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Reduce Your Exposures During Work Events

Businesses host parties for a variety of reasons, including the holidays and organizational accomplishments. While these events are fun, team-building opportunities, they can create a number of risks for the hosting company. In fact, in the event that an employee is injured at the party or causes property damage, the employer is usually the one held responsible. This can lead to costly litigation and reputational harm that can affect a company for years.

To avoid major losses, it’s not only important for employers to secure the right insurance coverage for every individual risk, but to also have a thorough understanding of common holiday party exposures.

Alcohol

Anytime you provide alcohol to individuals in a non-commercial manner, you are considered a social host. This is important to note, as a social host may be responsible for the acts of their guests should their conduct create harm. These risks are compounded when alcohol is served, and employers may be liable for damages following a drunken driving accident or similar incident.

While the best way to reduce alcohol liability risks is to avoid serving it altogether, this isn’t always feasible. To promote the safety of your employees and guests at company-sponsored events, consider the following:

• Hold the event off-site at a restaurant or hotel.
• Provide plenty of food and non-alcoholic beverages throughout the night.
• Serve drinks to guests rather than offering a self-serve bar. Limit the amount of alcohol you will serve. Require servers to measure spirits.
• Set up bar stations instead of having servers circulate the room. Place table tents at each bar that remind employees and guests to drink responsibly.
• Don’t price alcohol too low, as it encourages overconsumption. Offer a range of low-alcohol and alcohol-free drinks at no charge.
• Close the bar an hour before the scheduled end of the party. Do not offer a “last call,” as this promotes rapid consumption.
• Entice guests to take advantage of safe transportation options by subsidizing taxis or promoting a designated driver program.

Marijuana Consumption

Similar to alcohol use, marijuana and other drug consumption can directly affect the safety of your party guests. In fact, according to the most recent federal data, 44 percent of vehicle crash deaths can be linked to drug-impaired driving, up from 28 percent a decade earlier.

Marijuana contains hundreds of chemicals, many of which act directly on the body and brain. Individual sensitivity to marijuana can vary, but the general effects include the following:

• Dizziness, drowsiness, light-headedness, fatigue and headaches
• Impaired memory, concentration and ability to make decisions
• Disorientation and confusion
• Suspiciousness, nervousness, anxiety, paranoia and hallucinations
• Impaired motor skills and perception
• Dry mouth, throat irritation and coughing
• Increased heartbeat

These health effects can last long after an employee smoked, increasing the potential for accidents or major health concerns. In addition, federal, state and local laws may prohibit marijuana use in certain areas, making it all the more important to educate employees on behavior expectations.

To keep your party guests safe and avoid any liability concerns, consider making clear rules for marijuana use at your party. Remind employees that even though they are at a social event, they are still attending a work function and workplace policies on the use of marijuana still apply.

Workplace Harassment and Discrimination

Even when holding company-sponsored events off-site, employers are expected to enforce their workplace policies and safeguard their employees. In particular, employers must pay extra care to prevent issues of harassment and discrimination at their events, as they can lead to employment claims and costly litigation.

To help keep employees safe at company parties, employers should ensure all of their policies related to harassment, violence, discrimination and code of conduct are up to date and account for company-sponsored events. Policies should be specific as to what is and is not tolerated, and redistributed them as thoroughly as possible.

In addition, employers should:
• Consider making the event a family party where employees can bring their spouse, significant other, children or a friend. This can help deter inappropriate behavior.
• Keep event themes and decorations appropriate. Parties should be neutral and not make reference to specific religions or beliefs. In addition, plan your party on a day that does not conflict with religious holidays.
• Consider having just one entrance to your party. This will allow you to control who enters the venue and ensure that uninvited guests do not attended.
• Have supervisors and managers chaperone the event, looking closely for inappropriate behavior. Hire third-party security personnel as needed.
• Avoid making attendance for company-sponsored events mandatory.

Food Exposures

Food is a staple of many company-sponsored events, and can actually be a useful way to keep party guest sober and limit alcohol-related liability (starchy foods can help reduce the absorption of alcohol). However, when serving food, there are a number of risks employers should consider.

For instance, employers need to be wary of potential food allergies. In the event that a guest gets sick from the food, they could sue the employer for negligence.
To help protect against this, employers should ask party guests to disclose any of their allergies, either in their RSVP or by contacting the event coordinator directly. In addition, you should specify what ingredients are in every food item, both on the menu and on display cards near the food itself.

For added protection against illnesses, it’s critical that employers promote safe food preparation and handling practices. Moreover, when working with a third-party provider, employers should do their due diligence to ensure they are securing reputable vendors.

Property Damage

Property damage can occur at just about any kind of party, even small, company-sponsored events. As the host, it’s your job to ensure your guests remain safe, behave appropriately and respect the venue and its contents.

To do so, employers should:
• Set behavior expectations before the party.
• Have supervisors and managers chaperone the event, looking closely for inappropriate behavior. Hire third-party security personnel as needed.
• Remove valuable items from the party area wherever possible. Make sure any areas that you don’t want guests to enter are locked, roped off or secured in some way.
• Review your liability insurance and know what it covers.
• Ensure the venue is equipped to handle the number of individuals invited to the party.

Secure the Coverage You Need in Advance

Even if you take all the appropriate precautions, incidents can still occur. As such, it’s important for all organizations to secure adequate insurance.
Each business is different, and may require additional policies to account for all of their exposures. Contact Warren G. Bender Co. today to learn about your coverage options when it comes to hosting a party.

Filed under: Property & Casualty,Safety — Jillian Bender-Cormier @ 11:38 pm November 21, 2018


A New Law Could Change How We Prepare for Disasters

Congress and President Donald Trump recently approved the Disaster Recovery Reform Act (DRRA), an overhaul of the federal government’s approach to disaster preparation and risk reduction. The new law gives businesses, federal agencies and state governments more flexibility when requesting and using federal grants.

Before now, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had strict regulations about how it distributed funds during a recovery process. Grants were usually used to help replace lost property, but didn’t account for improvements to help prevent future disasters. In fact, one of the biggest reasons that the National Flood Insurance Plan (NFIP) is over budget and in need of reform is that it’s common for a single property to flood frequently and make multiple insurance claims.

The DRRA has new provisions in place to emphasize planning and help streamline how funds are given out:

• 6 percent of the federal disaster budget will be put into a pre-disaster mitigation account every year. State governments, businesses and communities can apply for grants to fund risk mitigation activities.

• Rebuilding that uses federal funds will use strengthened building code requirements to protect against future incidents. Improving public utilities will also be a priority in order to ensure access to clean water and electricity.

• The president will be able to reimburse up to 75 percent of a state or local government’s disaster mitigation efforts to ease the strain on federal agencies

According to FEMA, every $1 put into planning for disasters can help save $6 during the recovery process. Contact us today at (916) 380-5300 for toolkits, articles and other resources your company can use to prepare for various disasters and ensure the continuity of your business.

Filed under: Recent Headlines — Jillian Bender-Cormier @ 11:29 pm


Home Inventory Checklist

In the wake of the disastrous results of the Camp Fire and our neighbors to the north experiencing the gut-wrenching losses of their homes and nearly all possessions, we found it important to share this tool. Taking inventory of the contents of your home can truly ease the stress and heartache when dealing with a total loss.

Why create a home inventory checklist?
Though your homeowners insurance policy provides the protection that you need in the event of a loss such as a fire or burglary, your policy can only pay for items that you can document. In order to assure that all your prize possessions will be replaced, you should conduct a home inventory so you have a finite record of everything that you own. This inventory will assist you in determining which items were destroyed or stolen.

How should you conduct a home inventory?
To complete a full home inventory, walk through every room in your home and identify all of the contents. It is also wise to take photographs or make a video of all of your possessions, and keep this media documentation with your list. Then, place all of this information into a fireproof safe or safety deposit box at your bank.

Periodically, update this list as you purchase more items for your home.

How does a home inventory list relate to my insurance policy?
Not only can a household inventory checklist assist you in the event of a loss, it can also help you determine whether you have enough insurance coverage. Your coverage should equal the cost of your possessions at today’s prices. Items such as jewelry, furs and fine art should be appraised on a regular basis to ensure that you have enough insurance to cover their high-priced value.

Once you have completed your home inventory walk-thru, contact Warren G. Bender Co. for more assistance with your insurance needs.

Home Inventory Checklist

Filed under: Personal Insurance — Jillian Bender-Cormier @ 7:50 pm


Why I Chose Charter

Why I Chose Charter
By Teresa Sale

The buzz around charter schools is growing. Instead of being the cure-all replacement for the existing public school system, charter schools have proven to be a valuable and much needed compliment to public education throughout the state. As the population grows and the state budget struggles to keep up, the need for alternatives has arisen for parents and students like never before. I have seen first-hand over the last 15 years how charter schools fill the gap in needs that otherwise would go unmet, particularly in historically under-served communities.

Behind the students at each school, are great teachers, HR folks, principals, administrators and many others whose commitment is to provide ALL students with a quality educational experience. They are able to do so with the assurance of knowing their family will be taken care of. Good pay and benefits are something that should not be sacrificed when choosing to work at a charter school. It is my job to help schools balance the lesser funding available with the need to provide charter school teams with high quality benefit programs.

When people ask me what my professional passion is, my usual response is “Working with charter schools!”. When asked why, I reply that it is the kids, empowered parents, and dedicated schools that inspire me to continue my work.

Students at the forefront
We can never forget that the focus of any school is, first and foremost, the kids! They are why we do what we do. From the spark of interest that is lit in a class by a new area of discovery, to the ideas brought home to their families after school, a student’s classroom experience has impacts far beyond the school grounds. Every student deserves the equal right to a quality education. What that looks like for kids should be determined by the parent(s) and accessible through the public school system.

Power in the parents
If anyone knows kids’ educational needs best, it is their parents. Parents should be empowered to send their child to the public school of their choice, based on their child’s educational needs and in consideration of varying factors related to zip code, location, language and other factors. No parent should have to watch their child fail in school because their learning style is entirely different than the educational style of the public school they attend. Given the broad diversity of California’s student population, it is no wonder that cookie-cutter solutions fall short in providing quality education.

Determined to educate
Dedicated, innovative schools who see a need and make it their mission to create unique and challenging programs for learning are to be recognized and valued. There are many different areas served by charter schools that often go overlooked. To name one type with the greatest impact would be impossible. Charter schools afford teachers the opportunity to hone-in on specialized areas: math, science, performing arts, language immersion, project-based learning, Montessori, Waldorf-style, environmental science, social justice, place-based, and various others offer students the opportunity to pursue and excel in their unique academic interests. Erasing the achievement gap between students with diverse backgrounds and experiences is a main focus of many charter schools. Priority is given to teaching positive self-awareness with a focus on serving others in their community.

There are schools specifically focused on serving students in need of second chances. They focus on credit catch up, high school graduation and college or trade programs. Others provide adult students above a certain age who’ve not graduated high school a chance to do so. Then there are those specially focused on aiding special needs students to excel in a setting where they are able to focus, free of the social stigma and potential bullying found in mainstream public school classrooms. These kids are so often put into classrooms labeled “special education,” and not much is expected of them as students. Not to mention those in the inner cities who provide students with no hope to succeed in a system that is failing them the confidence to excel and believe they can go on to make a true difference through education. Specialized charter schools are changing the game for those who matter most – KIDS!

The buzz around charter schools is not likely to stop anytime soon as public schools continue to be impacted across the country. Through all the hype and debate, educating the students, empowering the parents and having dedicated schools will shine the way towards a better future for California’s educational system. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” It is my mission to be there to serve amazing, innovative teachers, principals, HR professionals and administrators, in their mission to improve the lives of students throughout California!

Filed under: Charter Schools — Jillian Bender-Cormier @ 5:13 pm October 15, 2018


Frequent Check-ins: Rethinking Performance Reviews

It’s no secret that employees and employers alike have reservations about annual performance reviews. Some employees view them as a waste of time and many employers find it difficult to argue against that. According to management research firm CEB, 42 percent of employees consider annual reviews ineffective, mainly due to the feedback coming at the end of the year when it has almost no relevance. What’s more, 95 percent of managers are dissatisfied with their company’s performance review process, too, according to the same study.

How Reviews Have Evolved

The shift from praising annual reviews to loathing them has ebbed into the HR realm gradually over the last couple of decades. Modern performance reviews are largely based on the merit system used by the military in World War I—a system that has not grown adequately to suit the needs of today’s corporate structures. The original idea was that workers were so plentiful that poor performers needed to be identified from efficient workers so the former could be replaced and the latter promoted.
This mentality is slowly dying as the labor market tightens up. Employers are now more concerned with coaching poor performers instead of replacing them immediately. Annual reviews are less effective in this regard, since their primary purpose is to hold employees up to a (typically) quantitative standard, not to assess granular performance and insert coaching opportunities. That’s where frequent check-ins come in.

What is a Frequent Check-in?

Think of frequent check-ins as microscopic evaluations. In this process, managers evaluate employee performance periodically throughout the year, not just at its end. Managers are checking in on employee performance as it happens, not giving a rating months later.

Employees can, and should, still set attainable goals for themselves each year related to their performance, but examining that growth annually may do them a disservice. Frequent check-ins (think monthly or biweekly) allow employers the chance to nip any emerging issues in the bud and lets employees receive that coaching when it’s actually relevant. Moreover, checking in with an employee more frequently can build a lasting rapport with the company and strengthen company culture.

How Can I Implement This?

Since frequent check-ins are essentially periodic meetings tailored to employee performance, implementation is minimal. To get started, employees should first develop a goal for themselves for the year. It could be related to performance or some other aspect that’s important to your company, like growing a particular skill. Next, managers should schedule individual meetings at set intervals throughout the year to check in on the progress of the goals. The meetings are also an opportunity for employees to receive feedback in any areas where they’ve fallen short, like not achieving a goal milestone on time.

Summary

Frequent check-ins might not be the best option for your business, but having even a few meetings before an annual review could improve employee growth and rapport. These check-ins, which are often paired with a final annual review, show employees that you care enough about their development to give them time to discuss it throughout the year.

On average, you spend around 260 days at work each year. As an employee, wouldn’t you want your manager to take an interest in your development more than just once a year?

Reach out to your Warren G. Bender Co. representative to request a full version of our toolkit on performance reviews.

Filed under: HR — Jillian Bender-Cormier @ 4:24 pm October 12, 2018