Nonprofits: There is Liability for the Acts of your Volunteers

A parent looks away from a crowded swimming pool to answer a phone call; a driver makes a split-second decision to try to make it through a yellow light with a sudden burst of speed. We recoil when we read these scenarios because we know only too well that tragedy can result.

What happens when these incidents involve volunteers for your nonprofit? Your organization might be liable for the resulting injury.


Volunteers are the lifeblood of many nonprofits. But the actions of a volunteer can also create devastating liability for the organizations in a personal injury claim. While the law provides some relief for the negligent acts of volunteers, these laws vary widely from state to state and are often misunderstood. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that your nonprofit will be exempt from liability because its purposes are charitable, or because the person responsible for the harm is a volunteer. Continue reading “Nonprofits: There is Liability for the Acts of your Volunteers”

Employer Confidentiality Agreements That Go Too Far

Many employers require employees to sign a Confidentiality Agreement regarding certain data and information that the employee will have access to in the course and scope of their employment. There are certain types of employer data that must be maintained as confidential such as:

  • Client identification or personal health information under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • Personally identifiable information (PII), such as donor names and credit card numbers or employee addresses and social security numbers under privacy and state confidentiality laws.

Additionally, general business information that an employer needs to keep confidential for business reasons to maintain a competitive advantage such as business plans, financial resources, funding sources or customer lists falls within the definition of trade secrets and can be maintained as confidential. Protecting this data is simple, right? You just have employees sign a broad confidentiality agreement, and that’s that! Continue reading “Employer Confidentiality Agreements That Go Too Far”

Can Technology Reduce Distracted Driving?

Technology caused the problem but maybe it has the solution as well.

Approximately nine people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured in car crashes reportedly involving a distracted driver each day in the US, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Distracted driving can be visual — taking your eyes off the road; manual — taking your hands off the wheel; and cognitive — taking your mind off driving. Using the car’s navigation system or talking with passengers or eating while driving are forms of distracted driving. Continue reading “Can Technology Reduce Distracted Driving?”

How to Control Employee Dishonesty

One in every 27 employees was apprehended for theft from their employer in 2016, according to the 29th Annual Retail Theft Survey. 53,786 dishonest employees were apprehended in 2016, up 9.3% from 2015.

Employee dishonesty is the most important crime coverage for most businesses. Most basic business package policies do not include crime coverage beyond a baseline amount, so unless you already have employee dishonesty coverage, you will need to add it to your basic policy. Continue reading “How to Control Employee Dishonesty”

Do You Need a Boat Insurance Policy?

In 2015, the Coast Guard counted 4,158 recreational boating accidents that involved 626 deaths, 2,613 injuries and approximately $42 million dollars of damage to property. If you own or regularly operate a boat, you probably need more coverage than your homeowners policy provides.

A survey by one insurer found that 29 percent of all boat owners Continue reading “Do You Need a Boat Insurance Policy?”

How Likely Is Prescription Drug Price Reform?

Healthcare costs have skyrocketed and experts say the cost of prescription drugs is one of the culprits. Particularly troubling is the fact that some drug companies have increased prices of some medications for no obvious reason.

After Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired Daraprim, a drug used by AIDS and transplant patients, the company immediately increased the cost 5,456 percent from $13.50 to $750 a pill. Continue reading “How Likely Is Prescription Drug Price Reform?”

What Republican Changes to the ACA Mean to YOU

Many Republicans believe that, even though the new plan is more oriented to the free market, it doesn’t go far enough to fix the ACA’s problems. While Democrats are concerned that millions of Americans will lose access to healthcare coverage.

The ACA was implemented in 2010 to increase access to healthcare coverage for all Americans. Key provisions included:

  • Implementing market reforms
  • Establishing health insurance marketplaces
  • Expanding Medicaid eligibility for low-income adults

To meet those goals, the federal government mandated that:

  • All individuals must purchase insurance or pay a fine
  • Insurers offering health coverage must include 10 essential benefits
  • Large employers must provide health insurance to full-time workers

Continue reading “What Republican Changes to the ACA Mean to YOU”

Crisis Management: Where Risk Management and Public Relations Meet

You might (or should!) have a disaster management plan to help your company minimize the effects of a disaster. You’ve probably considered the evacuation of employees and customers, data backup, and contingency plans for manufacturing your products or delivering your services. But have you considered the role public relations can play in managing a crisis?

Continue reading “Crisis Management: Where Risk Management and Public Relations Meet”

Service Animals, Assistance Animals, Therapy Animals—What’s the Law?

Guide dogs and service dogs have helped individuals with disabilities navigate life for decades. Now you also see assistance animals, therapy animals and emotional support animals. What’s the difference and what’s the law?

Many people legitimately need service, support or therapy animals, while others use the “therapy animal” name and even fake vests and registries to sneak their pets into public places. So what rights do users of service animals have?

Employment discrimination: Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits disability discrimination in employment. If employees or prospective hires need a service animal, you cannot prohibit them from having the animal at the work-site. You can ask the nature of the services the animal performs, but you cannot ask about the nature of the person’s disability.

Discrimination in public accommodations: Title II and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits privately owned businesses that serve the public, such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities, from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The ADA requires these businesses to allow service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed. As with employers, owners or managers of public accommodations can ask about the nature of the services performed by the animal, but not the nature of the person’s disability.

The ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for him or herself. Guide dogs are one type of service animal, used by some individuals who are blind. Service animals also assist persons with other kinds of disabilities in their day-to-day activities. Examples include:


  • Alerting persons with hearing impairments to sounds.
  • Pulling wheelchairs or carrying and picking up things for persons with mobility impairments.
  • Assisting persons with mobility impairments with balance.


The ADA does not limit its definition of disabilities to physical disabilities—psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disabilities also qualify. The ADA National Network says, “Tasks performed by psychiatric service animals may include reminding the handler to take medicine, providing safety checks or room searches, or turning on lights for persons with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), interrupting self-mutilation by persons with associative identity disorders, and keeping disoriented individuals from danger.”

To qualify as a service animal, two conditions must apply: the person must have a disabling condition and the animal must be trained to perform a specific task or tasks. If they meet the definition, the ADA considers animals service animals regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.

Service Animals vs. Assistance Animals and Therapy Animals vs. Pets

Some people use therapy dogs or emotional support dogs. These animals may provide therapeutic or emotional support to a person with a mental health disability, such as PTSD. They are not trained to perform specific tasks; instead, their mere presence has a calming effect on their owner.

The FHA, Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, allows therapy or emotional support dogs to be kept in housing with pet restrictions. If the owner has a verifiable disability, the animal is a “reasonable accommodation.” HUD specifically states that “while dogs are the most common type of assistance animal, other animals can also be assistance animals.” Title II and Title III of the ADA do not view emotional support animals, therapy animals and comfort animals as service animals. This means that, outside of housing and air travel, owners of therapy or emotional support animals have no legal right to bring their animals into places where animals are prohibited, even with a doctor’s letter.

The ADA and other anti-discrimination laws are complex. Running afoul of them can lead to discrimination claims, fines and negative publicity. A good liability insurance policy can help protect your business from the cost of defending discrimination claims and paying damages, if any—please contact us for a policy review.

Is Your ACA Health Plan Ready for 2017?

Affordable Care Act compliance, along with benefits cost management and employee wellness programs, are emerging as the top issues affecting small business health plans.

As 2017 approaches, small businesses should reevaluate their employee health insurance needs and what they need to do to comply with new health insurance laws.

Although businesses with fewer than 50 full-time equivalent employees do not have to provide health insurance for their employees, they must comply with the ACA’s reporting requirements. All businesses with employees must:


  • Withhold and report an additional 0.9 percent on employee wages or compensation that exceed $200,000.
  • Report the value of health insurance coverage you provided to each employee on his or her Form W-2.
  • File an annual return reporting certain information for each employee covered under a self-insured health plan.

In an effort to help small businesses comply with the Affordable Care Act, a new study by HUB International explored ACA compliance, along with benefits cost management and employee wellness, by surveying over 400 senior-level human resources and finance executives at companies with 50 to 1,000 employees.

“HR leaders are operating in an era of unprecedented disruption brought on by ACA, rising health care costs and the increasing demands of a multi-generational workforce,” wrote the authors of the HUB International report titled, “Employee Benefits Barometer: SMB Perspectives and Priorities in an Era of Disruption.”

Era of Disruption

The survey found nearly two in three business owners employing between 50 and 99 people are concerned about remaining in compliance with the ACA regulations. Other findings included:


  • 69 percent of employers plan to change their benefit plan structure and/or operations to avoid ACA reporting fines and penalties.
  • 61 percent expect IRS fines for ACA reporting to be negligible to their bottom line in 2016.
  • 60 percent believe ACA reporting is primarily an HR issue.
  • 64 percent have optimized design and operations strategies to eliminate the fines/penalties, but will struggle to stay in business.
  • 54 percent say ACA reporting is primarily a finance issue.


As this survey shows, employers perceive themselves to be on top of ACA reporting issues, but nearly two-thirds say that their businesses will struggle to stay afloat despite efforts to optimize plan designs and operations—an indication that employers are exhausted by ACA compliance, the authors of the HUB International report wrote.

“Due to the potential audit implications of ACA reporting, organizations need to be able to defend and manage the decisions they made and reported on,” the authors noted.

In the survey, employers did not rate ACA reporting as their top concern, but because the survey took place prior to completing year-one reporting deadlines, “it may be an indication that employers don’t know where they are most vulnerable,” the authors wrote.

“Most responders ranked cost management and health and performance issues as bigger priorities over ACA reporting,” the authors wrote. “This may be an indication that employers have under-estimated the complexity of ACA reporting.

“Just over half of HR leaders (57 percent) cited accuracy in calculating and reporting the affordability of benefits as their top concern for ACA compliance. While 55 percent of mid-sized and 56 percent of the largest middle market companies ranked this as their top concern, it was especially an issue among the smallest players (66 percent). Close behind, at 53 percent, were concerns over how employee subsidy eligibility and employer liability are tracked and reported.”

Wellness and Productivity Are Top Priorities

Meanwhile, the survey also found that employee wellness and productivity are top priorities, and two-thirds of respondents are seeing a return on investments in their programs, specifically in improved employee productivity and morale. When asked to identify their top benefits priorities, HR respondents ranked improving employee wellness and productivity (83 percent) and managing benefit costs (76 percent) as top priorities.

The report found that employers who are implementing wellness programs are reporting improvements in employee productivity and morale.

“Middle market employers are starting to put more effort in longer term benefits initiatives that support the connection between healthy employees and business performance,” the authors wrote. “These programs are the cornerstone of a long-term benefit strategy that supports a healthier and more engaged workforce.

“There’s a reason health and performance initiatives have gained traction among middle market benefits decision-makers. These strategies are delivering a return on investment, according to 66 percent of respondents. How has it been evidenced? More than a third of respondents cite improved productivity (35 percent) and morale (34 percent). This is especially true among the larger firms, at 40 percent and 38 percent respectively.”

Employers are reaping the benefits of their cost-cutting initiatives, but there appears to be many missed opportunities to deploy proven cost management strategies, the authors wrote.

“Are their efforts paying off? Sixty-five percent agree that they are doing all they can to contain rising benefit costs,” the authors wrote. “Seventy percent note that their strategies are successfully reining in costs. In fact, a significant percentage of the HR respondents indicated they have revamped their plan designs to reduce costs. Leading that change, 51 percent have implemented voluntary benefits for the first time as part of their cost savings strategy.”

For more information on complying with the Affordable Care Act, controlling your costs or adding voluntary benefits to your organization’s offerings, please contact us.