the Cloud, safe from any possible harm to your property.
KnowYourStuff.net lets you download a number of reports. We especially like this feature: It's a truly free product with no in-app purchases required and no annoying pop-up ads. More information is available from the manucturers' site.
The Complete Home Journal
The Complete Home Journal is about the most complete inventory product for the hardcore record keeper. The home inventory module lets you input critical details and photographs of all your belongings, including electronics, seasonal gear, jewelry and appliances. But that's just one of several modules. Other modules include home improvement tracking, home and seasonal to-do lists. This program also stores contractor information and information on real estate agents, lenders and can even help you calculate cost basis for income tax and real estate sales.
You'll need Windows XP or later to run it, or run Virtual PC for Mac on a Mac. The cost is $29.99, with a 30-day money back guarantee and a free trial period.
This sleek and easy-to-use app works great on iPhones, Androids and Blackberry devices, and also via a Web portal. Although it's stripped down for ease of use on a cell phone, it does support multiple properties, and you can organize items by room.
It also supports multiple photos per item, so you can photograph the item and your receipt. According to Encircle, Inc., "In about an hour or less the average user can create a complete picture inventory of a property and generate detailed reports. The account can be accessed via smartphone, tablet and web interface (encircleapp.com). Encircle can be used for insurance purposes, estate planning, relocation and moving, or decorating. The cost is free.
This innovative solution supports drag and drop interface, making it the most Mac-y of all the offerings so far. It also supports unlimited hierarchical locations, so you can note an item's location in an envelope, in a briefcase, in a sack, in the closet, or in the 2nd bedroom. The unique interface lets you drag and drop items from one location to another. You can also associate items with each other using tags, such as #borrowedobjects, #electronics, #cables anything else you need to be able to get your hands on fast.
So far this one only works on iOS devices at the moment. Cost is $2.99. For more information, visit www.stuffanizer.com
Call us today to review your coverage and inventory with our licensed agents at 314-351-HALO(4256)
Important Estate Planning Documents - Do You Have These?
People who have any doubts about their estate planning status should review it immediately. This task may be undesirable, but it is necessary and will be a huge favor to survivors. Planning goes beyond the simple death and taxes idea to include what would happen if a person is incapacitated but still living.
For this reason, there are four essential estate planning documents everyone should have in order.
Some people may not think they need a will, but these are important for all people to have. A will can ensure a person's wishes are followed after his or her death in many regards. A simple document specifying where everything will be directed after death is essential when there are multiple heirs. Another important part of a will is specifying an executor, which is the person who is in charge of making decisions about the estate and paying bills. It is helpful to let the executor know that he or she has been appointed, but it is not necessary to tell all heirs they are included or what they can expect. Financial experts recommend avoiding the idea that family members can just figure out what to do with assets and heirlooms. They recommend discussing this with family and outlining specifics in a will to avoid squabbles after the creator of the will dies. They also warn people to beware of online resources for cheap and easy wills. Some details may be left out this way, so it is best to discuss concerns with an agent.
Medical Power Of Attorney
This document may also be called a health care proxy. It allows any designated adult to make medical decisions for a person if he or she is unable to do so. It is important to choose a person with trusted judgment who has the ability to stay calm during a crisis while still exercising good judgment.
Durable Power Of Attorney
This document appoints another person as an agent to act with authority and make decisions for the creator of the POA if he or she becomes disabled. No person should take this decision lightly or make hasty choices. The role of power of attorney gives a person long-lasting power. The person chosen should be trustworthy and financially responsible. It is always important to name a backup person as well. Some people will name their spouses, but if a couple is injured in an accident at the same time, this will create a problem.
Living wills may also be known as advanced directives or advanced health care directives. They specify the wishes of the creator for his or her end-of-life care. This includes topics such as life support, resuscitation and feeding. It is important to sit down and talk to loved ones about individual wishes when it comes to living wills and medical power of attorney forms.
Financial experts recommend keeping finance records, medical records and all important documents in a safe place and keeping them together. Avoid putting them in a safe-deposit box, because a person will need to show proof of power of attorney to access it. Update financial information every year, and make sure it is updated on any necessary documents as well. To learn more, discuss concerns with an agent, today at 314-351-HALO(4256)