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7 years ago · by · 0 comments

July Business Newsletter

Employee Drug Use Reaches 12-year High

The positive drug test rate for the U.S. workforce was 4.2 percent in 2016, according to the Drug Testing Index (DTI) released by Quest Diagnostics. This represents a 5 percent increase over the positive rate in 2015, and the largest single-year positive rate since 2004.

The DTI analyzed over 10 million workforce drug test results from 2016 and categorized employees into three categories, including employees with federally mandated drug tests, the general workforce and the combined U.S. workforce. Here are additional details about the DTI’s findings for specific drug types:

  • Marijuana—The positive test rate for marijuana increased nearly 75 percent in oral fluid testing, which is used in the general workforce. Federally mandated marijuana tests only utilize urine tests, and the positive test rate increased 10 percent in 2016.
  • Cocaine—Positive test rates for cocaine in post-accident drug tests were more than twice as high as pre-employment screenings.
  • Amphetamines—Positive test rates for amphetamines have risen 64 percent between 2012 and 2016 for the general workforce. Quest Diagnostics attributes this increase to the prevalence of prescription drugs, including Adderall.

In order to create a safe, productive workplace, you need to watch out for potential drug use at your business.

Political Discussions Hurt Job Performance

Many people can get worked up about politics, but a new survey from the American Psychological Association (APA) has shown that political discussions in the workplace can have a big impact on your employees’ job performance.

The APA surveyed U.S. employees about the impact of political discussions after the 2016 presidential election, and found that these discussions have a detrimental effect on job performance and relationships with co-workers. The survey found that 40 percent of employees have experienced a negative outcome following a workplace political discussion, such as reduced productivity or difficulty getting work done. Additionally, 24 percent of employees said they avoid some co-workers solely because of their politics.

According to the APA, social networks and constant news reports can cause individuals to adopt an “us versus them” political mentality, which can lead to conflict. As a result, it’s important to encourage respect, collaboration and courtesy in your workplace to ensure that your employees feel supported and remain productive.

New Executive Order Aims to Improve Cyber Security

President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order to improve the country’s cyber security and protect key infrastructure from cyber attacks. The order also emphasized the importance of strengthening the cyber security of federal agencies. According to a survey from Thales Group, a cyber security company, 34 percent of federal agencies experienced a data breach in the last year, and 95 percent of agencies consider themselves vulnerable to cyber attacks.

The executive order did not create any ongoing cyber security requirements, but instead laid out goals to assess the current state of cyber defenses and develop deterrence strategies. Here are some of the requirements of the executive order:

  • Federal agencies must draft reports on their ability to defend themselves against cyber threats.
  • The departments of Energy and Homeland Security must assess potential vulnerabilities to the country’s electrical grids. The executive order specifically mentions that prolonged power outages could pose a threat to national security or damage the economy.
  • Various federal agencies must review the cyber defense plans of U.S. allies in order to cooperate during international cyber attacks.

Apple Creates $1 Billion Fund to Support U.S. Manufacturing

Apple, the world’s largest technology company, recently announced that it will create a $1 billion fund to support U.S. manufacturing. Although the company is based in the United States, it has faced criticism for outsourcing most of its manufacturing and taking jobs from U.S. workers.

Apple’s CEO stated that one goal of the fund was to support smart manufacturing and to create a ripple effect in industries that support smart manufacturers. For more information on the manufacturing fund, visit Apple’s website.


A U.S. Court of Appeals recently barred the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) from requiring recreational drone owners to register their unmanned aircraft. The FAA had originally required recreational drones to be registered in order to help identify aircraft that posed a hazard, and to pass on safety information to operators. However, the court’s ruling will not impact the use of drones for commercial use, as these aircraft must still be registered with the FAA before they are used.

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8 years ago · by · 0 comments

Home preparation for winter

sky-592414_1920As you get ready to bundle up for winter, consider prepping your home, too. Several tips ensure it is protected and comfortable all season.

Inspect and Clean the Chimney

Whether you have a fireplace or wood stove, the chimney needs to be professionally cleaned and inspected. Remove any debris or creosote buildup, and repair any cracks or chips before you start your first fire of the season.

Change the Furnace Filter

Dust and other debris can compromise your furnace filter’s ability to do its job. Improve your furnace’s functionality and longevity when you change the filter this fall.

Install Detectors

Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are essential in your home year round but especially during the winter months. Install these detectors on each floor, and test them at least once a month.

Repair the Roof

By repairing roof leaks and loose shingles now, you prevent damaging leaks and expensive emergency repairs.

Trim Trees

High winds can blow tree branches into your home and cause extensive damage. Trim branches now as you protect your home.

Boost Insulation

An extra layer of insulation goes a long way towards keeping your home cozy. Consider insulating the hot water tank and water lines along your home’s exterior walls. You can also insulate the attic, basement, exterior walls, crawlspaces and outlets as you prepare your house for winter weather.

Apply Weatherproofing Materials

Windows and doors can be a major source of drafts and lost heat. Apply caulk or weather-stripping material to improve your comfort and reduce heating expenses. For even bigger savings, install insulated doors and thermal-pane or storm windows.

Stock an Emergency Kit

Power outages are common when heavy storms hit your area. Be prepared with an emergency kit. It can include items like extra non-perishable food, a manual can opener, bottled water, first aid kit, battery-powered radio, blankets, flashlight, batteries, hand sanitizer, portable toilet and activities.


Preparing your home for winter protects your investment. In addition to implementing these tips, ensure your home insurance is adequate. Then sit back and enjoy the season in comfort.

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8 years ago · by · 0 comments

Holiday Prep and Safety

gift-444519_1920The holiday season is here, and it’s time to celebrate. As you prepare your home, follow several safety tips that help your holiday season be merry and bright.

Indoor Decorations

Miniature houses, ceramic reindeer and scented candles add a festive dimension to your home during the holiday season. Be sure to keep fragile items away from the edge of tables or mantles and out of small children’s reaches. Extinguish any candles before bedtime or leaving the house, too.

Christmas Tree

A traditional symbol of the holiday, your Christmas tree looks pretty as its light twinkle. Keep your family safe when you secure the tree into a sturdy stand. Water your real tree regularly or choose a fire-resistant artificial tree to prevent a fire. If you use lights, don’t use frayed strands, hide the light power chord under a rug to reduce the tripping hazard and unplug the lights before you leave the house or go to bed. Remember to hang ornaments out of reach or place a baby gate around the tree, too, to protect children and pets.


Share joy this holiday season when you give gifts to your loved ones. Remember to keep all gift wrapping supplies away from pets that may eat shiny ribbons and get sick. Also, purchase adequate insurance for jewelry, art and other expensive gifts. To prevent thieves from stealing your holiday joy, hide gifts until Christmas morning, secure your house with a security system and keep the windows and doors locked.

Outdoor Decorations

Whether you go all out when decorating your house and lawn or simply hang a wreath on the door, follow outdoor decoration safety. Always use a ladder to hang lights on your house. Don’t overload electrical outlets, either. As a rule, connect only three outdoor extension cords together in one strand.

Visitor Prep

Welcoming visitors is part of the season’s fun. Clear the walkways of ice and debris before guests arrive. Consider installing extra lighting, too, to prevent falls and trips. When preparing food, follow food safety guidelines. Store fresh foods at the correct temperature, cook foods thoroughly and place leftovers promptly into the fridge.

The holiday season is a joyous time of celebration. Follow these safety tips as you decorate your home and welcome guests. Contact your insurance agent, too, to update your home insurance policy and insure all your gifts.

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8 years ago · by · 0 comments

When Can I Use Unemployment Insurance?

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Most employers have to carry unemployment insurance on their employees. Do you really understand, though, when you can use your unemployment insurance benefits? Knowing the answer to this question can help you make important decisions about using this coverage.

What is Unemployment Insurance?

Unemployment Insurance is designed to help you cover expenses when you’re between jobs. It usually gives you a percentage of your working wages rather than a full paycheck.

Unemployment laws also vary by state. Although they follow guidelines from the federal government, each state’s Department of Labor determines how much coverage workers get when they file for unemployment.

Who’s Eligible to Collect Unemployment Benefits?

If you’ve been laid off or fired and are not at fault, you may qualify for unemployment. You will generally be disqualified from receiving unemployment, though, if you:

*Quit without having a good cause,
*Are fired for misconduct,
*Resign because of illness,
*Become involved in a labor dispute or
*Leave to get married or attend school.

What are Unemployment Insurance Limits?

Most states allow you to receive unemployment benefits for up to 26 weeks. In cases, you may be eligible for extensions based on federal guidelines or your state’s unemployment rates.

When Should You File?

As soon as you’re laid off or let go from your job, file for unemployment. It often takes two to three weeks for benefits to start, so a delay in filing means a delay in receiving benefits.

Also, realize that unemployment is not a free ride. While you can use the money to pay any expenses, you typically have to prove that you’re looking for employment to receive ongoing benefits. You’ll also have to report any hours you worked.

Unemployment insurance gives you some financial assistance if you lose your job.
Don’t quit and expect to be compensated, though. Discuss this coverage with your employer, insurance company or Department of Labor if you need further clarification.

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8 years ago · by · 0 comments

Five Employee Safety Tips

Best practices and laws, policies and rules are important foundations for building a workplace safety program. But, they are not nearly enough. A truly safe working environment is then management and line employees share in the workplace safety effort. Employees who name a hazard should never feel threatened or that he or she will be subject to recriminations. Words of praise are the least for alert people and tickets to a sporting event, movie, or show let them know their alertness counts. Following are some common issues found in most workplaces that management and floor employees should look for.

1. Identify Hazardous Places
When employees first start, assign a person to take them on a tour. Point any places that are hazardous, even if proper signage is up. Explain to new employees the nature of the hazard and if they need protective clothing in the area.

2. Instruct employees in a way to maintain the right posture to protect their backs.
People, who work at desks, keep your shoulders lined up with your hip to avert back issues. Any worker who has to pick something up needs to know the correct position of the back to avoid injury. So do not stoop or twist. Whenever possible use ergonomically designed furniture and equipment to protect your back. Ergonomic equipment and furniture help keep your muscular-skeletal system in the proper place.

3. Report unsafe conditions.
The span of management keeps getting larger. Managers have more difficulty walking through their areas to make sure all areas are safe. They are dependent on their workers to help find unsafe conditions. Safety is everyone’s job — as soon as you suspect a condition is not safe report it to your manager.

4. Be aware of your surroundings.
If you work on a factory floor, in the fulfillment center or a warehouse be aware of your surroundings. Forklifts are racing around keeping to their schedules and intersections are especially dangerous. Walk the floor with the same caution, you do when crossing the street at a busy intersection.

5. Dress for safety.
Always make sure you have the proper safety equipment on. Hard hats, goggles, ear protection, and other safety items significantly cut the amount of employee injuries and illnesses.

Managers who share these and other safety tips with their team show that they care about their employees past “legislative directions.” This caring attitude goes a long way towards employee safety awareness, less on the job injuries, and higher productivity thanks to improved morale.


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8 years ago · by · 0 comments

Editor’s Column: Frustrated with HR People

I find myself frustrated because companies and those in the HR Function won’t allow me to help them as much as I can. I’m frustrated when I see the trivial feud of HR Executives truly trying to make a difference and be excellent. I’m frustrated when I speak and exhibit at a conference and the attendees are more interested in getting their CEU credits and whatever you’re handing out at your exhibit than they are truly learning things from the speakers or the vendors. I am frustrated because HR Executives as a group have not exhibited the dedication, vision, nerve, defiance, edginess, etc. that I like to be associated with. And unfortunately, we have relegated the concept of relationships at our companies to these executives.

HR has to take it on the chin and realize that there’s good reason for the harsh criticism. They have to take it as a wakeup call and an opportunity. HR represents an incredible opportunity that few organizations or individuals are committed to. Those who are committed to the process of building human excellence will generate additional values at their companies and in their personal lives. So, there’s a choice, either you kick ass at HR and receive the rewards or you stay in your comfort zone and continue to get run over.

Perhaps the two greatest impacts on HR over the last few decades have been technology and the law. It’s gotten to a point where we can access all levels of data regarding our operations. Human Resource Management System and Human Resources Information Systems have been designed for every level of size and complexity. Technology has also been utilized to organize performance management. Managing a HRIS system is like managing information on steroids. The reality is that while many of these companies pump the time saving advantages of being able to pull various reports, few executives ever find the time or reason to pull them. As a result, the technology is utilized at its lowest common denominator.

The most drastic employment law changes in the workplace have occurred during my career. When I began my legal career in 1983 most of the law was concerning union work. Few people brought sexual harassment, discrimination, or other statutory claims. That was primarily handled by agencies such as the Federal EEOC and the California DFEH. Over the last 30 years, the amount of law that one has to know related to the HR function has easily quadrupled. Go to an HR conference today and you will see at least half of all presentations being related to compliance.

Don Phin, Esq. is VP of Strategic Business Solutions at ThinkHR, which helps companies resolve urgent workforce issues, mitigate risk and ensure HR compliance. Phin has more than three decades of experience as an HR expert, published author and speaker, and spent 17 years in employment practices litigation. For more information, visit


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Scurich Insurance Services
Phone: (831) 661-5697
Fax: (831) 661-5741

783 Rio Del Mar Blvd., Suite7,
Aptos, Ca 95003-4700

PO Box 1170
Watsonville, CA 95077-1170

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(831) 661-5697

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