Managing Diversity – What An Employer Needs To Know

“Managing Diversity” is a critical human resources function for organizations large and small.  All too often, though, executives and managers lose sight of what diversity means from a legal and moral perspective, and the message then gets lost in the translation when it comes to the rank and file employee.

In 1997 the Department of the Interior identified diversity for its workforce as a crucial issue and provided the following definition of diversity for its own management purposes:

“The term ‘diversity’ is used broadly to refer to many demographic variables, including, but not limited to, racial, religious, color, gender, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, age, education, geographic origin, and skill characteristics…  Managing diversity is a comprehensive process for developing a workplace environment that is productive for all employees… The term ‘diversity’ is also used narrowly in employment recruiting and retention efforts to refer to race/national origin, gender, or disability…”

The EEOC (US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) is the federal watchdog that oversees compliance for legislation such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex and national origin.  Discrimination complaints filed with the EEOC have been on the upswing over the past four years, going from 77,444 in 1999 up to 84,442 complaints in 2002.  Small businesses with as few as fifteen employees are subject to Title VII, but determining who qualifies as an employee for the purposes of Title VII and other federal legislation is a tricky proposition and should be determined through consultation with an attorney or by researching the legislation directly. 

Title VII is not the only federal law that applies to employment discrimination cases.    For example, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, the law that created the I-9 requirements for employers, also furnishes protection against discrimination because of national origin or U.S. citizenship. It applies to any employer with at least four (4) employees. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 (42 U.S.C. 1981) forbids employment discrimination because of race or color and applies to any employer, even if there is only one employee.

State laws such as the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act of 1983 (Texas Labor Code, Chapter 21) also apply to employment matters, so it is important to be aware of the complex patchwork of laws that may or may not apply to any employment situation. 

The national jury-award median for employment-practice liability cases, which includes discrimination and retaliation claims, rose 44% in one year – from $151,000 in 1999 to $218,000 in 2000 – according to Jury Verdict Research’s ® report, Employment Practice Liability: Jury Award Trends and Statistics – 2001 Edition.  

Though these facts and statistics point to the growing need for employers of all sizes to carry Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI), the news is not entirely negative.   According to Risk and Insurance (online at there are more than 70 insurers providing EPLI coverage and companies with fewer than 50 employees can expect to pay as little as $5,000 to $10,000 annually for the coverage.   Also, many EPLI policies come with pre-arranged legal services such as hot lines for attorneys versed in employment practices law, often at no additional charge.  Contact us to explore your EPLI options and to find out more about managing diversity in your workplace.

Are Your Valuable Collectibles and Antiques Adequately Protected?

Many Americans have a passion for collecting costly antiquities, while others may simple inherent some valuable antiques from their relatives. Either way, these antiques are often not adequately protected under a typical homeowner’s insurance policy. Being inadequately insured could mean significant financial and emotional loss if something were to happen to one of your antiques.

As far as antiques go, a standard homeowner’s insurance policy may very likely include restrictive coverage and limits and have a valuation only on the actual cash value. Before you mistakenly assume that adding a personal property replacement cost endorsement to your homeowner’s policy will provide you with coverage, you should realize that the endorsement lists several ineligible properties, including antiques, paintings, art, and memorabilia. There are also several coverage restrictions, such as excluding coverage if the antique is accidentally scratched or broken.

Here are six tips that may help you better protect your valuable antiques and collectibles:

1. Make an inventory of all your antiques and otherwise valuable collectibles. Take pictures and videos of each item, making sure to capture the item from all angles.

2. Ensure that your antiques and collectibles are appropriately stored and adequately secured.

3. For items of a lesser value, a general value assessment can be obtained for free online if you have a good photo and description for the antique or fine art dealer. For extensive or high-value collections, you certainly need to consider contacting an experienced antique appraiser. Most appraisers will need to inspect high-value pieces in person. The appraisal should include the replacement value, auction value, a description, and any comments the appraiser has about the item. Of course, this will most often involve a fee-for-service. Make sure the appraisal is done as per the requirements and codes of the American Appraisers Association -and- American Society of Appraisers.

4. Common, less valuable objects can usually be valuated online with the use of internet auction sites like eBay. This can give you a good market value for an item. Make sure you note both the asking and closing price of the item, but remember that the closing price will give you the best idea of the true value of the item.

5. Schedule an appointment with your insurance agent to determine if your existing coverage adequately covers and protects your antiques and collectibles, and, if not, what coverages you may need. Be sure to bring your inventory, photos and videos, and appraisals to the appointment.

6. Ask your insurance agent about a personal inland marine policy or endorsement, which can be added to your existing homeowner’s insurance policy to schedule your items on an agreed value based on the item’s appraisal. Although the above may also contain an exclusion for breakage, the exclusion can usually be eliminated for an extra cost.

There’s Nothing Old Fashioned About Preventing Loss

As a child you probably remember your grandmother always telling you, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” You had no way of knowing it at the time, but this advice was giving you the basic premise for a successful loss prevention program.  Preventing loss before it happens will have the single most profound effect on your end result.

The key, of course, is to look for possible loss and remove the circumstances that could cause it to occur. This may seem like common sense, but there is one important trick. Most project managers are competent when it comes to identifying the obvious such as the need to fence in the job site to prevent intruders or to have adequate access to the job site from the outside in the event you need the fire department. However, what is most important in loss prevention is preventing the less obvious from happening.

Take for example, your tools. You probably already keep tools and equipment in a locked area at all times when not in use. But have you thought of stamping tools with an identification number? Having them labeled with ID numbers will assist police in recovery efforts if they are stolen. Another variation on this theme is to paint the handles with bright, unusual colors. Nothing stops a thief quicker than merchandise that can be easily identified.

Working with combustibles always presents a challenge when it comes to managing loss prevention. All flammable liquids should be stored in appropriate safety containers and removed a safe distance from hot work and potential sparks. If distancing the liquids is a problem because of space, non-combustible shields should be properly positioned around the liquid containers. As an added precaution, a fire watch of the liquids should be maintained for at least a half-hour after the hot work is completed. All combustible waste generated during the work should be cleaned up immediately. Oily rags should be separated and stored in metal containers with tight fitting lids.  Fire extinguishers should also be strategically placed on the job site so they are available at all times.

When you’re on the job site, remember your project impacts the community even before it is finished. Keep in mind that we live in a litigious society and many losses on a construction project can be attributed to lawsuits brought against a company by injured pedestrians. It is important to be sure all electrical cords that pass through pedestrian areas are securely taped down so that accidental tripping is avoided. Likewise, all mud or water on public traffic areas should be cleaned regularly to avoid accidental falling by passersby.

Another area of consideration is when your work has an impact on other consumer services. Be sure to contact the local utilities before you perform any excavations. They can make you aware of the location of underground power lines or pipe work before they are inadvertently severed and you find yourself on the receiving end of a lawsuit.

In retrospect, the best way to exercise an ounce of prevention is to ensure that the project complies with all applicable codes and standards. They are designed to assist you not only when it comes to protecting your project from loss, but also when it comes to ensuring you have a quality project when it is completed.

How to Avoid Libel on Social Media Sites

When using social media sites, it is easy to get carried away with expressing disgust or irritation. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but it is important to avoid libel. The first step in avoiding it is to know the definition. Libel is any type of defamation that takes place on a more permanent source. Some examples include printed publications, blogs, films or any other written documents. Those who write, publish or are involved in similar practices should read about publishing laws. It is important to fully understand what is constituted as libel or slander. Avoiding such trouble online is the best way to also avoid a costly lawsuit. In addition to being expensive, lawsuits also tarnish the reputations of trusted publishing sources. Even bloggers who have a faithful followers may lose them if libel becomes an issue.

One of the best ways to avoid libel is to check facts. Responsible journalism demands this practice. Never rely on commercial sites for accurate information. Wiki sites are also bad sources for information. Anyone can add text to them, so it is easy for inaccurate stories and figures to surface. If a specific piece of literature lists a person or organization as the main source of information, contact the main source for verification. Quotes and testimonials should also be verified before printing. If a libel suit surfaces, it is important to have a list of sources to back the information. If it is impossible to verify a piece of information directly, be sure to clearly cite the source where the words came from.

In addition to avoiding misquoting people, it is important to avoid trade libel. Making disparaging remarks about a product or the company producing it is considered trade libel. After purchasing a defective product, it is easy to vent personal frustration online. In some cases, people simply want to alert others about a bad experience. However, it is best to contact the offending company directly. If the matter cannot be solved, contact the Better Business Bureau to resolve the issue. Never post insulting comments about a company or product online. Many social media profiles are public, and a quick Internet search for a person’s name may show several social media posts. Avoid jokes that may be interpreted as libel.

Overall, the main idea to remember is to test a comment or statement before posting it. Think carefully about the comment. Would it hurt a company’s reputation? Is it personally insulting to a certain individual? If it may be damaging and cannot be verified completely, avoid posting it.

Disaster Recovery Checklist for Business Owners and Executives

Everyone is responsible for the disaster preparedness of their own households. Business owners and executives, however, have additional responsibilities. Not only do they have to get their house in order, but they are also responsible for hardening their own businesses to continue to operate despite a local disaster – and to facilitate the recovery of the business, for the sake of investors, customers, employees and vendors.

Here are some basic tips those in executive positions can take to ensure the survival of a small business in the event of a disaster.

  • Create a written disaster preparation and recovery plan. This document should be in hard copy in your office, and emailed to new workers, so that they can access the plan even if your offices don’t exist.
  • Inventory on-site first-aid kits and other emergency supplies.
  • Secure data offsite. What will happen if your servers are destroyed in a flood or fire at your office? If your business would be damaged, it’s time to arrange to back up your files at a remote location, or on the Internet.
  • Designate an alternate meeting site. What happens if your office is suddenly destroyed or inaccessible? Your employees should know where to report for work. Managers should have a roster of phone numbers.
  • Arrange for alternate facilities. You may need to arrange new office space or warehouse space in a hurry. Have an alternate location already scoped out.
  • Get a generator. Don’t count on waiting until disaster strikes to get one. There will be a run on supplies. Ensure the generator has enough output to power your key equipment, whatever it is – be it computers, printers, and refrigerators (The cost of one generator big enough to power your refrigerator or freezer can pay for itself many times over in preventing food spoilage for those in food service businesses).
  • Name responsibilities. Who will come to the office prior to a hurricane to put up storm shutters? Who will be available to come fill and place sandbags? Who can clean up if there is severe damage, and when? Remember that your employees will have conflicting loyalties. Some may be having difficulties preparing their own homes and families. Others may be members of the National Guard, and may be mobilized for disaster response. Take this possibility into account.
  • Audit your insurance coverage. Lay out all your policies and make sure they cover the possible hazards, and that the amount of insurance reflects your needs. Double check flood coverage. Most regular insurance coverage doesn’t cover floods.
  • Double check key person life insurance and disability insurance coverage. The same disaster that disrupts your business could disable or kill key people, and cause severe disruption to the rest of the business as well.
  • Consider business interruption insurance. These policies help companies by providing a cash benefit to keep them going in case of a temporary closure. Can you make your payroll for a month or two while you get your business back on its feet after a disaster? If not, you may need business interruption insurance to avoid going bankrupt, or to retain valued employees while your business has shut down.
  • Have a public relations plan. Designate a spokesperson for the company. Reach out to the local media with your recovery story. Don’t let people get the impression your business closed – particularly if you have to relocate. This could be a fatal blow, even if you do everything else right.
  • Diversify your telephone systems. Hurricanes and other disasters may knock out Verizon phones but not AT&T service, and vice versa. It can take time before workers can repair towers or reroute signals. By ensuring your workers have different cell providers, you can spread the risk out, so that your ability to communicate by cell is not wiped out by the loss of any one cell tower.
  • Make a note of this phone number: 1-800-659-2955. It’s the phone number to the federal Small Business Administration. The SBA provides low-interest loans to qualified small businesses affected by disasters to help them keep running through a disaster and its aftermath.
  • Copy your tax returns and other key documents. Keep them online somewhere. Keep hard copies in a fireproof safe or deposit box offsite – preferably 100 miles away or more. If you live on the coast, keep it inland. If you live in a flood plain, keep it up hill. Identify your hazards, and don’t expose your valuable assets and papers to the same hazard in two different locations.

Above all, though, use your judgment, critical thinking skills, and work through the different contingencies that may affect your business. All businesses are different, and one business may have different needs than other business next door. For example, when Hurricane Katrina was menacing New Orleans in 2005, many nursing homes and other health care providers had difficulty evacuating their patients and residents. In some cases, low-paid staff didn’t show up for work – they were busy evacuating themselves or their families. If you rely on low-paid staff that takes the bus to work, don’t expect them to be available immediately prior to a hurricane, for example, unless you make and communicate arrangements in advance. For more information, visit, which has a variety of tools and planning tips for business owners and executives.

Consider Safety Accommodations for the Older Worker

With age comes wisdom and experience. However, getting older also brings the inevitable decline in physical and sometimes mental agility. This change can present serious challenges for the older worker. The Department of Labor’s workplace statistics for 2004 indicate workers 64 and older had the lowest number of workplace injuries, however, the fatality rate for workers 55 and older rose by 10 percent.

How is it possible for older workers to have fewer job-related injuries than other age groups, but still experience increased fatalities? The answer to that question lies in the body’s reaction to the aging process. While older workers may have fewer accidents, when they get injured their injuries are often more severe. A longer healing process allows more time for complications that can lead to death.

However, it isn’t only the possibility of older worker fatalities that must concern employers. The type of injuries the maturing employee suffers is also significant. Older workers tend to report more back injuries than their younger counterparts. In addition, a number of workplace injuries are the result of performing the same tasks over and over. Repetitive motion injuries develop over time. Because of this, older workers report more musculoskeletal injuries since they’ve had more time for these types of injuries to develop.

As the work force continues to age, it is important for employers to recognize these facts and make accommodations that will allow older employees to remain safe and healthy. The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) recommends the following environmental changes to keep maturing workers safe:

·   Improve illumination and add color contrast.

·   Eliminate heavy lifts, elevated work from ladders and long reaches.

·   Design work floors and platforms with smooth and solid decking while still allowing some cushioning.

·   Reduce static standing time.

·   Remove clutter from control panels and computer screens and use large video displays.

·   Reduce noise levels.

·   Install chain actuators for valve hand wheels, damper levers or other similar control devices, which bring the control manipulation to ground level and help reduce falls.

·   Install skid-resistant material for flooring and especially for staircase treads.

·   Install shallow-angle stairways in place of ladders when space permits and where any daily, elevated access is needed to complete a task.

·   Utilize hands-free, volume-adjustable telephone equipment.

·   Increase task rotation, which will reduce the strain of repetitive motion.

·   Lower sound system pitches, such as on alarm systems, as they tend to be easier to hear.

·   Lengthen time requirements between steps in a task.

·   Increase the time allowed for making decisions.

·   Consider necessary reaction time when assigning older workers to tasks.

·   Provide opportunities for practice and time to develop task familiarity.

Bear in mind that even though these changes are ostensibly being made for the older worker, they will actually have a beneficial effect on the health and safety of the entire work force population.

Learn Safe Boating Rules and Requirements

Every year, the U.S. Coast Guard reports thousands of accidents and hundreds of deaths resulting from recreational boating. Four leading causes of these tragic accidents are speeding, recklessness, inattention, and operator inexperience. These four problems magnify themselves, especially when combined with other safety concerns and issues.

Utilize and Maintain Safety Equipment

Having the right safety equipment on-board and in good working order can mean the difference between life and death on the water.

*Fire extinguishers – Boats with false floors or enclosed compartments require a Coast Guard approved fire extinguisher to be on board at all times. Be sure to keep it charged, and in a handy location.

*Life jackets and Personal Flotation devices – Each person on board needs to have a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket. Boats that are more than 16 feet long need to have a PFD that can be thrown to a person who has fallen overboard.

*Boat lights – Test your lights before you leave the dock. Be sure to carry extra batteries as well.

*Anchor – Not only do you need to have an anchor, but you also need to know how to use it. Each year improper anchoring is a cause of fatal and non-fatal accidents.

*Emergency supplies – Keep a first aid kit on board along with maps, flares, and matches. It is wise to keep your emergency supplies in a floating pouch.

Leave the Alcoholic Beverages Onshore

*Never operate a boat when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The effects of alcohol can be increased by exposure to wind and sun, as well as noise and vibration.

*Most years, about a third of all boating deaths are drug or alcohol related. Don’t become a grim statistic. Stay sober and alive.

Loading and Unloading Your Boat

*Know your boat’s weight capacity and abide by it. Overloading your boat can spell trouble.

*Practice good boat launch etiquette and safety. Load equipment into your boat before you arrive at the ramp. Ask someone to hold the bow line and to help out in boat handling at the pier. Be courteous and cooperative with other boaters upon launching and upon your return.

Use Good Judgment and Common Sense

*Tell a close friend or family member where you are going and when you will return.

*Read and understand local and federal boating regulations before entering the water.

*Do not allow passengers to ride on seatbacks or on gunwales, and ask them to stay inside of protective railings.

*Watch your speed and follow all boat traffic rules.

When it comes to boating, take steps to prevent accidents before they happen.

Understanding the Role of Loss Mitigation Insurance

Loss Mitigation Insurance transfers an unknown or unwanted exposure from one company to an insurance company for a price. LMI caps what would otherwise be an unknown amount and is particularly effective if the company with the liability is in the process of merging or being acquired.

Employers of all sizes can benefit from a LMI policy. The coverage helps risk managers dispose of costly litigation that could damage the bottom-line and impair their ability to complete a refinancing arrangement. Before LMI, when an uncertainty in a merger or acquisition came up, both sides walked away until the lawsuit or financial impediment was resolved.

One solution used in such cases required the seller to deposit funds into an escrow account to cover the estimated losses from the claim or lawsuit. This tied up capital and there was no guarantee that the amount deposited would be enough to cover the final settlement. With a LMI policy, these problems can be resolved and the transaction put on track again.

LMI Takes Many Forms

There are several ways in which LMI programs can be structured. LMI can be underwritten to apply either in conjunction with, or independent of other insurance in force, such as Directors and Officers liability or general liability. For example, a deal to merge ABC Company with XYZ was delayed because of XYZ’s concern over the catastrophic exposure for a potentially adverse judgment against ABC. ABC arranged for a LMI policy to be written which responds if the loss exceeds the limits of ABC’s existing liability insurance. LMI relieved ABC of a potentially damaging award and the merger proceeded.

Another example of how a LMI policy helped solve a legal problem within a rigid time limit involved a consumer products company that was in the final stages of buying a company in an Eastern European country. The target company had been involved in litigation with a former employee regarding a patent and though most of the complaint had been dismissed, and a damage analysis of the remaining counts showed potential damages to be minimal, the purchasing company was reluctant to move forward. Further, the acquiring company’s option to purchase the Eastern European company was to expire in less than three months.

Although the investor wanted to exercise its option to purchase the company within the time limit, the patent litigation would not be resolved before that date. Also, the investing company was unfamiliar with the legal system in the target company’s country, which caused further concern. The solution: a LMI program was purchased by the target company that would cover excess losses from future settlements of the patent claim and the acquisition was completed before the time limit expired.


Premium Commitment

The size of the premium for a LMI policy depends on a combination of the risk analysis by the underwriter and the policy’s structure. Most LMI contracts are structured so the policy’s limits are never reached. If the policy is not breached, there is no claim. Because the risks covered by LMI policies usually have lengthy tails, it takes a long time for them to be settled, which permits insurers to realize investment gains from collected premiums.

Although LMI has only been written for a little more than five years, premium volume has skyrocketed from zero to more than $500 million annually in this time. Insurers are writing more of this coverage because underwriters have become more experienced in determining the extent of the exposure as well as drafting and pricing the appropriate policies.

An insurer’s willingness to underwrite LMI depends on the state of the insurance market and the availability of reinsurance. If the insurance market hardens, insurers have less access to the capital to support their underwriting efforts. In a soft market, insurers seek out opportunities to expand premium volume and are more willing to write LMI.

Insurance Considerations for Parents with College Kids

In today’s world, college students arrive on campus with more than their clothes, notebooks and pencils. They usually come with an arsenal of electronic gadgets. Laptops, smart phones, mp3 players, tablet PCs, printers and other devices are usually in their luggage. In some cases, today’s college students may not even live on campus. They may live hundreds of miles from their campuses. However, every college student has more expensive learning supplies than students in the past did. The belongings of college kids living in dorms will usually be covered under a homeowners insurance policy. Full-time students living off campus may also be covered if their primary residence is still their parents’ home. Insurers have several other qualification criteria, and they usually place a maximum age limit of 24.

Although the liability limits of a homeowners insurance policy usually apply equally to covered college students, many insurers place a 10 percent cap on the possessions limit. However, some insurers may not have sufficient provisions to cover college kids in certain situations. Many parents want to purchase additional coverage to ensure their kids will be taken care of. A renters insurance policy is often the best solution. It usually costs between $150 and $200 annually. If a child will be living with roommates, the policy will not cover the roommates’ possessions. Another important possession to consider is a college kid’s car.

Parents should ensure their kids are fully covered when going to college. Rates will fall or rise depending on the school’s location. Some students may opt to attend college without taking a car. This is especially true for students who attend college in large cities where efficient bus systems exist. When this happens, parents should contact their insurers if the campus is at least 100 miles away. In many cases, parents receive a discount totaling up to 20 percent. However, students will still be covered on holiday visits and during summers at home.

Another important consideration is health insurance. Many college kids are known for making poor nutritional choices, experiencing high stress and not getting enough sleep. These factors can add up to more trips to the doctor. As a rule, student health plans offered by schools are very limited. They are expensive, have low cap amounts and may require students to seek care only on campus. Since children are usually covered by their parents’ medical insurance, most parents opt to rely on this type of coverage. However, children of parents with limited HMO plans may only be able to seek emergency treatment on campus. This could mean much higher bills or higher copay amounts.

An individual health insurance policy may be the best option for parents who have limited HMO plans. At about $150 less per month for one individual, these plans are affordable. Premiums are lower with high deductibles. Students with plans featuring a deductible of $1,200 or more may open a health savings account and make contributions without tax penalties.

Another consideration for college students is identity theft insurance. Typically, this coverage is limited. It cannot prevent parents or students from becoming victims of identity theft, and it doesn’t cover financial losses directly.  However, it does give coverage for the cost of reclaiming you or your student’s financial identity.  For instance,it may cover the costs of making copies, making phone calls, mailing documents, lost wages, and attorney fees.  Parents should check first to see if their homeowners policy includes identity theft insurance while the student is away from the family home. If a student is renting an apartment, ask if his/her renters insurance covers identity theft, or if that could be added to the policy. 

To learn more about insurance options for college students, discuss these issues with an agent.

Recognize the Common Culprits of Safety Program Failure

There are several common, identifiable reasons why safety programs fail.  By being aware of these potential barriers to the success of your safety program, you can modify your program to guard against them.  Commonly culprits of safety programs failure include:

Support from the Top Down

When employees don’t perceive their superiors as visibly committed to their organization’s safety program, they likely will not invest themselves in the program either.  Senior management and department leaders need to epitomize the procedures of a successful safety program.  They also need to be actively involved in both recognizing safety successes and implementing consequences for program violations.


To be committed to a safety program, employees need to understand the critical nature of safety and how accidents impact the organization and its employees.  They need to understand why they are investing their time and energy towards the safety program.   Specific achievable goals should be developed and rewarding employees for success should be considered.  Structuring goals in a manner that produces short-term successes can help build enthusiasm for the program. 


To keep the program in the forefront, safety leaders need to regularly communicate with staff about their expectations, the successes of the program, the consequences of not participating in the program and other key issues.  An ongoing training and education component should be central to the program.  Using multiple communication methods can be very effective. 

Corporate Structure

A highly decentralized organization can be detrimental to standardizing a safety program.  A company needs to find methods to impose uniformity and consistency across various departments and offices of their company. 

The Time Factor

In every organization, time is an extremely valuable commodity.  Management needs to assign priority status to safety and allows its employees to take the time to maintain a successful safety program.