According to the National Retail Insight Center report, this year’s Halloween spending will average about $77 per person. This means we are likely to see an increase in trick-or-treaters at our homes. For many homeowners, this is not generally a problem but there are some common things that occur every Halloween that you should be aware of.
The dreaded dog bite
If you have a family dog, keeping him in a closed room can help prevent this calamity. Dogs are naturally territorial and when there are strangers pouring into your yard and ringing your doorbell, chances are your dog will get overly excited and could potentially harm a child. Before Halloween, check with your insurance agent about your coverage for this type of injury.
Children fall all the time
Children can be clumsy and when they are walking into unfamiliar yards, they can be even more clumsy. Combine this natural tendency with garments that are not always well-fitting and you have a potential recipe for disaster. Chances are if a child slips and falls on your property whether it is a tumble off the porch or tripping over cast-off toys or garden tools, you will be responsible for any medical bills the parent incurs.
Some surprising facts about homeowners insurance
Most people are unaware of some of the items their homeowners insurance covers. For example, Halloween is a night of pranks and if your home is egged, a headstone you own is toppled or your home is vandalized because you are not at home, these items may be covered. Before you pay for cleanups, repair a headstone or grave marker or repair home vandalism, check with your insurance company to see if any of these items are covered.
Halloween is meant to be a fun evening for adults and children alike. Sometimes things happen that are beyond your control. Do not assume you have all the insurance coverage you need, check with your insurance representative before it is too late.
As a homeowner you have a responsibility to those people who visit your home. Not only do you have to ensure that invited guests are safe, but, when Halloween comes around, you need to be aware of the potential dangers to young trick-or-treaters and the hazards outside your home. In addition, you also need to ensure your family stays safe.
Hidden dangers in decorations
We all love to make sure our home puts on a show for are trick-or-treaters. This often means decorations that you probably have not used since last year. Before you start decorating your home keep some things in mind:
- Open flame hazards – it is fun for children to see a jack-o-lantern all lit up on the porch of a home they are visiting. Often, we use candles in these to provide a spooky welcome to children. Instead of using traditional candles, consider the battery-operated type to avoid potential burns to visiting children.
- Electrical hazards – strings of orange lights may look great outside or inside your home but if you have not used these lights since last year you may want to carefully inspect all cords. Worn cords should be thrown away to avoid a fire hazard.
- The little things – you may not think about dog toys, children’s toys or garden tools laying around your yard. However, these all can pose a risk to visitors who are unfamiliar with your home. Keep everyone save by carefully checking all walkways and surrounding areas for items that could cause falls.
Adults and children alike can enjoy the fun and excitement of Halloween if proper safety precautions are taken. Taking the proper precautions such as making sure your home is well lit, making sure your family pets are indoors where they cannot be hurt or frightened by trick-or-treaters and making sure you have prepared for your visitors will help make sure everyone has a safe and happy experience.
Nearly all business owners carry some type of insurance. However, if you are carrying a standard business liability policy, it may be worth your time to review your policy and determine if you have employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) coverage. Not all liability coverage includes this important feature.
What is EPLI?
EPLI coverage includes wrongful termination protection for employers. This allows you to file a claim to cover the cost of legal defense anytime you are sued for wrongful termination. This insurance would also pay claims if you should lose your case.
What is wrongful termination?
Wrongful termination claims may be filed by an employee who feels they were fired from their job unjustly. Some of the common reasons why an employee may claim wrongful termination include:
- Age discrimination – employees over the age of 40 may file an age discrimination claim even if they were fired for other reasons.
- Other discrimination – claims may be filed if an employee believes they were terminated because of their gender, sexual orientation or a disability.
- Whistleblower termination – California law makes it illegal to terminate an employee for reporting certain actions including workplace safety, public interest or other activities that may be considered illegal.
- Written contract violations – while California is known to have an “at will” employer/employee agreement, employees who are fired and have written contracts may still be fired under certain circumstances. This may not prevent them from filing a wrongful termination suit.
Minimizing your risk of wrongful termination claims
Keep in mind, the better you document your reasons for terminating an employee, the less likely you are to face wrongful termination claims. Some ways to avoid this include:
- Documentation of wrongdoing – anytime you reprimand an employee it should be documented in their employment file.
- Witnesses can be helpful – if you need to have a conference with an employee about their conduct on the job, it may be helpful to have another manager or supervisor sit in on the conference.
- Consider consulting an attorney – if you need to terminate an employee, it may be helpful to discuss your strategy with an employment attorney first.
Oftentimes, wrongful termination claims are simply retaliatory but having EPLI coverage can make good financial sense for those unexpected claims.
Sexual harassment suits may be filed against a business for any number of reasons. In fact, some employers are surprised to learn that sexual harassment charges have been filed against them because of suggestive posters, suggestive items on display in the workplace or because of lewd jokes told in the workplace. However, under California law, all of these are considered a violation of workplace rules.
Preventing sexual harassment in the workplace
Employers in California who have five or more employees are under an obligation per the laws in the state to provide a workplace where employees do not feel they are subjected to sexual harassment. It is important to note that there are two specific categories of harassment which are “quid pro quo” and “hostile work environment”. As an employer, you should be aware of what each of these terms means, specifically:
- Quid pro quo – when an employee feels they were denied opportunities for advancement or increase in pay because they refused a sexual advance on the job. In some cases, if an employee reports a sexual advance and were subsequently dismissed from their job this may also be considered quid pro quo.
- Hostile work environment – when other employees, regular visitors or others are telling offensive jokes regularly, an employee may feel the environment is hostile. Keep in mind this could mean racially insensitive jokes, jokes of a sexual nature or other behaviors an employee finds offensive.
According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, during 2011 there were more than 11,000 sexual harassment cases filed. More than 15% of these were filed by male employees. No employer, regardless of size is guaranteed to never have a suit filed against them. It is important to note, that of the more than 11,000 suits filed, settlements exceeded $52 million for suits that were found to have merit. It is imperative to verify that you have the right coverage to protect your business in the event you are sued for sexual harassment.
While the current economy shows signs of improvement, news reports often report an increase in filing of employment-related suits when the job markets are difficult. Keep in mind, California tends to be an “employee-friendly” state and no business, regardless of their size is safe from employee lawsuits. Even if you have done everything “by the book” this is no guarantee an employee will not file a lawsuit claiming unlawful termination, sexual harassment or even a pay-related claim against you.
Employment practice liability coverage and your business
Should you face legal problems after you have fired an employee, your coverage can help minimize the legal costs you could be facing. Additionally, should the courts rule in favor of the employee, these policies can help cover the amounts you would otherwise have to pay from your business. Employment related claims can include:
- Sexual harassment – long gone are the days when only women complained about sexual harassment on the job. Today, nearly 7% of all claims filed are by men.
- Wrongful termination – whether an employee was an “at will” or had a written contract, there is a potential you could be sued for wrongful termination. Employees who are let go for cause or as part of a mass layoff could potentially file suit against your business.
- Family medical leave act violations – employees who feel the rights afforded to them under the family medical leave act (FMLA) may file suit. This includes employees who were refused time off, or employees who were terminated in a layoff during a covered absence.
Federal and California employment laws are very specific regarding discrimination and the employees right to a safe workplace. Many employers will never have a disgruntled employee file a suit against them but, if you are one of the unlucky ones, having the appropriate employment practice liability coverage can save you thousands of dollars. Check with your insurance agent about your coverage today.
Let’s talk about chimney fires
We’ve been discussing home improvement tips before the winter season come. We have discussed the importance of maintaining your home, cleaning out your gutter, and a general list of other to-do’s this fall. Now we are going to discuss about the importance of taking care of your chimney.
Why do I need my chimney inspected?
Creosote is what gets left behind after burning wood, and it’s highly flammable. Pine wood is notorious for leaving a lot of creosote behind. If your chimney has too much creosote (or under the right conditions) you could find yourself in the middle of a chimney fire.
How often should I get my chimney inspected?
It’s a good idea to get your chimney inspected annually. Most chimney sweeps will not only check for built up creosote, but will also check to make sure that everything is working properly. It’s not a bad idea to get your chimney cleaned out each year. It’s a good preventive measure to save you and your family.
By calling a chimney sweep and getting your wood stove, pellet stove, or fireplace inspected, you are maintaining your home and ensuring the safety of your family. Plus, you’re also meeting the maintenance requirements for your homeowner’s insurance policy.
For more information about your homeowner’s insurance policy, contact the friendly agents at Scurich Insurance Services.
Content provided by Transformer Marketing.