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Monthly Archives: October 2017

Workplace Policies to Prevent Harassment Claims

Though the hiring and firing periods of employment are when an employer is at the greatest risk for litigation, lawsuits based on the company’s employment practices can happen at any time. Poorly worded policies or a manager’s passive attitude can embroil an entire business in the complaint of a single employee.

Workplace harassment can come from a lack of managerial action as easily as it can come from offensive behaviour. The best method to limit a company’s risks is to ensure all employees have a solid understanding of company policies and the rights they are entitled to. It is the employer’s legal duty to make clear rules for workplace conduct and to make certain every employee understands and follows them.


Workplace harassment is one of the most difficult risks for an employer to control. Whereas most forms of litigation come after company management for the deceitful or improper actions they took, harassment suits usually seek to blame managers for the ignorant or hateful actions of their employees.

Harassment is any form of malicious or exploitive behaviour that alienates or damages an individual to the point of affecting employment conditions. Harassment can be caused by co-workers or managers, either individually or in groups. When the harassment is pervasive or repeated, the situation is deemed a hostile work environment.

No matter what party is responsible for the harassment, the employer could quickly be implicated in an employee’s complaint. While it will be difficult for an isolated incident of co-worker harassment to be blamed on management, every instance of harassment should be regarded as extremely serious. Managers should investigate and document all cases thoroughly.

Types of Harassment

Though harassment includes a variety of offences, one of its most common forms is sexual harassment. While there are blatant acts of sexual harassment (threatening to fire subordinates if they do not grant sexual favours; an openly discriminatory system of promotion and pay) some less aggressive forms can be the result of one employee paying too much attention to a co-worker or an improper joke that had no direct target.

What constitutes sexual harassment is not always clear. Opinions on offensive behaviour vary widely, and courts often have to spend time deciding what constitutes normal behaviour. As a general rule, if an employee is ever made to feel uncomfortable or harassed, he or she should report it immediately so the offensive behaviour can be stopped.

General harassment claims are as serious as sexual harassment. It is surprisingly easy for people to develop a group bias that results in the exclusion of one co-worker or creates favouritism for similarly minded employees. Managers should watch for harassment at all times and talk to individuals who have displayed clear signs of discriminatory behaviour based on race, ethnicity, disability or religion. The latter is a common pitfall, as it is often visually indiscernible and co-workers may feel they have religious superiority or no rational reason to be considerate of another person’s beliefs.

Workers should feel as though they can report harassment without any threat of repercussion. At least two different channels for reporting harassment should be set up in case one is compromised or directly connected to the harassment. If employees do not feel they can report harassment safely, managers may not be aware there is a problem until litigation for a hostile work environment and negligent management is filed. Workers should be trained to recognize harassment of co-workers and be taught to treat offences seriously.

Employers can also be held liable for harassment that happens away from the workplace. Job-sponsored events are often considered to be under a company’s liability. Although harassment completely outside of any work-related functions is not the company’s responsibility, employers should be open to receive reports of any harassment incidents between two employees and speak with the offending party. While an employer cannot reprimand or punish employees for actions performed in their free time, he or she can remind them that there will be no tolerance for similar actions in the workplace and, if necessary, make accommodations to isolate them from the targeted employee.

The best general action an employer can take to prevent harassment and negligence litigation is to make sure all employees receive training and are made to sign an agreement that they understand and will comply with company standards. This training should happen on a regular basis, not just when employees are hired. Demonstrating and reminding workers of the severity of harassment can keep adverse actions from ever occurring and can prove in court that managers made genuine preventive efforts.

Negligence in Hiring

In certain cases, employers can be sued for negligence after a first incident of co-worker harassment. If a new employee is accused of physical harassment and it is discovered that he or she has been reported or arrested for similar behaviour prior to being hired, a plaintiff could claim the employer showed negligence in hiring. Employers should do thorough background checks on all job applicants to ensure they pose no threat to current employees.


Proper action by company managers and HR representatives is useless if it does not get properly documented and stored. When litigation is filed, courts usually look to the employer to provide the necessary documents and records pertaining to the suit. Failure to produce these records can cast suspicion on the company. Since jury biases tend to be against companies, a business needs solid proof that its managers took the proper steps to prevent problems and inform employees about their rights.

Every company should have a policy and official forms for handling complaints. Every complaint should be logged and investigated using prescribed methods. Any notes about how the complaint was resolved should also be put on record. These forms can be essential for establishing details later on.

Having every employee read and agree to a company handbook is one of the most important things a company can do to protect itself and educate its workers. Handbooks should be written carefully and list rules for employee responsibilities and rights. Managers should be subject to the handbook as well and carry out all investigations and evaluations with the rules of the handbook in mind. Handbooks should be reviewed by legal professionals that can guarantee that the company’s policies conform to national and provincial guidelines.

As long as there are employees, there will be some risk for harassment. Well-made policies and incident documentation can greatly decrease your company’s exposure, but cannot help if litigation occurs. Employment Practices Liability insurance is used by many companies to cover harassment risks and mitigate expenses when unavoidable claims are filed.

© Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved

What to Expect When Applying for Cyber Insurance

Every insurance policy starts with an application, and cyber liability insurance is no different. While the underwriting process in long-established insurance lines is streamlined, this is not the case for cyber liability insurance. Currently, application forms for cyber insurance are not standard and can be complex—often consisting of dozens of pages.

For businesses attempting to acquire cyber insurance, the application process itself can be daunting. However, proper cyber liability insurance remains a vital risk-transfer tool for organizations of all sizes. To ensure your organization has the right level of insurance when it needs it most, it is critical to prepare for the application process itself.

What Type of Information is Reviewed?

An underwriter’s job is to assess risk and determine limits and pricing. Insurers depend on the detail contained in an organization’s application, and any vagueness or incorrect information can create issues if and when you file a claim. In order to properly determine your organization’s cyber risks, insurers will review information related to the following:

  • The basics. Insurers will want to know what industry your organization operates in, as well as how much and what types of information your organization stores, processes and transmits. In addition, underwriters will look to see how you manage data security and who is in charge of overseeing cyber-related matters.
  • Information security. When it comes to on-site security, underwriters want to know if you have a formal program in place to test and audit security controls. In addition, underwriters typically look to see if you have basic controls in place, including firewall technology, anti-virus software and intrusion detection software.
  • Breach history. During the application process, underwriters will take a closer look at your breach history. In general, they want to know if the data you house is particularly vulnerable and how effective your data security techniques are.
  • Data backup. Knowing how your organization handles data backup helps insurers better understand your level of data loss risk. Underwriters will want to know if you back up all of your valuable data on a regular basis, if you utilize a redundant network and if you have a disaster recovery plan in place.
  • Company policies and procedures. Communication is important when it comes to reducing your organization’s cyber risk. That’s why, during the underwriting process, insurers want to know what types of cyber security and incident response policies you have in place. In addition, it’s likely you will be asked how you handle password updates, the use of personal devices and revoking network access to former employees.
  • Compliance with legal and industry standards. Failing to comply with cyber-related legislation can be incredibly costly, and insurers will want to know how you handle compliance. Specifically, they will review whether you are compliant with applicable regulatory frameworks, are a member of any outside security or privacy groups, or utilize out-of-date software and hardware.

The more detailed and specific an organization can be during an initial underwriter review, the more likely it is that the organization will receive the proper amount of coverage and good terms.

Tips for Applying

For cyber coverage to be effective, it requires a high level of due diligence on the part of prospective policyholders. To get the most out of your policy, you will want to consider the following best practices when applying for cyber insurance:

  1. Gather accurate data. Before the application process, it’s critical to speak with your information technology (IT) management team and any vendors you utilize in order to collect accurate data. It’s important to quantify the data on your network. Above all, get a solid estimate on how much personally identifiable information you have, including employee data.
  2. Be honest. To complete the application process properly and get the best possible policy, honesty is important. When working with your insurer, be clear about your organizational setup, security protocols and breach history. Not only will this help in securing adequate coverage, but it will also reduce the risk of your policy being voided if carriers find out you were dishonest during the underwriting process.
  3. Don’t wait. Even if your organization hasn’t taken the appropriate steps to reduce its cyber risk, going through the cyber insurance application process can help identify exposures. Your insurer can work with you to get the best coverage possible today, leaving room to negotiate down the line when your data security methods are stronger.
  4. Involve the right people. The application process for cyber insurance can be complicated, and it’s important to have key personnel help you. In order to complete a cyber liability insurance application, an organization may need to work with their risk managers, IT professionals, HR department, financial officers, board of directors, executives, privacy officers, marketing team and legal professionals.
  5. Work with experienced brokers. Because cyber insurance is relatively new, some brokers are more experienced in the underwriting process than others. To get the most out of your policy, work with a carrier who can accurately assess your exposures and offer your organization the best protection. More experienced brokers can even provide details on how similar companies in your industry handle cyber security.

Taking all the above into account will not only prepare you for the cyber insurance underwriting process, but it can also improve data security up front.

Don’t Go in Unprepared

The application process for cyber insurance is both detailed and exhaustive. However, taking the proper steps before the application process for cyber insurance should reduce your data breach risk, making your organization more attractive to insurers and reducing your insurance costs overall.

When applying for cyber insurance, be sure to scrutinize policy terms, premiums and underwriting programs. Doing so can put you in a better position to secure the right coverage. For assistance applying for cyber liability insurance, contact your broker today.

© Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved

The Importance of Condo Insurance

The proper insurance is critical for those that own or are looking to own a condominium (sometimes referred to as a strata). However, understanding how condo coverage works is not always a straightforward process.

To protect their investment, condo owners must purchase coverage (also known as condo or unit owner insurance) that works in conjunction with a condo association or corporation’s master policy. Condo owners often wrongly assume they do not need coverage because their condo corporation already has a policy.

Failing to purchase a condo or unit owner policy can leave you exposed to gaps in coverage—gaps that could be incredibly costly in the event of a claim. To better understand the need for coverage, it’s important to learn what master and condo policies commonly cover.

Master Policies and What They Typically Cover

Typically, your condo corporation has a master policy that insures all of the property and common areas that are collectively owned by unit owners. Generally, condo corporation insurance covers the following:

  • The buildings shown on the condo plan
  • Common property such as hallways, stairs, roofs, pools, garages and driveways
  • Fixtures built or installed as part of the original or standard construction, including floor and wall coverings as well as electrical and plumbing fixtures
  • Condo assets like furniture and equipment
  • Liability of the condo corporation for claims of property damage and bodily injury suffered by others

One of the key takeaways is that your condo corporation’s insurance may cover insured losses to the condo building and common property, but it does not cover your personal contents, liability or improvements to your unit. That’s why purchasing additional coverage in the form of condo insurance is so important.

Condo Policies and What They Typically Cover

While having a separate insurance policy for your condo unit is not mandatory, it is highly recommended.

As noted above, a condo corporation’s master policy typically covers common areas. Not only does this limited protection put your personal belongings at risk, but any improvements you make, damage you do to another unit or injuries that occur in your unit will also not be covered.

What’s more, in the event of a major disaster (like a pipe bursting in your unit), you could be held liable for the cost of any repairs. Master policies often include language that identifies the owner of the unit where a specific loss began as the individual responsible for the entire deductible. With this cost sometimes exceeding tens of thousands of dollars, condo insurance is a must in order to protect your finances.

Condo insurance typically provides coverage related to the following:

  • Contents or personal property. Condo policies will often protect personal property such as clothing, appliances and furniture.
  • Additional living expenses. In the event of an insured loss that leaves your condo unit uninhabitable, condo policies may provide policyholders with funds over and above the normal cost of living. This coverage is essential, as condo owners will need a place to live if their unit is ever uninhabitable.
  • Third-party liability. Condo policies can provide coverage for your personal liability for any bodily injury or property damage unintentionally caused to others.
  • Improvements and betterments. Condo polices provide coverage for any upgrades to your unit (e.g., adding in custom hardwood flooring or custom counters). This coverage is available whether the improvements were made by you or previous owners of your unit.
  • Loss assessments. In the event that that your condo corporation’s insurance fails to provide adequate coverage, loss assessment protection kicks in. This protection helps insure common property and liability.
  • Contingent coverage. Similar to loss assessment protection, contingent coverage insures your condo unit itself in the event that the master policy fails to protect you or is insufficient.

Other Considerations

When it comes to condo insurance, it’s important to remember that a condo corporation will seldom protect your personal property or pay for your living expenses if you are displaced following an incident.

As such, before purchasing your unit, it is imperative that you ask for a copy of the condo corporation’s insurance agreement. That way you are aware of your responsibilities and the amount you need to pay for any deductibles.

In addition, when meeting with your insurance broker, bring a copy of your condo’s bylaws and master policy. This will help in the underwriting process and will ensure that you get the right level of protection.

Depending on the province, condo associations may be required to offer certain levels of protection, and your broker can help you better understand any insurance gaps.

© Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved

Responding to an Active Shooter Incident

Workplace violence may be a rare occurrence, but you should never underestimate the importance of being prepared in the event that your company and employees are targeted by an active shooter. An active shooter is an individual who intends to use deadly force against his or her victims without the expectation of his or her escape.

An attack like this can happen to anyone, anywhere. The general perception is that these events happen in “bad areas” or buildings with key people in society. However, this is not always the case, and the majority of shootings that occur in the workplace are carried out by employees (or former employees) for reasons associated with their job.

While you may not be able to prevent an attack from happening, it’s critical to keep the following tips in mind in the event that your organization experiences an active shooter incident:

  • Evacuate the premises if at all possible.
  • Call 911 if you can do so safely.
  • Warn everyone you encounter to leave the area.
  • Remain silent and still if you can’t flee safely. Be sure to silence any devices you may be carrying.
  • Block any doors with heavy furniture if you are hiding in a room. Don’t stand near any windows.

Employees should be instructed to fight back only as a last resort. During active shooter incidents, co-operating with emergency personnel can mean the difference between life and death.

Attacks can happen without warning. As such, it’s important to consider the threat of an active shooter in advance and make an effort to assess your organization’s vulnerabilities. To do this, take into account the number of workers you employ, the number of exits each of your locations have, secure areas that could act as hiding spots and the types of incident response training your leaders receive.

It is equally important to inform everyone of the actions taken to mitigate the risk as well as what to expect from the company should an attack occur.

© Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved



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