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Benefits for Workers’ Compensation


The Impact of the Affordable Care Act on Workers’ Compensation

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One of the main goals of the ACA is to provide citizens greater access to health care. Greater access for more people potentially creates two benefits for workers’ compensation.

One benefit of greater access to health care is that overall, employees will be healthier, likely leading to a reduction in workers’ compensation claims. And if employees are healthier, they will be less likely to remain reliant on workers’ compensation with a combination of work-related and other medical conditions, allowing claims to be closed sooner.

Greater access to health care will allow diseases or conditions, such as high blood pressure, to be diagnosed at an appointment with a primary physician rather than in the emergency room after a workplace accident. Diagnosing existing conditions before a workplace accident will help a physician treat injuries more thoroughly, since he or she will know that the patient has it earlier on.

Another benefit of the ACA on workers’ compensation is that increased access to health care will help injured employees recover more quickly from workplace injuries, since employees will be healthier from the start. The sooner an injured employee recovers and is back to work, the less you will have to pay for workers’ compensation costs.

Greater access to health care helps keep your employees healthy and could reduce the number of workers’ compensation claims.The Affordable Care Act does not directly address workers’ compensation issues, but some aspects of the health care reform law will most likely have an impact on workers’ compensation costs and practices.

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How can a cyber attack cause a business interruption?


          Cyber Attacks – A Growing Business Interruption Threat

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Hackers, thieves and other unauthorized individuals have become adept at exploiting weaknesses in a business’ computer system, whether through traditional hacking methods or social engineering. There are several types of attacks that could completely cripple your ability to perform normal business activities, including:

        Malicious code that renders your website unusable

        Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that make your website
        inaccessible to employees and customers alike

        Viruses, worms or other code that deletes critical information on a
        business’ hard drives and other hardware

It is quite easy to see how any of these events might leave your company scrambling to do business. Unfortunately, many smaller businesses don’t have the manpower available to detect the problem and work on fixing it, which only increases the length of an interruption.

When you think about what usually causes a business interruption, natural disasters such as fires, earthquakes and floods probably come to mind first. These events can physically damage your property and equipment, making your workspace unusable for a time. The damages from Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy are great examples of how a natural disaster can put a halt to a business’ day-to-day operations. Many of those affected businesses remain closed to this day.

While natural disasters are still the main reason for an interruption, another cause is quickly moving up the ranks: cyber attacks. As businesses continue to rely on computers and digital storage of essential data, cyber attacks will continue to be a potential exposure. Read on to learn how a cyber attack could lead to a business interruption and what you can do to mitigate the risk.

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Health Insurance Subsidies


          Federal Courts Issue Conflicting Rulings
          on Subsidies in Federal Exchanges


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The ACA created health insurance subsidies to help eligible individuals and families purchase health insurance through an Exchange. The subsidies are designed to make coverage through an Exchange more affordable by reducing taxpayers’ out-of-pocket premium costs.

There are two federal health insurance subsidies available with respect to coverage through an Exchange: premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions. Both of these subsidies vary in amount based on the taxpayer’s household income, and they reduce the out-of-pocket costs of health insurance for the insured.

Premium tax credits are available for people with somewhat higher incomes (up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL)), and reduce out-of-pocket premium costs for the taxpayer.

Reduced cost-sharing is available for individuals with lower incomes (up to 250 percent of the FPL). Through cost-sharing reductions, these individuals will be eligible to enroll in plans with higher actuarial values and have the plan, on average, pay a greater share of covered benefits. This means that coverage for these individuals will have lower out-of-pocket costs at the point of service (for example, lower deductibles and copayments).

Several lawsuits have been filed by individuals and employers to challenge the ability of the federal government to provide tax credits under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to individuals in states that did not establish their own Exchanges (that is, in states with federally-facilitated exchanges, or FFEs). These lawsuits were filed in response to an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rule that authorizes subsidies in all states, including those with FFEs.

On July 22, 2014, two federal appeals courts—the District of Columbia Circuit Court and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court—issued inconsistent rulings on the availability of subsidies in states with FFEs.

In Halbig v. Burwell, the D.C. Circuit Court held that the IRS rule authorizing subsidies in states with FFEs is invalid. In a 2-1 opinion, the court ruled that the text of the ACA clearly restricts the subsidies to individuals in states that established their own Exchanges.

In King v. Burwell, the 4th Circuit Court unanimously upheld the availability of the ACA’s subsidies in states with their own Exchanges and in states with FFEs.


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Affirmative Action for Federal Contractors




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All federal contractors and subcontractors are required to implement AAPs. However, federal contractors and subcontractors with contracts of under $10,000 or with multiple contracts which, when combined, total less than $10,000, are exempt from the AAP requirements outlined by the OFCCP.

Many states also regulate which employers must have AAPs. Contact your local Office of Contract Compliance for more details.

Affirmative Action Requirements: The Department of Labor (DOL) has set specific reporting, notice and recordkeeping requirements to ensure that employers comply with all affirmative action regulations.

These requirements apply to all employers covered by federal anti-discrimination laws, regardless of whether a charge has been filed against them.


Reporting Requirements: Employers must report their AAP efforts using the following forms. Employers with more than one location must file a report for their headquarters, a report for each location with 50 or more employees and a separate report for each location having fewer than 50 employees. Alternatively, employers with more than one location can file a consolidated report that covers each location with fewer than 50 employees.

The term “affirmative action” refers to public and private initiatives to improve development opportunities for women, minorities and other protected classes. In the employment sector, these efforts seek to increase employment opportunities for women, minorities, veterans, the disabled and any other protected classes of employees. The goal is for all individuals to have an equal opportunity for employment, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or veteran status.

Equal employment opportunities for federal contractors are required by the following three laws: Executive Order 11246, Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Vietnam Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA). These laws are administered and enforced by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).

Many companies are required by law to have an Affirmative Action Plan in place.
As required by the OFCCP, many companies must have an Affirmative Action Plan (AAP) in place. This plan should contain an analysis of all protected classes of employees at the organization and compare protected class statistics to an employer’s entire population to discover any barriers to equal employment opportunity. The plan should also include actions to remedy these barriers. For more information on affirmative action and your obligations as an employer, visit www.dol.gov/dol/topic/hiring/affirmativeact.htm.



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Reasons to Hire an IT Contractor


          Hiring Independent IT Contractors

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Unique skill set – Many IT tasks can be confusing or complicated to the average person. By hiring an IT contractor, businesses can complete a project in much less time than if they were to have an employee with minimal IT experience do the job.

Cost savings – Business owners can save a lot of money over the long term by hiring a contractor to do work for a short period of time, therefore eliminating the need to hire an expensive full-time employee for the job.

Benefits – Business owners don’t have to worry about giving contractors benefits such as paid time off or insurance—they are responsible for their own. Businesses also save on payroll taxes.

Politics – A contractor is there just to focus on the job at hand. They are not likely to get involved in office politics that might slow other employees from performing the same job.

Minimal training – Generally, IT contractors are well-versed in the best IT practices and can perform work with little to no training, which costs businesses a lot of time and money.

Quality assurance – Contractors can provide useful second opinions on work a company has done itself.

When it comes to IT work, many small and mid-size companies just don’t have the budget to employ a full-time IT staff. Often, these tasks are performed by the owner or current employees with limited knowledge of how the company’s computer system or related tasks work. This creates potential cyber security problems that can lead to a data breach, theft or destruction of intellectual property and identity theft.

Luckily, businesses can hire independent contractors to assist them with all IT-related tasks. Businesses can reach out to contractors for short-term help, such as setting up a network or firewall or designing a company website, or opt for long-term contracts, such as providing 24/7 network troubleshooting support or developing cyber security policies.


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Hazards for Women on Construction Sites


          Providing Safety for Women in Construction

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Workplace culture – The construction industry has been overwhelmingly male-dominated for years, and on many job sites, female construction workers are not welcome. Isolation—working as the only female on a job site or being ostracized by co-workers—evokes both stress and fear of assault. Many female construction workers say that they are reluctant to report workplace safety and health problems for fear of tagged as complainers or whiners, which would further strain their workplace relationships and jeopardize their employment.

Hostile workplace – A hostile workplace presents safety and health concerns on several levels, ranging from a lack of training and safety information to physical assault. The effects of a hostile workplace can be reflected in acute as well as chronic stress reactions. OSHA has already begun to recognize workplace violence as an occupational safety and health issue.

Sexual harassment – Sexual harassment is a serious problem for female construction workers. Sex discrimination and anti-women attitudes are still prevalent on worksites, despite the fact that sex discrimination is illegal. According to a USA Today analysis of U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Bureau of Labor Statistics data, female construction workers had the second-highest rate of sexual harassment complaints per 100,000 employed women. Female miners had the highest rate.

     Sexual harassment complaints at worksites range from subtle forms such as being stared at or seeing “pinups” of naked and nearly naked women to more blatant forms such as unwanted sexual remarks (including comments on appearance), being touched in sexual ways and sexual assault.

     One illustration of how sexual harassment is an occupational safety and health issue can be found in a recent settlement between a construction company and 14 employees, seven of them female. According to the Department of Labor, L&M Construction permitted sexual harassment, retaliated against workers who complained about a hostile work environment and interfered with a federal investigation. During a workers’ outreach forum in May 2012, department officials were alerted to complaints of sexual harassment that included inappropriate touching, lewd acts, sexual gestures, comments and propositions directed at female employees of L&M between May 1, 2011, and April 30, 2012. Officers discovered that the company terminated nine employees for complaining about the hostile work environment created by this harassment and then fired five more workers to prevent them from being interviewed during a compliance review.

Hazard reporting – The work culture described above—combined with female construction workers’ more tenuous hold on their jobs than that of the more senior workers or male workers—often deters women from reporting unsafe or unhealthy working conditions. Women in a NIOSH study reported that they could not bring up the issue of proper restrooms or worksite safety, because doing so might threaten their jobs.

Access to sanitary facilities – Access to sanitary facilities is frequently a problem on new construction sites. Temporary facilities are usually unisex, often without privacy and generally not maintained well. The availability and cleanliness of restroom facilities are major concerns for women. According to a survey report by Chicago Women in Trades (CWIT), 80 percent of female construction workers have encountered worksites with dirty toilets or no toilets. Respondents to the CWIT survey said that facilities, when available, were filthy or were some distance from the site. Unclean facilities and the avoidance of using them can result in disease, including urinary tract infections (which can happen when a person delays urinating). Because of this, women report that they avoid drinking water on the job, risking heat stress and other health problems. Courts have found that the lack of appropriate sanitary facilities is discriminatory and violates OSHA standards.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) and clothing (PPC) fitment – Many women in nontraditional jobs, such as the construction trades, complain of ill-fitting PPC and PPE. Clothing or equipment that is not sized properly or does not fit can compromise personal safety and the protection offered. It also may not function effectively in the manner for which it was designed. This can cause serious health and safety risks for women.

     Ill-fitting PPE may be due to unavailability (i.e., manufacturers don’t make it or distributors don’t stock it), limited availability or lack of knowledge among employers and workers about where equipment designed for a woman’s body structure can be obtained.

Ergonomics – Studies have shown that to reduce work-related musculoskeletal disorders, tools, materials and equipment should be designed based in part on ergonomic considerations. Tools and equipment, like clothing, are often designed to be used by average-sized men.

     Handle size and tool weight are designed to accommodate the size and strength of men, yet the average hand length of women is 0.8 inches shorter than the average man’s. A woman’s grip strength averages two-thirds of the power of a man’s grip. The grips of tools are typically too thick. Tools like pliers require a wide grasp, which puts too much pressure on the palm, leading to the loss of functional efficiency. In addition, women do not receive training on how best to use tools and equipment designed for men.

Reproductive hazards – There is inadequate information on the extent to which female construction workers are exposed to reproductive hazards in the workplace. Reproductive hazards are defined as chemical, physical or biological agents that can cause either reproductive impairment or adverse developmental effects on fetuses.

     Only a few agents or conditions have been identified as being capable of producing structural abnormalities or birth defects, with a fraction of those being common to construction sites (e.g., polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), hypothermia and, for hazardous waste workers, ionizing radiation). In addition, several agents such as lead, solvents and pesticides have been recognized to affect sperm development. The vast majority of construction workers are of reproductive age and are at risk of potential harm if exposed to chemicals and conditions which have not been fully studied with respect to their reproductive hazards in humans.

     Some employers find it easier to resolve potential problems by denying jobs to women, especially pregnant women. This is in spite of Supreme Court rulings prohibiting employers from continuing this practice. While these actions may be well-intended, their effect is needless limitation on work opportunities for women. This can lead to discriminatory treatment and result in a female construction worker hiding her pregnancy, possibly endangering herself and/or her unborn child.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that, in a one-year period, 41 percent of female construction workers suffered from gender harassment.As increasing numbers of women enter the construction trades, concerns about their health and safety are growing. In addition to the primary safety and health hazards faced by all construction workers, there are safety and health issues specific to female construction workers. The small percentage of females within the construction trades and the serious health and safety problems unique to female construction workers have a circular effect. Safety and health problems in construction create barriers to women entering and remaining in this field. In turn, the small numbers of women workers on construction worksites foster an environment in which these safety and health problems arise or continue. Source: OSHA


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Why Cyber Liability Insurance


        Cyber Liability Insurance

Technlogytop

A traditional business liability policy is extremely unlikely to protect against most cyber exposures. Standard commercial policies are written to insure against injury or physical loss and will do little, if anything, to shield you from electronic damages and the associated costs they may incur. Exposures are vast, ranging from the content you put on your website to stored customer data. Awareness of the potential cyber liabilities your company faces is essential to managing risk through proper coverage.

As technology becomes increasingly important for successful business operations, the value of a strong Cyber Liability Insurance policy will only continue to grow. The continued rise in the amount of information stored and transferred electronically has resulted in a remarkable increase in the potential exposures facing businesses. In an age where a stolen laptop or hacked account can instantly compromise the personal data of thousands of customers, or an ill-advised post on a social media site can be read by hundreds in a matter of minutes, protecting yourself from cyber liability is just as important as some of the more traditional exposures businesses account for in their general commercial liability policies.

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Important Snowplow Contract Elements to Consider



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  • • Acquire your subcontractors’ Certificates of Insurance to make sure their liability limits are comparable to yours
  • • Check driving records for new hires and only use employees with prior experience
  • • Contractor should advise precise location and time of operation
  • • Contract should clarify property owner’s obligations
  • • Contractor should not be responsible for determining when work should be done
  • • Refrain from taking responsibility for property owner’s carelessness
  • • Steer clear of around-the-clock ice and property surveillance
Be Sure to Specify Your Obligations, Such As:

  • • Will only plow property when at least two inches of snow has fallen
  • • If requested by property owner, contractor will discharge salt or sand for separate fee
  • • Property owner will instruct where to pile snow
  • • Property owner will outline which surfaces are to be plowed
Proper snowplow contracts can help prevent your liability from piling up. It is important to have a clear contract for the work you will perform. Contractors should evaluate contracts to ensure all responsibilities and expectations are made clear to avoid any confusion.

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