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Human Resources.  It’s a living thing.  State and Federal rules and regulations combined with business protocol and best practices.  It’s a field that requires knowledgeable and determined professionals.  Usually the path to equitable solutions is clear.  But what about the time when implementing the reasonable accommodation under ADA crosses into the privacy regulations of HIPPA?  Or, federal exemptions regarding state statues cross paths under ERISA?  The truth is that the HR professional can become personally liable. Let’s talk about a few places where liability can creep in. Under the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) the law criminalizes knowingly hiring an illegal immigrant, along with financial and other penalties for employing them.  This act introduced the I-9 form to ensure that documentary proof of employability was provided, however there are plenty of methods potential hires have found in forging their documentation.  And, hiring personnel could still be found negligent in a possible case of employing an illegal immigrant.
If ever you’ve been present at a high school graduation, religious service, or third-grade spelling bee, you will have undoubtedly noticed a trend on the part of those speaking. The trend is to define the term on which they wish to focus their remarks by turning to Webster or Oxford or whatever dictionary they have closest at hand and then reading the precise definition. It’s an age-old practice that’s as annoying as it is predictable. Individual liability: A financial obligation for which an individual is responsible and which may be satisfied out of his or her assets (Business Dictionary). So why is individual liability of any concern to you, you ask? Well, allow me to ask you two basic questions:
Congratulations! You are open for business.  You've set up shop and hung out your shingle.  You have probably prepared yourself by purchasing an insurance policy. Unfortunately, in today's increasingly litigious society, a general or professional liability policy still leaves you exposed and vulnerable.   One statistic states that 19 million lawsuits are filed each year. If you own a business, investment properties, or are a professional, you may have a one in three chance of being named in a lawsuit. If you are named personally in a lawsuit for something your policy excludes, your personal assets become fair game– home, financial accounts, life insurance policies that have a cash value, real estate, businesses, cars, electronics, investment portfolios, collections of art, antiques, etc. Lawyers are expert at identifying gaps and exclusions in insurance policies and consequently will go after damages that exceed your policy coverage.  They will come to huff and puff until they blow your house, your bank account, and any other personal assets all down.  An additional insurance policy may be necessary to make sure you don't lose everything to the big bad wolf.
My family has had a German Shepherd for almost 12 years now. She’s a wonderful dog. Her name is Bella (no, she isn’t named after the girl from Twilight), and she is a sweetheart. German Shepherds have the uncanny ability to look brilliant. Like, brilliant to the level of being able to buy groceries and defuse bombs upon command. Bella is the same way. Her ears stand erect, her posture is vigilant, and her overall demeanor commands respect and epitomizes courage. At least, that’s what she looks like. As her family, we know that Bella is afraid of cats, poodles, most birds, fireworks, thunder, the sound the heater makes as it’s turning on, and anyone going more than thirty seconds without petting her. Basically, she’s a big sissy.
I know a thing or two about competition.  I was sixteen, playing volleyball for my high school team.  Things were pretty intense; the teams were neck-and-neck.  The other team bumped, set and spiked!....right into my face.  My face burned from a mixture of humiliation and pain and my ears rung, thankfully masking the sound of the other team’s fans cheering from the stands.   I blinked, dazed, wondering if my face would appear permanently smashed after this experience.  I was angry, but even though my team was losing and I had been injured, I never thought of retribution. The same cannot be said for John Levi Miller, a former professional wrestler who is currently suing an old opponent for kicking him in the crotch hard enough to cause his testicles to rupture, resulting in one of them having to be removed.  Ouch!  And I thought I knew what being competitive was all about.
Confucius, once said, “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” In a better world, such words of wisdom would cause at very least a moment of reflection, but alas today’s modern society abounds with stories of revenge and retaliation gone awry. When it comes to retaliation in the workplace, it’s important for employers and managers to remember that prevention is much preferred to the bitter pill of litigation. That’s because, historically speaking, it’s typically the company that ends up taking the blame in retaliation suits. In fact, recent studies indicate that an employee who files a retaliation lawsuit is more likely to prevail at trial and recover significant damages than an employee filing a typical discrimination claim. What makes retaliation claims so much different? One theory would indicate that jurors, while slow to believe that managers are racist or sexist, are much more likely to find those same individuals capable of seeking revenge on someone looking to hurt the company. It’s simply human nature.
Times are tough.  Nobody even has to say it anymore.  It’s just a fact.  A fact that we’ve lived with for a few years now.  And while there are some things we can’t do about the times in which we live, there are also some things that we can do. Like protecting ourselves from losing the things we’ve worked so hard to obtain.  Protecting our assets. Some people unknowingly place too much confidence in prepaid legal services – a first attempt at legal protection.  Prepaid legal services are useful at the basic level.  However, there are some things that a prepaid legal plan can’t do.  Times when something more sophisticated is required.  Its limitations apply in tort litigation, criminal cases, and are of little help in traffic cases.  Additionally, there are catastrophic lawsuits where the existing insurance limits are exceeded and additional liability insurance is necessary.
You know how difficult it is to apply sunscreen to your own back. No matter how much you stretch and contort, there is always a spot that you miss- right down the center.  And after a day in the sun, that is the spot that causes you to lose sleep at night from the burning, prickly heat of a sunburn.  Your discomfort is due to leaving that spot open and vulnerable. Unfortunately, some medical malpractice policies can leave you just as open and vulnerable to getting burned.
Have you ever been summoned for jury duty?  Well, let me tell you a little about it.  You HAVE to go; no if, and, or buts about it. You are sometimes allowed to reschedule, but you’ve still got to do your time.  Missing work, school, birthdays, weddings, or whatever it may be is inconvenient to say the least.  What if the case continues on for weeks or even months?  Now can you imagine if you weren’t on the jury, but were the defendant?!  It can happen easier than one might think, especially for all you professionals out there. Thinking that you’re completely protected from lawsuits is a rather naïve assumption, especially nowadays.  Recent trends in court decisions have been holding HR practitioners, supervisors, business owners, and other decision-makers personally liable for their actions under several employment laws.
Don’t you hate exceptions?  Like when you have a 50% off coupon to the restaurant you love and you go there only to find out the coupon is not valid at that location.  Or, say you enter to win a drawing and the fine print says, “You must live in _____ to qualify” or “You must be ____ age to apply” and you are disqualified?   A lot of times, it just doesn’t seem fair. At XINSURANCE we get that.  That’s why we aim to insure what other insurance policies consider an exception and leave out of what they cover.
It’s an unfortunate fact that the world in which we live is getting a little litigious. Lawsuits these days can pop up out of anywhere, and they aren’t always legitimate. Frivolous lawsuits are especially present when your net worth gets higher. Sometimes, personal lawsuits can seek up to two-to-five million dollars, and for people who live or work in lawsuit-heavy industries (i.e. nonprofit organizations, condominium rentals, etc.), it might be a good idea to evaluate where your regular home policies might fall short, and where a personal liability policy might be a good idea. A friend of mine works with kids, coaching sports at a local school. While most of us question her sanity, we also admire how much good she does in the lives of those girls. She told me a story, though, that made me realize how sticky a situation working with kids can be.
Frivolous litigation is essentially lawsuits that have no legal merit - no legal sense – and usually little chance of being won. These kinds of cases typically seem so ridiculous that most people can’t help but snicker when they hear about them; like suing the restaurant where you dropped your coffee on yourself and got burned. Other examples of such trivial pursuits include football fans who sued referees, fathers prepared to litigate over their fifteen-year-olds’ positions on high school athletic teams, a purchaser of Cracker Jacks who demanded damages for a missing prize, and a McDonald’s customer who sought $15,000 for damage to his teeth and marital relations caused by a defective bagel.
If your work clothes are workout clothes and your office is a gym, you are in the market for fitness instructor insurance. Your job is to motivate people to reach past their limits to do one more crunch, bench press, or squat. You coach them through new moves, correct their form, and then push them to do even better. Fitness instructors are sought after by a growing baby boomer population as this generation strives to remain active throughout their lives. Years of education, experience and building your client-base has formed the foundation for your business. You don't want to loose everything over one bad experience.
Businesses take risks.  That’s the way it is.  Business is risk.  But, businesses also do everything they can to protect themselves.  One way they protect themselves is to hire Human Resource professionals to ensure the business does not cross governmental legal parameters in regards to employee rights. The ironic thing is that these same HR professionals can actually be at risk themselves.  Employment litigation is becoming increasingly common in the USA.  And plaintiff attorneys are not only suing the companies, but also the managers and supervisors, including HR managers.
Owning property carries a fair amount of risk. The factors that make you, the landlord, the most vulnerable are, damage to property either by tenant or disaster, and lawsuits. Many landlords depend on the income from rental properties to make payments on their current residence so it is important to protect yourself so that you are not without this income. Here are some facts you should consider when choosing landlord insurance coverage. Not all policies are equal– This is one of those categories where you get what you pay for. XINSURANCE will consider the type of property you own and customize coverage, premiums, deductibles and financing to suit your specific needs.
Every business knows it has to watch its bottom line, its profit margins, its vendor relationships, its break even points, and its fixed and variable costs. And at night when the world finally goes quiet, good employers are still thinking about their quarterly goals and their fiscal projections. But according to 2010 statistics what should actually be keeping employers up at night is how liable their company is to litigation. And not only their company, but themselves, personally. Statistics released by the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) show that record-breaking discrimination charges were filed in 2010 on behalf of US employees. The increase marked a 7.1% growth over 2009, and the highest number since 1965. Retaliation claims were up 7.9% over 2009. Disabilities discrimination claims were up 17%. Racial discrimination claims were up 6.9%. And the list goes on.
We’ve all grown up hearing those stories about “that lady” who sued “that fast food place” because her coffee was too hot. Or “that guy” who sued “that brewery” because their beer made him run into a telephone pole with his Ford Bronco. Or “that Lindsay Lohan” who sued “anybody” because, well, who knows why she does anything, really (click here to shake your head at her and sigh in exasperation). But frivolous lawsuits aren’t just the subject of humorous web searches anymore.
No one wants to get into trouble. Nobody wakes up and thinks, “Boy. Today, I think I’d like to test the limits of my legal and insurance coverage. Honey? Get the 4-wheelers out! We’re going to test them out on that golf course.” Trouble is a thing that pops up when least expected. The trick to taking care of trouble is making sure that as many of these little gaps as possible are not problem areas. Without being alarmists, it can be surprising the things that American adults can be found personally liable for. A large lawsuit can boil down to something simple like:
Most people consider insurance when it comes to their car or their house because it’s required in order to get a loan. But renter’s insurance is another thing. Many renters live under misconceptions about the need for insurance. For example, some believe that the landlord's insurance will cover them in case of theft, or their roommate's insurance will include them, or that they are still covered under their parents' homeowners insurance. The truth is, in order to protect your belongings you must get coverage for them yourself.
Protection is a natural instinct. We throw our arms across our children when anticipating a car wreck; we double-check the stove, iron and electric blanket to make sure they’re all off before leaving the house; we worry about giving credit card information out online. One form of legal protection that has been increasing in popularity since the 1970’s is pre-paid legal services, and it is the result of that same, natural inclination towards protecting ourselves, those around us, and the possessions and careers we have worked so hard to build. There are, however, both pros and cons where pre-paid legal services are involved. First, let’s explain what a pre-paid legal service (PPL or PPLS) actually is.
A personal asset is something of value that you own.  Personal assets can include home, financial accounts, life insurance policies that have a cash value, real estate, businesses, cars, electronics, investment portfolios, collections of art, antiques and other valuables.  We may feel that once we own something, it is ours forever and therefore safe, giving us a false sense of security.  What is happening more and more is that legal judgments in lawsuits often exceed the amount you are insured for leaving your personal assets completely vulnerable.
We live in a wonderful country, where we enjoy many freedoms. Unfortunately, one of those freedoms is owning a trampoline. If our founding fathers had known what trampolines actually were, they would have viciously jotted down another section of the Constitution that forbids us from purchasing them. There would have been a block on importing any trampolines from outside the country, and anyone caught making or distributing them would be promptly hauled away or shipped off to some dark and lonely place. But because Ben Franklin never got around to inventing one before all those laws got written down, we’re stuck with them forever. (Here’s a great trampoline accident video – hopefully, you’re already selling yours on eBay by the 30 second mark). Our neighbors had a trampoline while we were growing up, and many a bone was broken trying to ride that metal and nylon monster. But somehow, we kept playing on it. More than that, other houses bought their own bouncing death traps and put them in their yards. Passing airplanes must have thought our neighborhood looked like a green Dalmatian.
When phrases like “umbrella insurance,” “gap coverage” and “additional liability insurance” get thrown about by legal professionals, it’s easy to feel buried beneath the flood of jargon. But guess what?! I’m here to throw you a life preserver, and pull you out of the waters of legalese. And speaking of life preservers, there’s a big one out there, and it’s being offered to medical and other professionals by XINSURANCE. It’s called Asset Protection. Jacob Stein, a University of Southern California attorney who specializes in teaching asset protection, writes about the necessity for orthodontists, doctors, attorneys, real estate agents and other professionals, calls asset protection “a set of legal techniques and a body of statutory and common law dealing with protecting assets of individuals and business entities from civil money judgments. The goal of all asset protection planning is to insulate assets from claims of creditors without concealment or tax evasion.” So, in normal people language, asset protection is like a veil around your assets. Or, even easier to understand, it’s like a moat. With a fence around that moat. And a Doberman Pinscher. A Doberman with a black belt.