Part 2 in my discussion of typical wedding insurance policies, focusing this time on Cancellation or Postponement Coverage.
Q: We are re-opening the office and have some employees who are vaccinated while others are not. Do we have to implement any different procedures or policies?
A: Our best recommendation is to follow the current guidelines established by the CDC, OSHA, and other health & safety experts. Right now, their guidance includes maintaining most of the safety procedures implemented last year: social distancing (possibly with barriers), wearing masks when walking through the workplace or within 6’ of others, limited use of common areas, hand washing / sanitizing, and regular disinfecting of the workplace. This guidance is the same for vaccinated and unvaccinated people so you do not need to implement different policies based on an employee’s vaccination status or philosophy.
In situations where CDC guidance differs for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, such as the need to quarantine after travel or exposure to someone with COVID-19, you can implement different procedures as long as you are not targeting or discriminating against a particular group.
Federal and in some instances state and local law protects several groups of people in the workplace based on their sexual or gender identity. Given the newness of these protections, as well as the diversity of characteristics and people within this group, some employers are finding it difficult to know how to react to and accommodate the needs of this group.
LGBTQ+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer with the “+” representing the numerous other sexualities and gender identities covered by this broad term. While employers are not required to know all of the terms, they are required to be accepting, treat an employee equally, and protect them from discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.
DEI is a term encapsulating the goals companies should have when creating policies, procedures, and practices with respect to employees in any protected group (including race, national origin, age, and/or LGBTQ+). While descriptions vary slightly from source-to-source, common definitions include (as found at DEI Expert Hub):
- Diversity – Having different types of people from a wide-range of identities with different perspectives, experiences, etc.
- Inclusion – Putting diversity into action by creating an environment of involvement, respect, and connection – where the richness of ideas, backgrounds, and perspectives are harnessed to create value.
- Equity – Removing the predictability of success or failure that currently correlates with any social or cultural factor, examining biases, and creating inclusive environments.
The basics – legal protection:
On June 15, 2020, the US Supreme Court issued a landmark 6-3 decision that includes sexual orientation, including LGBTQ+ employees, as protected under Title VII. This means that terminating or taking other negative employment actions against an LGTBQ employee based on their sexual or gender identity constitutes sex discrimination and therefore is against the law. While several states, counties, and cities had these protections prior to the ruling, the US Supreme Court’s decision makes it the law for every employer who falls under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (which applies to most employers).
In response to the US Supreme Court’s decision, the minimum action all employers should take is to:
- Review and revise their non-discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, and non-retaliation policies to include protections for LGBTQ+ groups relating to sexual orientation, gender expression, and transitioning status.
- Update other policies which may be impacted (directly or indirectly) by sex and gender stereotypes, such as dress code, benefit coverage, job requirements, and leave entitlement.
- Ensure all policies and procedures are applied equally to both sexes without regard to sexual orientation, gender identity, or transgender status.
- Train all managers and employees that any and all discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, and retaliation violates the law and therefore company policy, including the newly-protected groups.
- Enforce all policies fairly and discipline any employee, manager, client, or vendor who discriminates, intentionally or unintentionally, against an employee in a group protected under Title VII or any other law such as ADA, ADEA, USERRA, and IRCA.
We encourage our clients to go further than simply “following the law” to experience added benefits. According to research, fostering DEI within the workplace has been found to increase company cash flow by 2.3 times and revenue by 19%, and team performance increases by 30%. Additional research shows that employees in an inclusive organization have higher job satisfaction, lower turnover, higher productivity, higher employee morale, improved creativity and innovation, improved problem solving, increased organizational flexibility, and all-around better quality of work life. By hiring, training, and promoting employees so they are active participants in policy and decision-making, employers have ready access to various perspectives, ideas, and experiences to strengthen their business practices.
Find reliable resources such as the National Center of Transgender Equality to learn what the LGBTQ+ statuses mean and what LGBTQ+ individuals go through. While every LGBTQ+ person is different, this research will help you examine your policies, practices, and procedures for places of improvement in preparation for an employee asking for accommodation.
Some accommodations may include:
- Use the name they prefer, even if different than what is on their documentation.
- Use their preferred pronouns which could be “he / him / his”, “she / her / hers”, or “they / them / theirs” or perhaps no pronoun at all.
- Offer assistance when a person is transitioning into the gender they identify with from the one of their birth. This may be offering a private bathroom or updating their email address.
- Allow flexibility in your dress code to allow individuals to wear clothing according to their preference rather than their gender identity or gender of their birth.
- Extend that flexibility to your personal appearance policy with regards to hair styles, makeup, behavior, voice, or body characteristics.
You should be understanding and respectful, asking for their guidance and help along the way. Your goal should be to learn to make a better workplace for them and everyone else. Remember, it is not the responsibility of the LGBTQ+ community to teach you – it is your responsibility to learn.
Some critical don’ts include:
- Do not assume anything and do not treat all LGBTQ+ employees the same. Let each LGBTQ+ employee ask and explain, then come up with a plan together.
- Do not allow other employees to gossip or treat LGBTQ+ employees differently or exclude them from workplace interactions.
- Do not allow managers to overlook LGBTQ+ employees when it comes to advancement, training, and salary increases. Performance should be evaluated fairly and consistently based on essential job-based aspects, not preferences or stereotypes.
- Do not allow third-parties such as clients and vendors to harass or discriminate against your LGBTQ+ employees. As with other protected groups, you are responsible to protect employees from harassment, discrimination, or sexual harassment from anyone, even non-employees.
By actively creating more opportunities and fostering a productive environment for LGBTQ+ employees, you will reap tangible benefits. Being open to the possibilities will allow you to discover new ways to grow your business and keep your best employees.
If you have any questions about how to navigate the LGBTQ+ landscape or how to respond to an employee’s request, reach out to us at Affinity HR Group. Visit our website to learn more about our services or connect with us at contact@AffinityHRGroup.com
By Paige McAllister, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Vice President for Compliance – Affinity HR Group, Inc.
Paige McAllister is a contributor for Affinity HR Group, Inc., Big I NY’s affiliated human resources partner. Affinity HR Group specializes in providing human resources assistance to associations such as Big I NY and their member companies. To learn more, visit www.affinityHRgroup.com.
Question: We have an insured with a homeowners insurance (HO3) policy, and she recently filed a theft claim for 350 pounds of hemp that she had stored in her home. She claims that the state's Department of Agriculture, state police, and the local sheriff conspired to steal her hemp worth a large amount of money that she had been growing to sell. How do you think the policy would respond?
Because of job losses and shrinking payrolls during the pandemic recession, the workers' compensation industry's net written premium dropped 10% to $42 billion in 2020. However, private insurers posted a profitable calendar year combined ratio of 87, the industry's fourth straight year with a combined ratio below 90.
Based on the well-known fact that humans respond particularly well to chocolate – aka, incentives – what are cyber insurers offering to customers to elicit better cyber hygiene and to encourage more comprehensive cyber risk management?
When a new ransomware group popped up on the scene last year, the hackers did what's in vogue for digital extortion organizations these days: They issued a press release.
The hackers had already made “millions of dollars" in profit working as affiliates for other groups when they decided to go out on their own, the announcement said. “We created DarkSide because we didn't find the perfect product. Now we have it."
Homeowners are more vulnerable than ever to a wide range of cyber-related risks. But at home, many take more of a casual attitude towards cybersecurity, perhaps because they think their personal information is less valuable than the commercial information they're dealing with every day at work. This will be an up and coming market for agents to consider for their personal lines customers.
The huge demand for pandemic cover is forcing insurers to puzzle out how they can add pandemic risk back to policies without making them prohibitively expensive.
While photos and AI were used pre-pandemic just over a year ago, the industry was heavily reliant on in-person interactions and touchpoints — staff reporting to call centers to deliver customer support, appraisers appearing in-person to inspect vehicles and generate estimates, and auto shops checking-in vehicles in need of repair. Things changed in an instant.
It's a pretty safe bet that “active hurricane season" won't be first on their lists of reasons why it was a memorable year. But for the people in the business of watching hurricanes, it was a year for the record books. 2020 was the most active hurricane season on record.
From casual Fridays to after-work drinks, weekly rituals once taken for granted are returning as you and your staff head back to the office. But it won't be easy. Covid-19's damage may be felt in the workplace long after the pandemic has receded. That's thanks to the mental and emotional toll the pandemic has taken on employees who, like everyone else, have spent the past year living in fear, isolation and sorrow.
Part one of a series, this is an overview of the coverages often found in wedding insurance policies.
This week, Governor Cuomo signed the NY-HERO Act into law, the bulk of which will go into effect on June 4th 2021. The bill mandates the Department of Labor (DOL) create sweeping regulations requiring workplace plans, standards, protective equipment, and responses to “airborne infectious diseases", which includes not just COVID-19, but potentially other airborne diseases such as the flu. The regulations could end up mandating costly equipment upgrades, disinfection procedures, modifications to work hours and schedules, and employee health screenings, to name a few. The bill allows any employee to file a civil suit against their employer for any alleged violations of the exposure plan.
Big I NY and a group of employer associations representing a wide swath of the private sector strongly opposed this bill. We urged legislative leaders to consider common-sense amendments, such as making the provisions effective only during emergencies, and eliminating private right of action. On Tuesday, Big I NY orchestrated an agent call-in campaign to individual legislators and leadership offices, resulting in over sixty phone calls. Ultimately, the Governor and legislature agreed to amend the bill to require the DOL to provide more specific guidelines in developing and implementing workplaces standards, and include provide employers with a “cure period" during which they can remedy violations before they can be sued. Greater detail around these amendments and a timeframe for their implementation are not currently known.
While these amendments are positive, we remain concerned that even the amended NY-HERO act will prove burdensome and challenging for employers to comply with. We will keep you apprised of developments surrounding the proposed amendments and promulgation of various regulations.
Contact Scott Hobson with questions
The question comes into the Geek CaveTM often enough that I thought it would be worth posting a reminder here. In New York and Connecticut, the law prohibits lenders from requiring home mortgage borrowers to buy dwelling insurance limits that are greater than the home's replacement cost. Your Resident Insurance GeekTM has not had to answer this question since ... yesterday.
Here is chapter and verse. First, New York Banking Regulations Section 38.9 states:
No mortgage banker or exempt organization shall require any mortgagor, in connection with the granting of a mortgage loan, to obtain a hazard insurance policy in excess of the replacement cost of the improvements on the property as a condition for the granting of such mortgage loan.
In this context, the term "mortgage loan" means "a loan made to one or more individuals primarily for personal, family or household use ..." This prohibition does not apply to commercial property insurance.
The regulation also requires the lender to disclose this prohibition to the borrower.
Similarly, Connecticut General Statutes Section 36a-757 states:
No mortgage lender shall, in connection with any application for a mortgage loan in this state which is secured by mortgage on residential real estate located in this state, require any prospective mortgagor to obtain by purchase or otherwise a fire insurance policy, flood insurance policy, other extended coverage policy, or any combination thereof, in excess of the replacement value of the covered premises as a condition for the granting of such mortgage.
Again, this applies only to personal insurance, not to commercial property insurance.
The next time a mortgage lender tries to force one of your clients to buy $1.3 million in coverage on a house that would cost $500,000 to rebuild, do not hesitate to inform them of these laws and regulations. If a lender wants to play in the New York and Connecticut sandboxes, these are the rules they have to follow.
Do you have someone, or are you someone, who is ready to become licensed? We offer P & C and Personal Lines licensing classes. As a matter-of-fact, we have a class kicking off on 06/08/2021. Grab a seat now!
Read this blog post
from Tim Dodge regarding fraudulently-issued insurance policies. It’s happening. As a matter-of-fact, it happened to yours truly.
2021 brings with it the 35th year
in which we’ve put together an E&O seminar. And folks, this year, we broke the mold. We conducted an “E&O mock trial”
for your educational entertainment. Starring in this epic production are our lead attorneys, Jim Keidel and Chris Weldon from KWC as well as Brian Bixby and other Big I NY / CT staff. Be prepared to be wowed. Sign up now!
Do I have a good voice? Absolutely not. Do I sing all day long? Absolutely. What’s your go to karaoke song? Mine is The Gambler by Kenny Rogers. Let me know your go to karaoke song via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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