Posts Tagged ‘Social Gathering’

PROTECTING A BUSINESS FROM SEXUAL HARASSMENT LAWSUITS

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By now, employers should all realize and understand that sexual harassment is illegal. However, what employers might not be aware of is that the U.S. Supreme Court issued two rulings in June of 1998 that expanded what is termed sexual harassment; expanded the responsibility that employers have to provide a work environment that’s non-hostile; and did away with harassed employees having to prove that their company holds some responsibility or that their career suffered from lack of promotion, firing, demotion, or such. Employers are now directly responsible for employee behavior, thereby giving harassed employees more recourse in bringing about legal actions against employers. Work-related harassment and discrimination cases have been climbing steadily since the Civil Rights Act of 1991 allowed for trial by jury, compensatory damages, and punitive damages in legal cases involving discrimination. In fact, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the amount of annual employment harassment and discrimination cases being filed grew by more than 13% between 1997 and 2009.

Any employer that’s ever been involved in a sexual harassment suit can attest that the cost to settle or defend a sexual harassment lawsuit can be jaw dropping. The average award for damages in these types of lawsuits is around $650,000, and that isn’t even including the secondary cost from workplace disruption, bad publicity, and those involved in the suit being absent from work.

What Constitutes Sexual Harassment?

The first step in protection is understanding what is defined as sexual harassment. State and federal law prohibits behavior that involves an employee in authority basing professional expectations or decisions regarding a subordinate employee being willing or unwilling to exchange sexual acts. The following are examples of such behavior:

  • Altering expectations of job performance when a subordinate repeatedly refuses advances for a date or sexual encounter.
  • A superior demanding sexual acts in order for a subordinate to receive a raise or promotion.
  • Disciplinary action, including termination, of a subordinate that refuses sexual advances or ends an existing romantic relationship.

However, sexual harassment doesn’t always involve a subordinate/authority figure relationship. An offender can be anyone from a coworker to a customer or business vendor. The offender can be male or female, as can the victim. Furthermore, the victim doesn’t even need to be the employee actually harassed. Anyone that’s affected by the harassing or offensive behavior can be termed a victim; for example, an employee that overhears two other employees discussing a taboo subject. The two employees directly involved might not be offended, but if the overhearing employee is offended, then it can constitute sexual harassment.

Verbal, visual, physical, or written behavior that causes another employee to view the work environment as hostile, are unwanted, or focus on the sexuality or gender of another person may constitute as sexual harassment. Specific examples of such would be teasing, suggestive objects or pictures being displayed, and repetitively requesting sexual acts or dates verbally or in writing.

Protection with Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI).

After knowing what constitutes sexual harassment, businesses can further financially protect themselves with Employment Practices Liability insurance (EPLI). This is an insurance to protect employers when an employee makes the claim that their legal rights have been violated. Although policies vary, EPLI generally doesn’t cover criminal or civil penalties and punitive damages. EPLI does generally cover settlements, judgments, and incurred legal costs arising from an array of incidences – wrongful termination, employment contract breaches, employment and promotion failures, wrongful disciplinary actions, wrongful emotional distress infliction, negligent employee evaluations, employee benefit plan mismanagement, discrimination, and sexual harassment.

Coverage is specific. So, before purchasing a policy, decide who should be covered. For example, should full and part-time employees, contracted persons, supervisors, department heads, subsidiaries, company divisions, and so forth be covered or not? One other note about EPLI is that it’s mandatory for employers to report incidents within a reasonable amount of time. Some policies might feature an ERP (extended reporting period) or prior acts. The length, cost, and availability vary by carrier.

Purchasing EPLI has been challenging for small companies in the past. However, the 2004 rate increases have somewhat plateaued. Some rates have even decreased. Keep in mind that EPLI cost is figured based on the business type, employee numbers, and past lawsuits associated with the business.

Prevention of Harassment Lawsuits.

Prevention is the cornerstone in decreasing the risk of a sexual harassment lawsuit. Prevention steps include the following key elements:

  • If the business has EPLI, any incident should be reported immediately.
  • Create, communicate, and enforce a zero-tolerance policy for workplace sexual harassment.
  • Have an effective harassment complaint process in place and take immediate, consistent, and appropriate action when a complaint is made.
  • Thoroughly document all complaints and the following investigation and actions.

Falls may be tied to irregular heartbeat

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By Kathryn Doyle  (Reuters Health)

Older adults who suffer a fall are twice as likely to have a common type of irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation, according to a new study.

“These results are certainly surprising, as an association between AF and falls has not been shown in the general population before,” said Dr. Sofie Jansen of the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Certain arrhythmias are known to cause fainting or blackouts, but this is the first study to show the link with falls, Jansen told Reuters Health by email.

She and her colleagues analyzed data on 4,800 adults over age 50 in Ireland who completed questionnaires, personal interviews and physical health assessments, including electrocardiograms, between 2009 and 2011.

Twenty percent of participants reported falling at least once in the past year. Fainting and blackouts were less common.

Overall, three percent of people had atrial fibrillation (AF): about one percent of those ages 50 to 64, four percent of those up to age 74, and almost eight percent of those ages 75 and older. More than a third did not know they had AF before the study.

Almost 30 percent of those with AF had fallen over the past year compared to about 20 percent of those without AF, the researchers reported in Age and Ageing.

After accounting for other risk factors that might contribute to falls, the authors found that having AF doubled people’s odds of falling.

In addition, 10 percent of people with AF reported fainting or blacking out compared to four percent of those without the arrhythmia.

At least five million U.S. adults in 2010 had been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, which may rise to about 12 million cases by the year 2030, according to a 2013 study (see Reuters Health article of July 26, 2013 here: reut.rs/1BSOiNn).

The irregular, usually very fast, heartbeat can cause uncomfortable palpitations, limit the ability to exercise or lead to heart failure or stroke, but it may not cause symptoms for some. It can be treated with medications and lifestyle changes to reduce stroke risk, according to the National Institutes of Health.

There are several ways AF could cause a fall, Jansen said.

“AF can impair the ability of the heart to pump blood around the body, including the brain,” she said. “This can lead to a reduction in the amount of oxygen going to the brain, causing either a faint or black-out (syncope), or dizziness resulting in a fall in a person who is already unstable.”

The irregular heartbeat can also be tied to stroke and hypertension, which can lead to degenerative changes in the brain.

“All of these changes in the brain can also affect walking, mobility, and other conditions that affect fall risk, such as depression and dementia,” Jansen said.

But, she emphasized, this study did not show that AF causes falls, only that it is significantly more common among people who fall.

“Falls are very common in older adults,” Jansen said. “People with AF have an even greater risk of falls, and when they suffer from falls they should definitely mention this to their physician, as there are several treatment or prevention options for falls.”

“Because falls usually have several causes or contributing factors, recognition and treatment of all of these factors is vital to reduce fall risk,” she said.

The most common causes of falls are muscle weakness, balance problems, gait problems, medication side effects, neurological issues, dizziness or cognitive impairment, according to Dr. Laurence Z. Rubenstein, who chairs the Donald W. Reynolds Department of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City.

Cardiac arrhythmias, including AF, do cause some falls but less commonly than the other causes and risk factors mentioned, said Rubenstein, who was not part of the new study.

“Falls are a very important problem in the older population and we’re always looking for ways to reduce them,” he said. “When you do a post-fall evaluation, listening to the heart is an important part of that,” and a doctor would likely discover signs of AF it were present, he said.

SOURCE: bit.ly/1aM2BaD Age and Ageing, online February 21, 2015.

Homeowners Insurance and Social Gatherings

Many homeowners enjoy throwing parties for holidays or special events. If a party is in the near future, be sure that individual Homeowners coverage is adequate. Guests who are injured might need to file an injury claim if their vehicle is damaged, if they fall down or if a pet bites them. Research shows that about 75% of adult homeowners who plan social gatherings in their homes do not have a personal umbrella policy. This makes them more vulnerable to lawsuits stemming from guests who suffer injuries. The same research study showed that the remainder of the homeowners surveyed did not know what type of coverage they had. This means it is likely that the percentage of homeowners who do not have adequate coverage is more than 75%. However, they should have this extra coverage to protect themselves from lawsuits. Although dog bites and falls are common, alcohol is one liability issue that is often overlooked but is very risky. More