Hiring the Disabled: What Are Reasonable Accommodations?

The question of how far an employer must go to accommodate a disabled employee is at the very heart of the Americans With Disabilities Act.  Answering that question starts with understanding the term “reasonable accommodations.”

An accommodation is any change in the physical workplace, or in the methodology usually employed to perform a job, that allows a qualified individual with a disability to apply for and hold that particular job.

 There are three categories of reasonable accommodations:

  • changes to a job application process that enable a qualified disabled applicant to be considered for the position.
  • changes to the physical work environment, or to the manner in which a job is normally performed, that permit a qualified disabled individual to perform the essential functions of that job.
  • changes that allow a disabled employee to take advantage of all of the benefits and privileges of employment in the same way that all non-disabled employees do.

The term “reasonable” refers to the change being “feasible” or “plausible.”  The only exception to an employer’s obligation to provide reasonable accommodation is if it would cause “undue hardship” to the employer.  Undue hardship means that an employer would face great difficulty or expense to make the accommodation because they lack the resources or ability to provide the requested accommodation.  Undue hardship also refers to reasonable accommodations that are so extensive, substantial, or disruptive, that they would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business.

Keep in mind that in spite of the undue hardship clause, there are still a number of reasonable accommodations that do change operations, on some level, that the employer is required to make.  The majority of them have to do with job performance:

  • Job Restructuring – While an employer never has to reassign essential functions of a job in order to accommodate a disabled employee, they are required to reassign secondary job functions that an employee is unable to perform because of a disability.  They must also change when and how any function is performed, whether it is essential or secondary, to accommodate a disabled employee.

By the same token, if an employer restructures a job to eliminate some secondary functions, the employer can require the disabled employee to assume other secondary functions that they can perform.

  • Leave – Allowing the disabled employee to use accrued paid leave or unpaid leave when it is necessary because of their disability is another reasonable accommodation.  An employer does not have to provide paid leave beyond that which they normally provide to employees.  Employers can allow a disabled employee to use all of their accrued paid leave before providing unpaid leave.
  • Modified Scheduling – This includes changing arrival or departure times, providing periodic breaks, and changing the time certain functions are performed.  An employer must provide a modified schedule for a disabled employee, even if  they don’t provide such schedules for other employees unless it represents an undue hardship.
  • Modifying Personnel Policies – It would be a reasonable accommodation to modify a policy requiring employees to schedule vacation time in advance if a disabled employee needed to use accrued vacation time immediately because of disability- related medical problems, unless it presents an undue hardship.  In addition, an employer may be required to provide additional leave to an employee with a disability in spite of their leave policy, unless it presents an undue hardship.
  • Reassignment – Reassignment to a vacant position for which the disabled employee is qualified is also considered a reasonable accommodation.  This must be provided to an employee whose disability makes it impossible for them to continue to perform the functions of their current position.  The only exception is if the employer can prove that it would cause an undue hardship. 

Hurricane Preparedness Best Practices

It’s only May, and the southeastern United States has
already experienced two named storms.

Hurricanes are destructive and potentially deadly storms
that can cause a tremendous amount of property damage and, occasionally, people’s
lives. Longtime residents of coastal Florida, the Carolinas, Texas,
Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana are familiar with the drill – but there are
always new people and always procrastinators every year. Hurricane preparedness
takes time! Don’t leave it to the last minute. Here are some things to keep in
mind:

Hurricane season is normally June through November. But that
doesn’t mean the occasional storm can’t come early or late. Don’t get
complacent.

  • Maintain situational awareness. Keep an eye and
    ear on national and local media, and monitor developing weather systems.
  • Track the projected path of storms, using
    websites like National Hurricane Center (www.nhc.noaa.gov).
  • Do a risk assessment for your home. Assess
    vulnerability to storm surge, wind damage, and flooding. A Category 5 hurricane
    could result in storm surge of 30 feet above ground level in some areas. You
    can find a storm surge risk map at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/surge/risk/.
  • Plan on at least a three-day wait before substantial
    government assistance is in place. FEMA can’t put its trucks and trailers in
    the direct path of the storm. It takes at least three days for state and FEMA
    resources to be put in place.
  • Cut down large trees overhanging your house
    and garage. The tree could fall, taking out part of your house.
  • Expect a run on hurricane supplies in the last
    48 hours before the storm. Buy your batteries, bottled water, fuel cans,
    generators and other supplies before you need them.
  • Invest in hardened windows, shutters and doors.
  • Failing that, buy your plywood well ahead of
    time, along with a drill and screws to board up your windows.
  • Obey evacuation orders. If you receive an
    evacuation order, you are getting it because the authorities know they will not
    be able to reach you in an emergency. Many people in coastal communities are
    killed by hurricanes – or vanish forever – when they ignore orders to evacuate.
  • Keep your homeowners or renters coverage updated
    with the current replacement value of your home and belongings.
  • Inventory your belongings. You can use sites like:
    Lockboxer.com, Knowyourstuff.org (a creation of the Insurance Information
    Institute) and Stuffsafe.com. These
    resources are free or very low cost, and will facilitate compensation from your
    insurance company if your home is damaged or destroyed by a weather event.
  • Fill your gas tank. Many times, gas stations
    run out of fuel in the day or so before a storm. If you can’t fuel your
    vehicle, you can’t evacuate. And you may not be able to function.
  • Get a battery-operated radio. Don’t
    count on cell phones working for a number of days after a storm.
  • You may be without power for as long as two
    weeks and sometimes longer. Keep nonperishables, batteries and flashlights.
  • Keep your generator outdoors. Every year, people
    die from carbon monoxide poisoning because they moved their generator indoors
    to protect it from theft.
  • Understand your generator’s capacity. Generators
    have a limited load. This is especially important to know when you start up
    electrical items connected to the generator, because startups cause a spike in
    electrical demand.
  • Know your neighbors. Your neighbors may have a
    harder time preparing or evacuating from storms than you do, because of
    frailty, disability, young children, poverty or lack of reliable
    transportation.
  • Look out for family members of emergency
    responders. Police, fire department, National Guard members and medical
    personnel often have to concentrate on preparing for the mission, and have less
    time to attend to their own homes and families.
  • Know your community emergency management contacts.
    You can find an online listing at http://www.ready.gov/community-state-info
  • Don’t underestimate tropical storms. Just
    because it’s not a hurricane doesn’t mean it can’t do a lot of damage locally.
    Tropical storms can dump as much rain as a hurricane.

By understanding these guidelines, you can be an asset to
your community in the event of a hurricane, instead of a drain on emergency
resources. You will also have an easier time getting reimbursed by your
insurance company for any damage done, and be doing your part to keep overall
hurricane insurance premiums down.

Changes in First Aid Recommendations for the Workplace

First Aid training is probably the only type of instruction an employer provides that everyone in the workplace hopes never to need. However, when an injury or illness strikes, knowing how to effectively administer proper First Aid can be the deciding factor between a quick or a lengthy recovery, a temporary or permanent disability, and in some cases, life or death. That is why it is imperative to be familiar with common First Aid procedures. It is equally significant to learn the correct way to administer aid procedures so they are safe to perform.

In an attempt to discredit some of the faulty notions that have developed concerning current First Aid treatment recommendations, the American Safety & Health Institute (ASHI) along with 25 other nationally recognized organizations joined together to form the 2005 National First Aid Science Advisory Board (NFASAB). The Board’s mission was to review and evaluate the existing scientific literature on First Aid to determine the most effective treatments for common workplace injuries. They reviewed data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cochrane Reviews, which are evidence-based evaluations of the effects of health care treatments, the U.S. National Library of Medicine, and medical journals and textbooks.

As a result of the Board’s review and evaluation of this data, they recommend the following procedures:

  • If an employee is bleeding, apply pressure firmly for an extended period of time, until either bleeding stops or paramedics arrive . Earlier guidelines also recommended elevating a bleeding limb above heart level and, if direct pressure was ineffective, pressing on specific arterial points. Actual evidence is insufficient to recommend for or against these practices and also the use of tourniquets .
  • Thermal burns should be treated with cold water as soon as possible, but direct application of ice to a burn area can cause harm. Avoid cooling burns with ice or ice water for longer than 10 minutes, especially if the burn covers more than 20% of a person’s body.
  • If an employee has a soft-tissue injury such as a sprain, strain, contusion or fracture, apply cold to the injury to decrease hemorrhage, edema, pain and disability. Cooling is best accomplished with a plastic bag or damp cloth filled with ice, which is more effective than re-freezable gel packs. To prevent injury, limit each application to periods of no more than 20 minutes and place a barrier, such as a thin towel, between the ice container and the skin .
  • To prevent a minor wound from becoming infected, cleanse the wound with clean tap water until all foreign matter has been flushed. Apply triple-antibiotic ointment or cream only to a scratch or superficial wound. Previous methods recommended applying antibiotic to all wounds no matter how deep.
  • Do not give water, milk or syrup of ipecac to someone who has ingested poison. Previous guidelines allowed use of these substances in certain cases after consultation with a poison control center, but they may be harmful and are not recommended now.

By keeping yourself and your employees up to date with basic First Aid care, as well as maintaining a well-stocked First Aid kit on-site, you can significantly reduce the chance of a severe trauma that could have been prevented by simple First Aid. 

Self-Insuring Workers’ Compensation Plans May Produce Premium Savings

Joining a workers’ compensation group self-insurance program may be a significant means for small and mid-sized employers to reduce operating costs. Such plans deliver savings by providing employers with considerable control over losses, medical care and rehabilitation, plus improving cash flow.

While some companies self-insure workers’ compensation programs individually, these are usually best suited for larger corporations with immense assets. For smaller and medium-sized businesses, a Group Self-Insurance (GSI) workers’ compensation plan is more suitable. A GSI is a non-profit association of employers formed for the specific purpose of providing workers’ compensation coverage. A GSI enables employers to assume a major portion of their risk and provides group purchasing power for excess insurance to cover individual losses or in the aggregate in excess of a specified amount.

Workers’ compensation is well suited for self-insurance plans because claims are typically of low severity but high frequency, which allows losses to be predicted with some accuracy. Further, payment for large claims can be spread over several years, which benefits a company’s cash flow. GSI programs enable companies to better manage safety programs and have more direct involvement in seeing that employees receive prompt medical care when injured, and employers are able to exercise closer monitoring of the return of the employee to work.

Requirements for joining or forming a GSI vary considerably from state to state. Some states do not allow GSIs and in other states, companies must meet certain solvency standards and provide financial and loss data to be considered. Also, if a company has operations in more than one state, GSIs must be setup in each state. A GSI in one state will not cover losses in another state.

Besides improved cash flow, the major benefits that come from joining or creating a GSI are enhanced loss experience through more effective loss prevention, loss control and managed care programs; reduced administrative costs, and interest income earned on premiums. GSIs in most states do not have to pay premium taxes and or be assessed for residual workers’ compensation market losses.

Members of a GSI pay a premium to the group based on their exposures, classification codes, payroll, experience modifications, and rates developed by a state’s workers’ compensation rate making bureau. At the end of the contract year, any surpluses from both the claims fund and the administrative expense fund can be returned as dividends to group members.

GSIs handle claims following guidelines of the state workers’ compensation laws. Often, third-party administrators handle loss prevention and control, case management, accounting, investment and actuarial services.

An agent can provide guidance to employers wanting to explore joining a GSI. An interested company should first seek management commitment as joining a GSI requires careful attention to the entire workers’ compensation program rather than shifting these responsibilities and duties to a private insurer. Also, an employer has to be willing to disclose detailed information regarding its finances, support systems and ongoing risks.

While GSIs offer important advantages, there are some disadvantages. Members of the group are usually jointly and severally liable for losses incurred by the entire membership. A bankruptcy or dissolution of a member does not release the remaining members from liability. If the GSI’s retention and excess insurance are exhausted by a catastrophic event, the group members must contribute their pro rata share of the total loss. And, if a GSI has a pattern of liberal underwriting for new members, it’s possible it will have financial deficiencies in the future.

If an employer understands the additional risks it assumes as well as the added reporting and administrative duties when it joins a GSI program, the end result could be a significant reduction in overall costs for workers’ compensation.

State Minimum Auto Liability Coverage is Inadequate

Sure, you’re a responsible driver. But is your state-minimum, bare bones auto insurance coverage really sufficient to cover your risks?

Yes, every state imposes a minimum on liability insurance coverage. This coverage not only protects you against having creditors forcibly seize your assets and land you in bankruptcy court; it also helps protect others around you, by ensuring that no matter what their medical issue or damages, there is enough liquidity on the table to make sure they are economically protected.

But state minimums aren’t designed for most individuals, especially the affluent and do not provide them with the real protection they need. State legislatures must set liability minimums low enough so that insurance coverage is affordable even for poor families – so at least they’ll get something rather than drive completely uninsured. State minimums are not designed to provide really adequate protection for drivers who have assets or make a decent income and are those who are targets for legal action.

The Owner is At Risk

Remember, even if you lent your car to someone else for the weekend – if he or she crashes it, and causes damage, it’s you, as the car owner, who is ultimately responsible. Owners are first in line, ahead of drivers, when plaintiffs’ lawyers start looking to collect on damages not covered by auto insurance.

How Big Can Judgments Be?

Judgments for damages in auto accidents are very frequently $50,000 and over and can range into the millions. We looked at actual judgments obtained by just one small law firm in Las Vegas, Nevada, and found instances like these:

  • $200,000 in liability for just one accident involving a motorcycle.
  • $265,000 for a T-bone auto accident.
  • $300,000 for a leg injury to a pedestrian.
  • $750,000 for a rear end accident with injury.
  • $2,000,000 for another rear-end accident with serious injury.
  • 2,900,000 for a wrongful death claim.

Your state-mandated minimum of $15,000 to $100,000 per accident should cover most fenderbenders, but it is woefully inadequate for the real risk. If you are sued, and the plaintiff wins, you will be held responsible for the whole judgment over the amount of your coverage.

Asset Protection

If someone involved in an accident sues you and wins, he will receive a payment from your insurance company, up to the limit of coverage.  When the payment is inadequate, they may take additional action. They may sue to seize your personal assets – your bank account, your vehicles, property, business and even your home in some jurisdictions. They may also file to garnish your wages. The fallout could easily force you into bankruptcy – and severely disrupt your life.

If you have any kind of hard-earned assets that are at risk of creditor action, you may want to consider buying extra liability coverage. The more assets you have, the more likely you are to be targeted. After all, plaintiffs’ lawyers know that judgments are easier to collect from the affluent than the poor. But even middle class people have a lot to lose by carrying inadequate liability insurance coverage.

Liability Insurance

You may consider two kinds of insurance: additional liability insurance for your car, over and above the state-mandated minimum, and umbrella coverage, which helps protect your assets against losses from a wider variety of sources. This can be especially important for parents of teenagers who are risky drivers and who may drive someone else’s car, or have a party at the house while you and other adults are out of town. When a youngster leaves the party at your house after drinking, and has a wreck, you could be held liable.

To assess your exposure, sit down with a licensed insurance professional, your attorney, or both. It’s easy to tailor a remarkably affordable plan to provide more realistic protection against the actual risks of liability – but you have to do it before the accident.

  • Fill your gas tank. Many times, gas stations
    run out of fuel in the day or so before a storm. If you can’t fuel your
    vehicle, you can’t evacuate. And you may not be able to function.
  • Get a battery-operated radio. Don’t
    count on cell phones working for a number of days after a storm.
  • You may be without power for as long as two
    weeks and sometimes longer. Keep nonperishables, batteries and flashlights.
  • Keep your generator outdoors. Every year, people
    die from carbon monoxide poisoning because they moved their generator indoors
    to protect it from theft.
  • Understand your generator’s capacity. Generators
    have a limited load. This is especially important to know when you start up
    electrical items connected to the generator, because startups cause a spike in
    electrical demand.
  • Know your neighbors. Your neighbors may have a
    harder time preparing or evacuating from storms than you do, because of
    frailty, disability, young children, poverty or lack of reliable
    transportation.
  • Look out for family members of emergency
    responders. Police, fire department, National Guard members and medical
    personnel often have to concentrate on preparing for the mission, and have less
    time to attend to their own homes and families.
  • Know your community emergency management contacts.
    You can find an online listing at http://www.ready.gov/community-state-info
  • Don’t underestimate tropical storms. Just
    because it’s not a hurricane doesn’t mean it can’t do a lot of damage locally.
    Tropical storms can dump as much rain as a hurricane.
  • By understanding these guidelines, you can be an asset to
    your community in the event of a hurricane, instead of a drain on emergency
    resources. You will also have an easier time getting reimbursed by your
    insurance company for any damage done, and be doing your part to keep overall
    hurricane insurance premiums down.

    Know When to File an Auto Insurance Claim

    If your car has become damaged in an accident, through vandalism or from another cause, filing a claim with your auto insurance company isn’t always the best course of action. For example, if your deductible is more than the cost of the damage, it’s a good idea to pay for the repairs yourself and not report the claim. Each time you do decide to file, even if the damage is less than your deductible, the report goes on your insurance record. Although small claims don’t affect your individual premium, insurance companies use information from policyholders to establish the overall premium rates they charge their entire customer base. The more accidents reported, the higher the premium rates the company charges.

    Legally, you aren’t required to report an accident to your insurance company. The reason your company requests that you report every accident is so that it can protect itself against possible fraudulent claims. Documenting each accident helps an insurer spot a current claim for damages that really happened in an earlier accident.

    If you already have a speeding ticket on your record, and your car is damaged at a later time, you have another reason to think twice about filing a claim with your insurer. That’s because in some states, if you file a claim for an at-fault accident and you have been previously ticketed, you may not be able to renew your auto insurance policy.

    However, if there’s another car involved in the accident, or someone else in the car with you at the time, it’s important to report the accident. You never know if the passenger or other driver will file a claim on your insurance, and you should report the accident to make sure that your side of the story is documented with both the police and your insurer.

    Another reason to report an auto accident involving another car or passengers is that injuries are not always immediately apparent. Your carrier should have a report on file in the event you, or someone else involved in the accident, sustain injuries that show up the next day and which require medical treatment.

    While you should always consider carefully before you file an auto accident claim, you should never stockpile comprehensive claims. It may seem logical to file a number of small damage claims together; however, insurers watch for excessive repair estimates for comprehensive claims and your carrier may question the validity of the claim.

    There is a growing trend toward nonrenewals and tighter restrictions on what is covered across the industry. Save your car insurance for expensive damage, and plan ahead so you can pay for the smaller repairs yourself.

    Reduce the Dangers of Driving in the Dark

    With winter’s arrival, most people find themselves spending more time driving in the dark with decreased visibility. While you can’t change the fact that there are fewer daylight hours, you don’t have to be hampered by poor visibility.

    Protect your night vision by wearing a hat and sunglasses during the day when exposed to bright sunlight. The retina in the human eye contains photoreceptors, which have pigments that change shape when struck by light. This change process is called “bleaching.” Very bright light, like sunlight, may bleach so many of the pigments in a photoreceptor that it cannot respond to any other visual stimuli for a while, which means your eyes can have trouble adjusting to the dark. The longer your eyes are exposed to the sun, the worse your night vision gets.

    Consider taking a daily multi-vitamin to enhance your vision. In numerous studies and clinical trials antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamins A, C, and E, have been linked with eye health. They help to maintain healthy cells and tissues in the eye.

    There also are things you can do to your car, and steps you can take while driving at night, to enhance visibility-

    ·   Clean your windshield at least once a week. Light is refracted through a dirty windshield, which intensifies glare. In addition, a clean windshield will have less reflection. Wash your headlights as well. Even a thin layer of grime can reduce the light headlights emit by as much as 90%.

    ·   Dim the dash lights. The dimmer the light inside the car, the better you can see outside. Your instrument panel should just be bright enough for the instruments to be readable.

    ·   Adjust your outer (side view) mirrors. Sit in the driver’s seat, and tilt your head until it rests against the window. Adjust the driver’s side outboard mirror until you can see the rear fender at the edge of the glass. Then tilt your head to the right until it’s at the center of the car. Adjust the passenger side outboard mirror until you can see the rear fender at the edge of the glass. These adjustments will reduce blind spots, and prevent the bright spots in trailing cars’ headlights from shining directly into your eyes. 

    ·   Avert your eyes away from the lights of oncoming cars. When oncoming headlights shine into your eyes, look at the white line marking the edge of the pavement.

    ·   Fill your gas tank with one eye closed. This helps you recover from “flash blindness,” the condition that results when a few seconds of brightness temporarily interfere with your night vision. Closing one eye preserves night vision in that eye, and you can use it when you resume driving while your other eye adjusts to seeing in the dark.

    Though nighttime driving is a time of reduced visibility, you can make it a safe driving time by following these suggestions.

    Protect Your Business with Building and Equipment Insurance

    If you are a business owner, you have undoubtedly heard of building and equipment insurance, which covers your business’ buildings and all personal property under the care or control of your business.  Even so, you may not yet be aware of everything else this insurance covers, and just how important it can be to you and to your business.

    For instance, did you know that building and equipment insurance covers additions, alterations, and even repairs to your buildings?  This type of insurance also covers items and equipment used to maintain your business’ property.

    Giving this type of coverage a second thought now?  You should.  Building and equipment insurance also provides coverage for furniture, fixtures, equipment and machinery; stock; all other personal property you and your business own and use in the business; labor, parts, or service by your business on other’s property; and improvements you make to the building you or your business lease.

    Similar to the personal property you own, the coverage also includes personal property inside and outside your business’ buildings, or in vehicles within 100 feet of your buildings.  And, interestingly enough, payment for damages done to personal property owned by others goes to the account of the property owner and not to the actual insured business owner.

    There are a few types of property excluded from this coverage, and you should be aware of them.  The types of property excluded from this coverage include: waterborne personal property; animals (in most circumstances); automobiles for sale; bridges, roads, walks or other paved surfaces; contraband; costs for excavations; certain foundations; land, water, growing crops, or lawns; money; piers, wharves, or docks; retaining walls that are not part of the building; and underground pipes, flues, or drains.

    However, you can obtain additional coverage for your business’ outdoor property, valuable papers and records, the personal property or effects of others, personal property at newly acquired buildings, property temporarily off-premises, and newly built or acquired buildings.  Keep in mind, though, that several of the categories may have limitations about which you need to be educated.

    10 Essential Hurricane Claim Tips

    Hurricane Irene’s destruction has left many people facing extensive property damage. Individuals who must file a claim have several things to do. First, make any emergency repairs that are necessary to prevent further damage. Don’t attempt any non-emergency repairs until an insurance adjuster is able to assess the property. Be sure to take clear photos of the damage. Next, contact an individual insurance agent. If the number was lost in the damage, consult the Insurance Information Institute’s list of claim phone numbers for various insurance companies. Before contacting an agent, consider the following common questions and valuable claim tips.

    1. What To Do After Filing A Claim
    The most important thing to do is prevent further damage. Make sure property is secure, board broken windows, dry carpets and board damaged roofs. Don’t attempt any major non-emergency repairs until an adjuster can see the damage. Keep receipts for emergency repair supplies and temporary accommodations.

    2. How To Speed Up The Claims Process
    Keep in mind that priority is given to the most severe cases after a disaster. Larger claims are settled in steps. Try these following tips to help make the claims process quicker:

    •Get at least two repair estimates for the adjuster to review.
    •Take pictures of the damage. If photos of the property before the damage are available, make copies of them.
    •Construct a list of all damaged property. Include a description, original cost, age, purchase location and estimated replacement cost of each item. If receipts are available for any of these items, make copies of them.

    3. What To Do If The Property Is Uninhabitable
    Remember that most homeowners policies cover extra living expenses resulting from hurricane damage. As long as the policy has provisions for hurricane damage, the company should provide reimbursement for living expenses. If unsure whether this is included, consult the policy to review the exact provisions. Remember to keep all costs in line with regular living expenses.

    4. Food Spoilage Due To Power Outages
    Unfortunately, most policies don’t cover spoiled food. However, some companies provide limited coverage for food that spoils during a power outage. The amount is usually between $250 and $500.

    5. Coverage For Fallen Trees
    Unless a tree damages a house, fence or garage, there is no coverage for damage to trees resulting from perils of weather.

    6. Damage From Power Surges
    When the power comes back on after an outage, surges often damage electronics or other equipment. Most insurance policies have a provision for sudden or accidental damage from artificially generated electrical currents. This excludes computer chips, transistors and some similar items. This means televisions and computers are excluded.

    7. Claim Checks That Aren’t Enough
    It’s important to understand whether cash value or replacement costs are awarded. If the amount received is lower than expected, consult an agent to discuss individual provisions.

    8. When To Expect A Check
    After the adjuster visits and assesses the damage, he or she completes the paperwork for processing. Once it has been processed, the carrier issues a check to the claimant. The turnaround time for receiving a check varies depending on how many claims are being processed. Some companies provide status reports for claim progress. If the check is slow to arrive, call an agent to see if the company has any progress reports on the claim.

    9. Understanding The Difference Between Replacement & Cash Value
    Replacement cost is the amount it costs to replace or repair an insured item today. It doesn’t cover the full original value of the item. The only limits are based on the amount of coverage purchased. Cash value policies pay for the cost of replacement of the item minus depreciation.

    10. What “Underinsured” Individuals Should Do
    Sometimes an agent tells an individual that they don’t have enough insurance. This is usually because homeowners don’t review their coverage regularly. Adding a room or making another change can have a significant impact on a policy. Be sure to contact an agent when any improvement or change is made to the home.

    Keep in mind that agents are busy. If a copy of the policy is available, try to find the answers in the document before making a call. However, if there are questions that the policy provides unclear answers about, be sure to contact an agent. It’s important to file hurricane claims as quickly as possible.

    Preventing Violence Before It Happens Through Pre-Employment Screening

    Violence in the workplace has become an increasingly more common occurrence. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in its 2004 report entitled Fatal Occupational Injuries by Event or Exposure, 1998-2003, there were 631 documented workplace homicides in 2003. Workplace homicides are the second leading cause of death in the workplace and they make up 16% of all occupational fatalities.

    With statistics like these, it is the duty of every employer to make violence prevention a number one priority. Avoiding potential violence should begin with the hiring process. This is the company’s opportunity to weed out any violent individuals before they get a foothold in the workplace.

    The pre-employment screening process begins with the application. If an applicant omits information or there are gaps of time in the area of job history, the applicant should be instructed to fill in the missing information. If the applicant cannot provide the information, the employer needs to determine when and if it can be provided, note it on the application and then follow through with getting the information if the person selected is to be given an employment offer. Ensure that all of an applicant’s information is on hand before any offer is made.

    The interviewer will have the most significant opportunity to assess the applicant’s stability. Begin with the person’s overall physical appearance and grooming. Is it interview appropriate? The next level of assessment involves body language and eye contact. While the applicant is speaking, are they looking you in the eye while answering questions in a relaxed manner? What is your own comfort level during the interview? What is the applicant’s response level to questions? Do they answer the questions asked or are they evasive? Do they provide too little information or do they go out of their way to give an elaborate explanation? By discussing what an applicant liked or disliked about the tasks associated with different jobs they held and why they left those jobs, an interviewer can often get a sense of possible aggression towards the company that if pushed far enough can manifest itself in workplace violence.

    If the applicant seems acceptable, then the next step is to do a thorough background check. This is the major area where most companies fall short in the evaluation process. If you do not get an immediate response from a past employer or a reference, follow up until you do. Don’t assume that the failure is due to being too busy to respond. Sometimes the lack of response is avoidance. It is not unheard of for one company to pass a problem employee off on another. To investigate further, in addition to the telephone background check, you can also examine court records, credit reports and driving records.  However be advised that you need a signed release from the applicant to conduct this type of background screening. Your corporate counsel should be your consultant in the development of any pre-employment screening methodologies to be sure they do not violate existing laws.

    Many companies also conduct drug testing as part of their pre-employment screening process. Drug testing identifies individuals who have the potential to become problem employees.  It is easier to eliminate individuals on the basis of failing a drug test prior to employment then it is to terminate them once they have been employed. While drug testing doesn’t eliminate all potential problem employees, it does reduce their number.

    No matter what procedures you use to screen applicants, the important thing to remember is that you must follow through. If you only make a half-hearted attempt, it’s the equivalent of no attempt at all.