Beazley Speaks on EPL Changes for Businesses Affected by COVID-19

There has been a lot of discussion as of late regarding the impact of COVID-19 on Workers’ Compensation, Business Interruption, Health Benefits, etc., but what about Employment Practices Liability?  Below is a great overview of the ever changing landscape of EPL due to COVID from our friends at Beazley.

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Around the world, governments responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 by implementing various restrictions on the movement of people through quarantines, lock-downs, stay at home orders, and other similar measures.  Businesses, particularly those in the service and retail industries, were most affected by these measures.  People were staying home, which meant no customers:  No diners at restaurants.  No shoppers in the malls.  Nobody getting haircuts, manicures, pedicures, or massages.  Many of the affected businesses have either announced permanent or indefinite closures or reduced service, and consequently, have had to furlough, layoff, or permanently terminate the employment of hundreds of thousands of employees.

 

Many businesses with financial difficulties are Client Companies of PEOs.  As a result, with both new and old Claims, Beazley has noticed an increase in Client Companies unwilling or unable to pay amounts for defense or indemnity within their SIR.  For Client Companies facing an uncertain financial future, they are unwilling to engage in settlement negotiations or mediation.  Rather than committing their limited resources to settlement, Client Companies want to preserve or use those funds to keep their businesses running by paying employees and other overhead expenses that remain despite reduced business income.  Unfortunately, there are also some Client Companies whose businesses will not survive; and they are simply unable to fund amounts of settlements within their SIRs.  There is no one size fits all solution.  All Insureds have differing limitations; and Beazley has been working collaboratively with its PEOs and Client Companies Insureds to strategize the best approach to resolving each claim in this COVID-19 environment.

 

Moving forward, Beazley anticipates more COVID-19 related claims including:

 

  • Claims for violations of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and/or the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) for discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination, or failure to rehire for voicing concerns or making requests regarding COVID-19, missing work to recover from (or care for another with) COVID-19, etc.
  • General notices of mass layoffs or reductions in force.  (Note:  Typically, coverage is unavailable, but in certain circumstances, an Employment Event sublimit coverage may be available.)
  • Third Party Discrimination against persons of Asian descent.

 

As part of the renewal process, Beazley is considering PEOs and Staffing Firms’ strategies to addressing COVID-19 and the COVID-19 induced recession.  Some of Beazley’s questions are:

 

  1. Does the PEO work with their Client Companies to ensure they have an effective Business Continuity Plan for COVID-19?
  2. What protocols do the PEO and their Client Companies have if worksite employees are or were infected with COVID-19?
  3. Are Client Companies required to consult with the PEO before any terminations, and layoffs, reductions in force, or downsizing?
  4. What support does the PEO provide their Client Companies with to comply with employment laws, including the FMLA and FFCRA?
  5. Does the PEO offer advice to their Client Companies regarding worksite employees working from home?

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To hear more about the impact on Employment Practices Liability due to COVID-19, please join NAPEO’s EPLI Webinar, this Thursday July 16th, 12pm ET. Libertate’s own President, Paul Hughes, will be moderating.

https://www.napeo.org/events/events-calendar/town-hall-series

The New Normal….Pandemic Insurance Products

It was only a matter of time before insurers began to develop products to cover pandemics.  The products range from traffic monitor apps that pay insureds based on a minimum threshold to relapse coverage that protects businesses forced to shut down a second time.  The complete article from Reuters is below.

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Insurers are creating products for a world where virus outbreaks could become the new normal after many businesses were left out in the cold during the COVID-19 crisis.

While new pandemic-proof policies might not be cheap, they offer businesses from restaurants to film production companies to e-commerce retailers ways of insuring against disruptions and losses if another virus strikes.

The providers include big insurers and brokers adding new products to existing coverage, as well as niche players that see an opportunity in filling the void left by mainstream firms that categorize virus outbreaks like wars or nuclear explosions.

Tech firm Machine Cover, for example, aims to offer policies next year that would give relief during lockdowns. Using apps and other data sources, the Boston-based company measures traffic levels around businesses such as restaurants, department stores, hairdressers and car dealers.

If traffic drops below a certain level, it pays out, whatever the reason.

“This is the type of coverage which … businesses thought they had paid for when they bought their current business interruption policies before the coronavirus pandemic,” the company’s founder Inder-Jeet Gujral told Reuters.

“I believe this will be a major opportunity because post-COVID, it would be as irresponsible to not buy insurance against pandemics as it would be to not buy insurance against fire.”

The company is backed by insurer Hiscox and individual investors, mostly from the insurance and private equity world.

Restaurants in Florida’s Miami-Dade County, where Mayor Carlos Gimenez on Monday ordered dining to shut down soon after reopening, are now reeling, said Andrew Giambarba, a broker for Insurance Office of America in Doral, Florida.

“It’s been like they made it to the ninth round of the fight and were holding on when this punch came out of nowhere,” said Giambarba, whose clients include restaurants that did not get payouts under their business interruption coverage.

“Every niche that is dealing with insurance that is affected by business interruption needs every new product they can have.”

Filling the Void

Pandemic exemptions have helped some insurers emerge relatively unscathed and the sector has largely resisted pressure to provide more virus cover. Indeed, some insurers that paid out for event cancellations and other losses have removed pandemics from their coverage.

British risk managers association Airmic said last week that the pandemic had contributed to a lack of adequate insurance at an affordable price and most of its members were looking at other ways to reduce risk.

To help fill the void in a locked-down world, Lloyd’s of London insurer Beazley Plc, started selling a contingency policy last month to insure organizers of streamed music, cultural and business events against technical glitches.

“These events are completely reliant on the technology working and a failure can be financially crippling,” said Mark Symons, contingency underwriter at Beazley.

Marsh, the world’s biggest insurance broker, has teamed up with AXA XL, part of France’s AXA, and data firm Arity, which is part of Allstate, to help businesses such as U.S. supermarket chains, restaurants and e-commerce retailers cope with the challenges of social distancing.

With home deliveries surging, firms have hired individual drivers to meet demand, but commercial auto liability insurance for “gig” contractors with their own vehicles is hard to find.

Marsh and its partners devised a policy based on usage with a price-by-mile insurance, which can be cheaper than typical commercial auto cover as delivering a pizza doesn’t have the same risks as driving people around.

“Even when the pandemic is over, we believe last-mile delivery will continue to grow,” said Robert Bauer, head of Marsh’s U.S. sharing economy and mobility practice.

A report by consultants Capgemini showed that demand for usage-based insurance has skyrocketed since COVID-19 first broke out and more than 50% of the customers it surveyed wanted it.

However, only half of the insurers interviewed by Capgemini for its World Insurance Report said they offered it.

Bespoke Cover

Since businesses are only now learning how outbreaks can affect them, some new products are effectively custom-made.

Elite Risk Insurance in Newport Beach, California, has been offering “COVID outbreak relapse coverage” since May for businesses forced to shut down a second time, its founder Jeff Kleid said.

The policies are crafted around specific businesses and only pay out when certain conditions are met, Kleid said.

For film and television production companies that could be when a cast member contracts the virus, forcing them to stop shooting. Another client, which raises livestock for restaurants, is covered for a scenario in which it would be impossible to get animal feed.

Such policies do not come cheap. A $1 million policy could cost between about $80,000 to $100,000 depending on the terms.

“The insurance … is costly because it covers a risk that does not have a historical basis for calculating the price,” Kleid says.

And in March, when COVID-19 ravaged northern Italy, Generali’s Europ Assistance offered medical help, financial support and teleconsultations for sufferers when discharged from hospital, on top of regular health insurance.

It sold 1.5 million policies in just two weeks and now has 3 million customers in Europe and United States.

Some insurers are also working on changes to employee compensation and health insurance schemes. With millions of workers not expected to return to offices anytime soon, some large insurers in Asia are preparing coverage to account for that, according to people familiar with those efforts.

At least one Japanese insurer has started work on a product to cover employees for injury while working at home, they said.

“Working from home will be the new normal for years to come. That would make the scope of the employee compensation scheme meaningless if a person suffers an injury while at home,” said a Hong Kong-based senior executive at a European insurer.

(Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru, Suzanne Barlyn in Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania, Carolyn Cohn in London and Sumeet Chatterjee in Hong Kong; additional reporting by Muvija M; Editing by Tomasz Janowski and David Clarke)

https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/international/2020/07/10/575081.htm

 

Analysis of the COVID-19 Pandemic’s Impact on the New York State Workers’ Compensation System

In late June the NYCRIB released a research brief on understanding and estimating the impact of COVID-19 claims.

Coronavirus New York state updates from May 2020 - ABC7 New York

Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated our communities, brought personal tragedy to many, and wreaked havoc on our economy. New York State’s unique experience has been driven by the breadth of virus transmission throughout its downstate metropolitan region, New York City, which is the most densely populated American city with approximately 27,000 people per square mile. While managing a pandemic in a dense urban area presents a myriad of complexities, the New York State workers’ compensation system will undoubtedly be called upon to compensate workers infected with the COVID-19 disease in the course of employment.

The purpose of this study is to provide a framework for understanding and estimating the direct impact of COVID-19 claims on medical and indemnity costs in the State’s workers’ compensation system.1 While we also briefly discuss the pandemic’s indirect impact, a detailed analysis is beyond the scope of this research brief. We hope that the information provided in this study will facilitate meaningful and informed discussion, policymaking, and decisions, and we also recognize that while the pandemic continues, its ultimate impact will remain largely unknown. This is so because the number of people infected and the number of COVID-19 claims filed are a function of public orders that have not yet been issued, choices that have not yet been made, behaviors that have yet to manifest, and the timing of scientific discovery that will bring this tragic period to conclusion.

Nevertheless, serious and thoughtful study on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic cannot wait until the pandemic concludes and all claims and data have been submitted. Accordingly, this research brief relies upon Rating Board data as well as external information, data, and estimates from the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board, the New York State Department of Labor, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and published studies on medical treatment patterns and costs. In some instances, this research brief incorporates assumptions based upon conversations with workers’ compensation experts and anecdotal evidence collected by the Rating Board. As more information becomes known and additional data emerges, these assumptions will be refined for use in future research briefs and analyses.

You can find the complete brief here: NYCIRB Releases Research Brief on COVID-19 Impact on State’s Workers’ Comp System

Source: The New York Compensation Insurance Rating Board

Hurricane Season Reminders

This year’s hurricane season runs from June 1st to November 30th. We encourage our clients to prepare their business for the 2020 Hurricane Season. Take action early to protect your assets and your people.

Pre-Planning

Review all of your insurance policies and understand what is covered.

Verify Employee Contact Information

Maintaining accurate employee contact information is critical during an emergency. COVID-19 has led to an increase in remote working and the need to know where each employee is located-not just in a directory, but in real time. Send a quick memo to your employees asking them to update their contact information. This will help management check on their well-being and keep them informed.

Build Your Emergency Plan

Refer to websites like FEMA and National Hurricane Survival Initiative to help you build your company’s emergency plan. You will want to include details on securing your business assets, ensure your data is backed up, review contracts, customer communication strategies, and recovery plan.

Create an Emergency Response Team

Define clear roles and responsibilities for essential staff members.

Legislative Activity Update – FL Senate Bill 292

The state of Florida has passed Senate Bill 292.  This bill is responsible for defining the terms “loss run statement” and “provide”; requiring surplus lines and authorized insurers, respectively, to provide insureds either a loss run statement or certain information within a certain time frame after receipt of the insured’s written request.  This also requires insurers to provide notice to the agent of record after providing a loss run statement and prohibits insurers from charging a fee to prepare and provide one loss run statement annually.

Effective Date: 1/1/2021
Last Action: 6/22/2020 – Chapter No. 2020-51
Bill Text: Web Page | PDF

See the source image

Florida – Effective January 1, 2021, FL law changes for providing Loss Runs to the insured as well as notification to the Agent of Record.

  • An insurer shall provide loss runs to an insured within 15 calendar days after receipt of the insured’s written request.
  • Loss runs provided must contain the claims history with the insurer for the preceding 5 years or if history is less than 5 years then all years must be provided to the insured.
  • They can be electronically provided, allowing access through a secure website login or generate documents and mail.
  • The insurer must notify the Agent of Record that loss runs were provided to the insured at the time they are provided.
  • An insurer is not required to provide loss reserve information.

 

Fears of unsafe conditions raise worker rights concerns

 

As the numbers of COVID-19 infections continue to climb, employment attorneys say fearful workers have limited rights in refusing to work, while employers have legal obligations to provide a safe place to work.

It’s an intersection legal experts say calls for enhanced communication between companies and their workers and a constant adherence to evolving state and federal laws guiding work during the pandemic.

“Companies need to assure employees they are on top of this; it goes a long way,” said Matt Hinton, New York-based partner for risk consulting firm Control Risks Ltd. He says the issue is one to watch as more states lift restrictions.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have both issued guidelines on workplace safely. As of Wednesday, at least one state — Oregon — is gearing up to create permanent workplace safety guidelines for infectious diseases.

A majority of employers say they have plans in place. And safety professionals are telling employers to encourage employee engagement in safety protocols. Yet concerns are growing over whether employers are doing enough. On Monday, unions representing some 60,000 Nevada hospitality workers sued three casino properties over alleged unsafe working conditions related to the coronavirus.

Worker fear is a genuine concern, but it’s not enough to refuse work, said Courtney Malveaux, Richmond, Virginia-based principal and attorney with Jackson Lewis P.C.

The rule is a worker must have a “specific” concern, he said. An example would be if the workplace is not clean, or the worksite is not following local regulations such as requiring individuals to wear masks.

“A generalized fear of COVID does not provide a basis for refusing to work; it has to be a specific fear of a circumstance at that employee’s workplace,” Mr. Malveaux said. “It also has to be a fear that is made in good faith and is reasonable to others.”

An employee with a compromised immune system or other health issue that puts him or her at risk for COVID-19 complications could be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, which would require the employer to work to find the employee an accommodation, such as an alternative work environment, he said. Any concern with work “must be specific to the workplace or the employee” with a health condition, he said.

Maurice Emsellem, Berkeley, California-based program director of the National Employment Law Project, said worker rights advocates are calling on the federal government to outline more specific guidelines for those who refuse work under certain conditions. He said that what is in place among OSHA, CDC and ADA may not be enough.

There is also concern that state unemployment agencies are not keeping up with the changing landscape. “(Workers) are vulnerable because they lose their unemployment benefits if the state agencies don’t do the right thing,” he said. “In general, workers have to know they can refuse unsafe work.” In most states, a worker who quits a job cannot collect unemployment benefits.

Expect litigation, said Maxfield Marquardt, Los Angeles-based counsel and associate director for regulatory affairs at Trusaic Inc., a compliance technology company. Many state laws create parameters for employees to work “at will,” he said.

“An employee has the right to not show up for work,” he said. “But will they keep their jobs? … An employer can say, ‘You want to work? Come in.’”

Disagreements over whether conditions are safe, or whether an employer is following safe guidelines, are “part of the reason you are going to see a lot of litigation,” Mr. Marquardt said. “Litigation and regulatory guidance are evolving at a fast pace. OSHA could change its guidelines Friday; the CDC may change its guidelines again.” How can companies avoid the potential legal mess? Pay attention and consider the federal, state and local workplace mandates as “the bare minimum” in ensuring safe working conditions, Mr. Hinton said. “The employee sentiment is the important piece,” he said. “Have a path for your employees to raise their hand and say, ‘This isn’t working.’”

Listening to employees will be key, said Kim Brunell, Washington-based associate director at Control Risks. “You have to have a collaborative approach to safety,” she said. “Employers that do that best consider the context of a particular work environment.”

 

Originally posted on July 1st, 2020 by Louise Esola for Business Insurance

As COVID-19 Spreads, Beware of EPL Risks

As businesses of all sizes strive to protect their employees and preserve cash flow during the coronavirus pandemic, likely the last thing on most of their minds is employment practices liability (EPL) exposures. But EPL risks are higher during pandemics and other periods when employers are more likely to furlough, lay off or ask employees to work from home.

Despite federal legislation aimed at relieving financial burdens on workers and their employers, many businesses face difficult choices – and more complicated record keeping.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which takes effect April 1, permits workers to take paid public health emergency leave to care for themselves or their children through the end of 2020. The law requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave for employees who cannot work due to the closure of their children’s school or child-care provider during the public health emergency. The law generally requires employers to restore the employee to his or her former job after leave, unless the employer has 25 or fewer workers, or the position no longer exists due to economic conditions resulting from the public health emergency (source 12).

Several EPL risks for businesses can arise from the current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. These include:

Wage-and-hour issues. Employers should carefully track employees’ working time, especially in work-from- home arrangements, as well as during a furlough. Work hours are common tipping points for eligibility under an employer’s employee benefits plan.

“A lot of employment issues arise from COVID-19. Frequent questions I get from employers concern furloughs, layoffs, and working from home,” said Kunal Shah, Of Counsel at Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP in Dallas. “If a business temporarily closes its doors, or significantly reduces its staff and hours, how do we navigate employee compensation and benefits? Insureds need to be mindful that furloughs, if not handled properly, can lead to significant wage-and-hour claims.”

If an employer requires employees to take unpaid leave through furlough, problems can arise if employees are asked to spend even a little bit of that time working, Shah cautioned. “An employer can furlough an exempt employee, but if the employee does one second of work, he or she is entitled to full pay for the entire pay period under the Fair Labor Standards Act,” he said.

“Employers need to be mindful of local and state ordinances, too. Employees of businesses that are deemed non- essential should not be working if they are under a shelter-in-place order,” Shah said.

Hours spent working matter, to workers and their employers. “Benefit plans may no longer provide benefits if hours fall below a certain threshold,” Shah explained. “For example, if a full-time employee goes below a certain hours minimum required for benefits under their group health plan, he or she may trigger coverage under COBRA,” or the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, a federal law that allows workers to obtain group health insurance temporarily, usually for up to 18 months.

“The reverse can also happen, where an employee works more hours than agreed upon, thus making him or her eligible for certain benefits otherwise not agreed to. For these reasons, timekeeping and logging hours are important steps for every employer, especially in a working-from-home arrangement,” Shah advised. Relying on employees to track their own time can be risky. “Asking employees to report their hours daily, even in an e-mail, is a good way to document work time if an employer lacks a logging system for remote workers,” Shah suggested.

“Also, employees who are on unpaid leave or working less hours due to furlough can still apply for unemployment benefits. An employer must be mindful of these sorts of situations to avoid wage-and-hour claims,” Shah advised.

Wrongful termination. Reductions in force (RIFs) are an unfortunate fact during economic downturns, such as the one that is occurring due to COVID-19. RIFs often lead to wrongful termination claims, and potentially even class-action lawsuits.

Because the coronavirus so far poses greater health risks to people over age 65, people with obesity and underlying uncontrolled health conditions such as diabetes or liver disease, and pregnant women, employers must proceed carefully with terminations. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention offers information resources to help business and employers slow the spread of COVID-19 (source).

It might seem logical to some employers to lay off workers at greater risk of contracting COVID-19, but that is problematic and could invite lawsuits alleging discrimination and wrongful termination.

Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) issues. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces anti- discrimination laws, including the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act. With the stress and anxiety over COVID-19, employees with disabilities might make more requests for reasonable accommodations under the ADA. Employers should consider any accommodation requests during the pandemic in the same manner in which they otherwise would. The EEOC also has published guidance for employers on COVID-19 (source).

The ADA allows employers to seek certain information about employees’ health and disabilities, insofar as such information is job-related and consistent with “business necessity,” but employers must remain aware of their obligations to apply it consistently and keep information confidential.

“Because we are dealing with a pandemic, it is now OK for employers to take employees’ temperatures or send an employee home if he or she is exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, but any information an employer collects about an employee’s health must be treated as a confidential medical record,” Shah said. “During a pandemic like COVID-19, employees exhibiting symptoms consistent with the virus post a direct threat under the ADA, warranting an employer’s questions out of business necessity. Employers should remember that all other aspects of the ADA remain in effect. There is still the potential for retaliation claims under the ADA and other laws.”

Third-party discrimination. Another form of EPL exposure is third-party discrimination. Such claims may come from customers or others. For example, refusal of service or preferential treatment could be construed as third-party discrimination.

“Businesses all over the United States have been mandated to practice social distancing and not put their employees or customers in jeopardy. Businesses can’t prevent claims, but they may have lots of meritorious defenses,” Shah said.

Original article posted by CRC Group Wholesale & Specialty

COVID-19: Confirmed Cases & Deaths Per State

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The Kaiser Family Foundation has created an interactive map that illustrates the most current confirmed cases and deaths of COVID-19. For a breakdown by state, click here.