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Check out this free upcoming webinar from Society Insurance about " Reducing Outdoor Slip, Trip and Falls"

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Reducing Outdoor Slip, Trip and Falls
Friday, April 28, 1 p.m. - 2 p.m. CDT
Click here to register.

  • Slips, trips and falls are the second-leading cause of employee injuries nationally, with an increase of 41 percent since 1998.
  • Slips, trips and falls are also a leading cause of customer injuries.
  • Slips, trips and falls are not just a winter concern!

Doing everything possible to prevent slip, trip and falls is not just a priority – it's a necessity!

This live webinar focuses on identifying hazards that could cause outdoor slip, trip and falls. Society's risk management experts will also discuss corrective actions that can help to reduce the occurrence of these incidents and injury losses.

Register now and pass it on! All are welcome and every business can benefit from the information in this webinar.


3 things managers can’t say after FMLA requests

Do you know which question you can ask any employee requesting FMLA leave?  Look at this great article from HR Morning about what employers can and cannot say to an employee on FMLA leave Christian Schappel

You know when employees request FMLA leave, those conversations have to stick to the facts about what the workers need and why. The problem is, a lot of managers don’t know that — and here’s proof some of their stray comments can cost you dearly in court. 

Three employers are currently fighting expensive FMLA interference lawsuits because their managers didn’t stick to the facts when subordinates requested leave.

Don’t say it!

The real kick in the pants: Two of the lawsuits were filed by employees who’d received all of the FMLA leave they requested — and the courts said the interference claims were still valid. How’s that even possible? Keep reading to learn about the latest litigation trend in the FMLA world.

Here’s what happened in each case (don’t worry, we’ve cut to the chase in all of them) — beginning with the words/phrases managers must avoid when a worker requests leave:

No. 1: ‘We expect you to be here’

James Hefti, a tool designer, was in hot water with his company, Brunk Industries, a metal stamping company.

Reason: Let’s just say he called a lot of people at work “my b____.”

After he ignored multiple warnings from management to stop using obscenities at work, the company planned to fire him. But it didn’t pull the trigger immediately.

Then, just prior to his termination, Hefti requested FMLA leave to care for his son, who was suffering from various mental health problems.

His manager, upon hearing of Hefti’s request, told him Brunk paid for his insurance and thus expected him to be at work.

When Hefti was fired a few days later, he sued for FMLA interference.

The company tried to get the suit thrown out, claiming his conduct and ignorance of repeated warnings gave it grounds to terminate him. But it didn’t win.

The court said the manager’s interactions with Hefti did raise the question of whether he was fired for requesting FMLA leave, so the judge sent the case to trial.

Cite: Hefti v. Brunk Industries

No. 2: ‘It’s inconsiderate’

Lisa Kimes, a public safety officer for the University of Scranton’s Department of Public Safety, requested FMLA leave to care for her son, who had diabetes.

Kimes was granted all the time off she requested. But in a meeting with her supervisor she was told that since the department was short staffed it was “inconsiderate” of her to take time off.

When her relationship with the department soured, she sued claiming FMLA interference.

The department tried to get her suit tossed before it went to trial. It had a seemingly reasonable argument: She got all of the leave she requested, so it couldn’t have interfered with her FMLA rights.

But Kimes argued that her supervisor’s comments prevented her from requesting more FMLA leave – thus the interference lawsuit.

The court sided with Kimes. It said she had a strong argument, so the judge sent her case to trial as well.

Suit: Kimes v. University of Scranton

No. 3: ‘I’m mad’

Judy Gordon was an officer with U.S. Capitol Police when she requested intermittent FMLA leave for periods of incapacitating depression following her husband’s suicide.

But before Gordon used any FMLA leave, a captain in the police department told her that an upper-level manager had said he was “mad” about FMLA requests in general, and he’d vowed to “find a problem” with Gordon’s request.

Then later, when she actually went to take leave, her manager became irate, denied her request and demanded a doctor’s note. He later relented and granted the request.

In fact, she was granted all the leave she requested.

Still, she filed an FMLA interference suit. And, again, the employer fought to get it thrown out before a trial on the grounds that Gordon had no claim because all of her leave requests were granted.

But this case was sent to trial, too. The judge said her superiors’ conduct could have a “reasonable tendency” to interfere with her FMLA rights by deterring her from exercising them — i.e., the comments made to her could’ve persuaded her not to request additional leave time to which she was entitled.

Suit: Gordon v. United States Capitol Police

Just the facts, please

Based on a thorough read-through of the court documents, each of these employers appeared to have a pretty good chance of winning summary judgment and getting the lawsuits thrown out before an expensive trial — that is, if it weren’t for the managers’ stray comments in each.

These cases have created two important teaching points for HR:

  1. Courts are allowing FMLA interference claims to be made if it appears an employee may have been coaxed into not requesting leave he or she was entitled to, and
  2. You never know when a stray remark will come back to bite you.

The best way to stay safe: Re-emphasize that managers must stick to the facts when employees request FMLA leave, as well as keep their opinions and other observations to themselves.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Schappel C. (2017 March 17). 3 things managers can't say after FMLA requests [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/3-things-you-cant-say-after-fmla-requests/


2014 Work-Related Illness & Injury Statistics

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released statistics on work-related injuries and illnesses in 2014. According to the BLS, two key factors are used to measure the severity of these injuries and illnesses:

* Incidence rate: The number of cases, per 10,000 full-time employees, of injuries and illnesses that require time away from work.

* Average days away from work: The average number of days an employee spends away from work to recover from an injury or illness. The BLS found that the overall incidence rate of nonfatal occupational injury and illness cases in 2014 was 107.1, down from a rate of 109.4 in 2013. The number of days away from work was approximately the same in both years. Additionally, the BLS detailed the most common workplace injuries and illnesses, as well as the most commonly affected parts of the body.

Common Injuries and Illnesses
Sprains, strains and tears were the most common workplace injury in 2014. The incidence rate for these injuries was approximately 38.9 cases per 10,000 full-time employees, which represents a decrease from 2013’s rate of 40.2 cases. However, these are still significant injuries; on average, workers with sprains, strains or tears needed 10 days away from work to recover.

The statistics also show that soreness and pain were common injuries, but generally required fewer days away from work.

Commonly Affected Parts of the Body
The upper extremities (e.g., hands, shoulders) were most affected by injuries and illnesses in 2014, with an incidence rate of 32. Hands accounted for 40 percent of those cases, the most among upper extremities. However, shoulder injuries and illnesses required an average of 26 days away from work to recover, more than any other part of the body.

Musculoskeletal Disorders
The BLS specifically noted that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) accounted for 32 percent of all workplace-related injuries and illnesses in 2014. Although the incident rate of MSDs was lower than it had been in 2013, these injuries can affect employees in any industry.

For more information on preventing workplace injuries and illnesses, contact Hierl Insurance Inc. today.


OSHA CORNERSTONES Winter 2017

OSHA Publishes New Rule Regarding Slip, Trip and Fall Protection

OSHA recently published a final rule to update the standards regarding walking-working surfaces, as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) meant to protect employees from slip, trip and fall hazards. According to the agency, the final rule is meant to increase consistency between the general and construction industries’ fall protection standards, and will allow employers to choose the system that works best for their workplaces.

The final rule applies to all general industry workplaces and covers all walking-working surfaces—any horizontal or vertical surface on or through which an employee walks, works or gains access to a workplace location. The new standards for these surfaces address the following topics:

  •  Surface conditions and housekeeping
  •  Application of loads
  •  Access to and egress
  •  Inspection, maintenance and repair

Additionally, the final rule also indicates that employers must ensure that employees have fall and falling object protection in certain areas and during certain operations or activities.

Employers will be required to train employees about the requirements of the new rule. And, while the training employers provide to their employees is not required to be site specific, it does need to address the hazards to which employees may be exposed at their workplace.

The final rule becomes effective on Jan. 17, 2017, although OSHA will allow additional time for employers to comply with some standards. For more information on the final rule, including a full compliance schedule, call us at 920-921-5921, and ask to see our compliance bulletin, “OSHA Final Rule on Slips, Trips and Fall Protection.”

Large Number of Trench Collapse Fatalities in 2016 May Shift OSHA’s Focus

Since OSHA published safety standards regarding trenching and excavation safety in 1989, fatalities involving trench collapses have fallen dramatically. However, OSHA has reported that 24 employees died as a result of trench collapses since the beginning 2016—more than double the number that occurred in 2015.

Although OSHA is aware of the alarming number of fatalities, the agency still has not determined how safety issues involving trench collapses will be addressed. However, OSHA believes that simply making its staff aware of the problem isn’t enough.

In Tennessee, an employee died after a trench collapsed—the first such incident to occur in the state in more than five years. As a result, OSHA’s state agency in Tennessee now considers excavation hazards an “imminent danger” and has pulled a state inspector off of a general scheduled inspection to investigate trench exposures. However, it’s unknown if OSHA will extend these practices into other states.

Although OSHA’s trench and excavation standards are meant to protect employees, it’s important for employers to take a proactive role by training employees on how to recognize trench hazards. Additionally, it’s likely that OSHA will focus on compliance with trench safety standards as a way to reduce the number of fatalities in 2017.

Two Major OSHA Rules to Consider in Early 2017

OSHA frequently introduces or revises safety rules to remain up to date with new technologies and workplace procedures. In early 2017, two new major rules regarding injury and illness reporting will be in effect that all employers and establishments should be aware of.

OSHA’s electronic reporting rule will require some establishments to electronically submit data from their work-related injury records to OSHA. This rule becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2017. Under the new rule, establishments with 250 or more employees must electronically submit data from their OSHA 300, 300A and 301 forms. OSHA will then remove any personally identifiable information (PII) and post the establishment-specific data on its website.

In response to the electronic reporting rule, OSHA released an anti-retaliation rule that went into effect on Dec. 1, 2016. This rule includes two major requirements for employers:

  • Employers must inform their employees that they have a right to report work-related injuries and illnesses without any form of retaliation.
  • Employer must ensure that “reasonable” procedures are in place for employees to report work-related injuries and illnesses.

Because these two new rules may dramatically change how establishments and employees report injuries and illnesses, it’s important for employers to understand their reporting responsibilities. For more information, contact us today and ask for our two compliance bulletins, “OSHA Issues Final Rule on Electronic Reporting” and “OSHA’s Antiretaliation Rules to Take Effect Dec. 1, 2016.”

See the original article Here.


Workplace Holiday Party Etiquette

Here are some fun tips for your next office party from Society Insurance

Your organization’s holiday party is right around the corner, and it’s time to eat, drink and be merry! In moderation, that is.

Letting loose and partying with your fellow coworkers may sound necessary after a long year, but let’s remember the fact that you do have a professional reputation to maintain. Believe me, it’s still going to be about business, no matter how festive the occasion is. Here is some advice to help the evening go as smoothly as possible.

  • Having fun is encouraged! No one wants to go to a dull holiday party, but the key to successful fun is moderation. The last thing you want to do is indulge in a few too many drinks and think the next day, “I can’t believe I said that to my boss!” Monitor your cocktails and you should be golden.
  • Make sure you are dressed appropriately for the occasion. That fun red cocktail dress may not be the most proper choice considering you will be with all of your colleagues, and most likely your CEO and VPs. Hold onto that professional image you’ve worked hard to build!
  • Have your ducks in a row prior to the party. Find out if you can bring spouses or guests, and make sure you get them on the guest list as soon as possible. Knowing where and when the party starts is always a fundamental piece of information that can help avoid a potentially awkward situation.
  • Be sure to thank those who put in the effort to plan the event. It’s always nice to know your hard work was noticed and appreciated.

Happy Holidays, and we hope you have fun during your festivities!

See the original article Here.

Source:

Society Insurance. (2016 December 7). Workplace holiday party etiquette [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.societyinsurance.com/workplace-holiday-party-etiquette/


Ballot Measures Expand Marijuana Use in 8 States

Ballot measures to expand the use of marijuana passed in eight states last month, bringing the total number of states allowing some form of legalized marijuana use to 28, including the District of Columbia.

The following offers a brief summary of those ballot measures:

  •  Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota passed ballot measures that allowed or expanded the use of medicinal marijuana.
  • California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada passed ballot measures that legalized recreational marijuana use.
  • Voters in a ninth state, Arizona, rejected a ballot measure that would have legalized recreational marijuana use.

What remains unclear is what stance the Trump administration will take regarding enforcement of federal laws. Currently, marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and distributing marijuana is a federal offense. However, the Obama administration has been relaxed in its enforcement of federal marijuana laws.

Employers may want to review their employment policies regarding marijuana use, as well as consider local and state laws. For more information on what employers’ rights and responsibilities are regarding employee marijuana use, contact Hierl Insurance Inc. and ask for our Compliance Bulletin: Marijuana Use Legalized in 8 States

88 Percent of Employees Lack Knowledge to Prevent Cyber Incidents

According to a recent report, 88 percent of employees lack the understanding necessary to prevent common cyber incidents. That report is based on the results of a survey given to more than 1,000 employees across the Unites States, and was designed to test the level of knowledge and awareness of cyber security among employees by asking them to name proper behaviors in given circumstances. The survey covered eight risk domains and assigned three risk profiles—Risk, Novice and Hero—to indicate an employee’s privacy and security awareness IQ.

Key findings from the report include the following:

  • Only 12 percent of respondents earned a “Hero” profile, while 72 percent were given a “Novice” profile and 16 percent were given a “Risk” profile.
  •  Almost 40 percent of respondents disposed of a password hint using unsecure means.
  • About 25 percent of respondents failed to recognize a sample phishing email, even though it came from a questionable sender and included an attachment.

This report highlights one of the key vulnerabilities of any organization—employees’ lack of basic cyber security knowledge. Regardless of other hardware or network protections, employees can and will allow cyber criminals into an organization, often without even realizing it.

Fortunately, employee cyber training can help reduce this risk to your organization. For employee cyber training resources, contact Hierl Insurance Inc. today and ask about our Employee Cyber Training Manual.

BLS Reports Injuries and Illnesses Continue to Decrease

The latest numbers released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that the rate of workplace injuries and illnesses are the lowest they’ve been in 13 years.

The BLS’s Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII) showed that, in 2015, the rate for private industry workers was 3.0 recordable cases per 100 full-time equivalent workers—down from 3.2 in 2014. The rate for state and local government workers, conversely, increased slightly, from 5.0 in 2014 to 5.1 in 2015. Combined, the overall rate dropped from 3.4 in 2014 to 3.3 in 2015.

Despite an increasing population, the total number of cases dropped as well. The BLS estimates that there were 3.66 million injury and illness cases in 2015, down from 3.68 million in 2014.

The most notable outlier was in the public health care sector. For instance, public nursing home workers experienced an injury and illness rate of 12.6, while their private sector counterparts experienced a rate of 6.8.

Download original file Here


15 Warning Signs of Worker's Compensation Fraud

The WC (workers' compensation) insurance system is a no-fault method of paying workers for medical expenses and wage losses due to on-the-job injuries. While the majority of WC claims are truthful, the National Insurance Crime Bureau reports that billions of dollars of false claims are submitted each year. To help you detect possible WC fraud, experience shows a claim may be fraudulent if two or more of the following factors are present:

  1. Monday Morning: The alleged injury occurs either “first thing Monday morning,” or late on a Friday afternoon but not reported until Monday.
  2. Employment Change: The reported accident occurs immediately before or after a strike, a layoff, the end of a big project or at the conclusion of seasonal work.
  3. Job Termination: If an employee files a post-termination claim:
    - Was the alleged injury reported by the employee prior to termination?
    - Did the employee exhaust his/her unemployment benefits prior to claiming workers’ compensation benefits?
  4. History of Changes: The claimant has a history of frequently changing physicians, addresses and places of employment.
  5. Medical History: The employee has a pre-existing medical condition that is similar to the alleged work injury.
  6. No Witnesses: The accident has no witnesses, and the employee's own description does not logically support the cause of injury.
  7. Conflicting Descriptions: The employee's description of the accident conflicts with the medical history or First Report of Injury.
  8. History of Claims: The claimant has a history of numerous suspicious or litigated claims.
  9. Treatment is Refused: The claimant refuses a diagnostic procedure to confirm the nature or extent of an injury.
  10. Late Reporting: The employee delays reporting the claim without a reasonable explanation.
  11. Hard to Reach: You have difficulty contacting a claimant at home, when he/she is allegedly disabled.
  12. Moonlighting: Does the employee have another paying job or do volunteer work?
  13. Unusual Coincidence: There is an unusual coincidence between the employee’s alleged date of injury and his/her need for personal time off.
  14. Financial Problems: The employee has tried to borrow money from co-workers or the company, or requested pay advances.
  15. Hobbies: The employee has a hobby that could cause an injury similar to the alleged work injury.

Remember, these warning signs are simply indicators. If you are suspicious of a claim, alert your insurance carrier immediately.


Have You Taken Any PTO Lately?

Original post benefitspro.com

Americans might be workaholics, but not necessarily because they’re in love with work. Studies show Americans yearn for vacation time, but some of them can’t bring themselves to take it.

A survey commissioned by Namely, a payroll and benefits company, finds that a majority of U.S. workers intend to take 15 days of vacation per year. It also found that 40 percent of employees have or would be willing to sacrifice pay to gain more paid time off. Similarly, more than two-thirds of workers said that vacation policies were at least somewhat critical when considering a new job.

But as a statement accompanying the survey from the company points out, another recent study found that the average American worker only take 11 days off per year.

The lower average is largely driven by the fact that many employees receive far less than three weeks of vacation a year, but there is some evidence to suggest that some workers who are entitled to generous PTO do not make use of it.

A quarter of  workers in the Namely survey cited strict company policies as an obstacle to taking vacation, while a fifth cited “stress at the thought of missing time at work” and 16 percent reported a “negative perception” in their organization of taking time off.

“What this tells us is that despite the best intentions to take large chunks of time away from work and unplug from technology, employees are feeling confined and are using vacation time differently than previous generations,” said Matt Straz, founder and CEO of Namely.

In recent years, a number of major companies have made a point of offering generous vacation benefits. Some offer unlimited vacation, while others have put in place policies to encourage workers to make use of their vacation, including bonuses for taking time off.


Employee Relations: The Other Side of Office Politics

Original post ubabenefits.com

Everyone is aware of office politics, but what about politics in the office? Whether you label yourself as a republican, democrat, independent, liberal, conservative, or anything else, it’s best to keep your opinions to yourself. During an election year, people can become quite passionate about which candidate they prefer. Throw a particular issue into the mix, and things can get downright heated. All this creates the perfect storm for getting fired.

It seems so easy to just keep quiet, yet so few people are able to stop when it comes to expressing their political opinions. Have you ever heard people arguing during a meeting? It can be much worse when there’s a clash of politics. At best, espousing an opinion may make others uncomfortable. At worst, that person now becomes alienated or even terminated.

Employees may think that their political opinions are protected as free speech under the First Amendment.  They are wrong! The government may not censor your speech, but an employer has every right to enforce a ban in the workplace. In fact, in “at-will employment” states, employers can fire someone for any reason not prohibited by federal, state, or local laws.

In an article titled, “Electing to Talk Politics at Work has Serious Implications” on the website Workforce, the author discusses that a business owner or boss may easily fire someone if their political opinions are different. Yet, even if they align, an employee still may be fired if they cross the line from good to poor judgement.

Some examples of poor judgement would be if two or more employees get into an argument over politics.  Doing so wastes valuable work time and usually has a negative effect on morale. If an employee uses discriminatory language, such as an inappropriate comment about a candidate’s gender, race, age, etc., then an employer has an obligation to address this. Otherwise, the employer may be held liable for promoting a hostile work environment.

And just because employees aren’t at their place of work doesn’t mean they should let down their guard. If an employee is representing the company at an event, at a vendor, or at a meeting with another company, they can be labeled unfavorably by discussing their political views. Plus, if an employee is being interviewed, even if it’s at a political rally, they would be well-advised to avoid anything that identifies them as working for a specific employer such as the company name or logo on a shirt, hat, uniform, etc.

Most everyone has formed an opinion on a few political issues, and some of those opinions may be stronger than others. Regardless, it’s best to just walk away from any political discussion in the workplace. If an employee does decide to jump into the fire and discuss his or her side of the subject, then it’s best to think before speaking or that person may argue themself out of a job.

Weeding Out Low Performers

Original post ubabenefits.com

Every workplace has its fair share of slackers and goof-offs, but it’s what an employer does with those employees that solidifies its corporate culture as one of high or low performance.

Employers that ignore low-performing employees risk more than just productivity. In an article titled, “Study: Beware ‘Toxic’ Influence of Low-Performers” on the Society For Human Resource Management’s website, research found that low-performing employees hurt overall morale and increased their co-workers' workload. Furthermore, innovation and motivation are stifled and mediocrity is deemed acceptable.

What may be of most concern is that a mere 60 percent of survey respondents looked at their co-workers and would rehire them. Their motto should have been: we may hire the best, but we keep the rest.

Successful companies know how to weed out their weakest links, while rewarding and retaining high-performing employees. They know that employees who perform poorly can cause high-performing employees to seek jobs elsewhere. Successful companies are able to identify their best employees, then they establish incentives, opportunities, or other ways of ensuring they stay.

So, how do you identify the best, or even the best of the best? It’s not as easy as it may seem. These are the top 10 percent to 15 percent of the organization. A company must first determine a set of guidelines that mark an employee as a high performer. Once the guidelines are in place, observation of these employee traits should be done in order to ensure uniformity and that the guidelines were set correctly.

Now that a company knows what it expects in its employees, it’s time to announce that to everyone so that they either know they’re doing the right things, or can make a plan for improvement. At the same time, employers should conduct surveys on employee satisfaction. Their focus should be on their top performers and what makes them happy.

Plenty of data should be collected regarding the criteria that not only make an employee a top performer at the company, but also what he or she prefers in terms of job satisfaction. Going forward, this data should be matched to potential recruiting candidates for new positions. In addition, surveys that measure the quality of a new hire (i.e., whether the recruiter hired the right candidate) should be completed at predetermined intervals of three, six, nine, or 12 months.

In jobs where there is high demand and lots of attrition, correctly recruiting and retaining the best performers could be the key difference in a company’s success.