As a follow-up to our blog regarding measures preventing workplace harassment, we’ve teamed up again with employment attorney at Offit Kurman PA, Howard Kurman, to share best practices to address workplace harassment when precautionary measures ...

 

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Not #YouToo —Preventing Workplace Harassment (Part II)

As a follow-up to our blog regarding measures preventing workplace harassment, we’ve teamed up again with employment attorney at Offit Kurman PA, Howard Kurman, to share best practices to address workplace harassment when precautionary measures aren’t enough. Howard is frequently retained by companies to conduct objective workplace investigations encompassing a range of issues including workplace harassment, employee misconduct, whistle-blower complaints and misappropriation of proprietary or confidential company data.

As a company executive or an HR employee, you might be wondering how these types of allegations should be handled within your organization. If you’ve taken all of the recommended steps to prevent workplace harassment, but still find yourself navigating this type of issue, our interview with Howard below can provide insight into how to manage a workplace harassment claim when it does happen.

Q: What avenues do you recommend to report a workplace harassment claim and to whom should it be submitted?

A: The key is not mandating that there be any one avenue through which an employee can submit a complaint. It is best to provide multiple options. These may include going to the Human Resources department, or any senior-level executive with whom the employee feels comfortable. Reporting through an anonymous hotline is also a great alternative for those who wish to keep their identity confidential.

Including the formal complaint process in your workplace harassment policy is important, but not enough. You also want to make sure your employees are trained periodically and understand their options as well as how they’ll be protected from retaliation.

Q: What are the keys to an effective workplace investigation? Who should lead such examination?

A: I recommend an experienced expert – a trained employee or an outside counsel – conducting the investigation. Skilled interviewers who understand how to put people at ease and ask open-ended questions, generally collect more accurate information from all parties, rather than asking leading questions and influencing results.

A workplace investigation should be well-orchestrated, not just substantively but also procedurally. Documenting the investigation’s results is almost as important as the accuracy of the obtained information, as these notes can become critical in the event of a claim or litigation.

Q: How should a company respond if workplace harassment has been proven?

A: An employer is not bound by criminal law standards of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If you’ve done a good-faith investigation, carefully documented it, talked to all parties that have relevant information, and you conclude that it is more probable than not that workplace harassment has occurred, then you can determine the degree of disciplinary actions.

In my experience, companies often jump to terminating a person, which could lead to costly lawsuits. Not every act of workplace harassment warrants termination or discharge. You have the option to take many other actions including counselling, reprimand, or suspension without pay. In deciding which penalty is appropriate, you should look at the severity of the misconduct.

If you plan to terminate an employee, it’s best to have the case reviewed by an experienced employment attorney in order to avoid potential mistakes or lawsuits.

Q: On the other hand, how should the situation be handled if it cannot be concluded that such harassment has occurred?

A: At times, you may have completed a thorough and well-documented investigation, but you may still cannot conclude that inappropriate misconduct or harassment took place—there’s nothing wrong with that.

In that case, you simply want to inform the alleged victim that despite a thorough investigation the company is not able to substantiate the allegations. However, such employee should feel encouraged to bring any possible issues to your attention again in the future.

The alleged perpetrator should also be informed of the inconclusive outcome of the investigation as well as reminded of his/her obligations to adhere to your workplace harassment policy at all times.

However, as we discussed in our first installment of this blog series, the best defense to protect your company from a costly Employment Practices Liability (EPLI) claim or lawsuit is combining a comprehensive workplace harassment management plan with a solid EPLI policy.

But if you are already dealing with a potential workplace harassment claim within your company, I recommend contacting your trusted insurance advisor to go over the stipulations within your EPLI policy (should you need to use it), as well as contacting a reputable law firm for help with the investigation process. For assistance conducting such an investigation, contact hkurman@offitkurman.com (410-209-6417). Similarly, if you have any questions regarding your EPLI policy for your organization, fell free to reach out to me at cmorsberger@psafinancial.com.

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PSA’s Cyber Specialist, Mike Volk Re-Appointed to Serve on CAMI Board of Directors and Appointed to Serve on Executive Committee

We are excited to have PSA’s VP, Cyber Risk Solutions, Mike Volk, appointed to a second term on the Cybersecurity Association of Maryland, Inc. (CAMI) Board of Directors and to his first term on their Executive Committee.

CAMI is a first-and-only-of-its-kind industry association dedicated to the growth of Maryland’s cybersecurity industry. As a founding member of CAMI, PSA has been involved with the organization since its inception in 2015. This is PSA’s third year serving on the Board of Directors. Our engagement allows us to enhance our services to our clients as we keep our fingers on the pulse of the cybersecurity landscape and build deeper relationships with industry-leading technology and service providers.

‘I am thrilled to continue working closely with Mike in 2019 to help CAMI grow and create a more cyber secure business environment in Maryland and beyond while also bringing added value to PSA clients. We are grateful for Mike’s efforts and contributions to CAMI and the community as a thought leader.’ says Stacey Smith, CAMI President and CEO.

Since his initial involvement with CAMI, Volk has lead outreach efforts as the Chair of the Speakers Bureau Committee. In this role he has focused on educating businesses in the community about cyber risks and how the services and solutions offered by CAMI member companies can help businesses become more resilient in this dynamic threat landscape. Some of the many educational seminars Volk has delivered include a panel discussion in collaboration with the Regional Manufacturing Institute (RMI), an overview of Cyber insurance and the Legal Landscape in collaboration with Whiteford, Taylor & Preston, and a talk-show segment on AHA Business Radio. Volk also partnered with CAMI to support the passing of the Maryland Cybersecurity Incentive Tax Credit legislation, which allows small businesses that purchase cybersecurity products and services from qualifying MD businesses to receive a state income tax credit equal to 50 percent—up to a maximum of $50,000. PSA is proud to be a part of CAMI, as it offers valuable and state-of-the-art resources to small and mid-sized businesses in our community.

PSA is committed to continue working with our leading CAMI industry partners in order to become a more resourceful and valuable partner to our clients. Unlike the traditional insurance broker, for PSA, understanding cyber technology is as critical as understanding cyber insurance to provide a comprehensive solution.

Learn more about how PSA can help with your cyber insurance and risk management

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PSA in Good Health December Tips

10 Tips for Overcoming the Dreaded Holiday Blues

The holidays aren’t always joyous for everyone. High expectations, money woes, and family conflict can cause trouble for anyone, but especially those prone to depression. With a bit of planning, the holidays can leave you feeling up, not down. Check out our tips for a successful holiday.

For more information, click on the buttons below to download the flyers in English and Spanish, or contact me at Dherndon@psafinancial.com

Download English   Download Spanish

 

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Outlook for Healthcare Legislation and Regulation After the 2018 Midterm Election (Benefit Minute)

Healthcare was the hot topic in the 2018 midterm election as exit polls showed that approximately 40% of voters ranked it as the most important issue.  On this issue, Democrats held the advantage which allowed them to gain control of the House of Representatives by a margin of 234 to 200 (one seat still undecided).  Republicans were able to keep a majority in the Senate.

With a divided Congress, neither party will be able to pursue their own healthcare agenda and both will have to find more narrow areas of bipartisanship agreement to make any changes over the next two years.  No major legislative and regulatory initiatives related to healthcare should be expected.

The Affordable Care Act

The ACA remains the law of the land with no chance for repeal and replace.  Over the past two years, the Trump administration has taken action to erode protections of the ACA and the stability of the individual market, including:

  • Reduced funding for the Marketplace
  • Cancellation of cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers
  • Declining to defend certain provisions of the ACA in court
  • Issuance of a regulation to expand association health plans, at the expense of small group and individual markets
  • Issuance of a regulation to expand short-term health plans that are not ACA-compliant
  • Relaxing standards for state waivers, allowing access to plans that are not ACA compliant

It is expected that the administration will continue these tactics to further weaken the ACA, albeit at a slower pace since Democrats will control key House committees and exert oversight power with respect to regulations already issued and any new action taken by the administration.

Although the ACA eliminated pre-existing condition limitations in health insurance plans, recent actions by the Republican-controlled Congress and the administration, as well as a pending ACA lawsuit (see below), raised concerns that this protection for sick individuals is in jeopardy.  The same Republican members of Congress who were in favor of repealing the ACA voiced their support of preexisting condition protections on the campaign trail.  Highlighting this inconsistency was an effective midterm campaign strategy for Democrats, and the new House majority has already pledged to move swiftly to maintain that protection.  This issue could gain bipartisan support when the 116th Congress convenes.

With respect to employer-sponsored plans, the employer mandate remains and no significant action to change it is expected.  One possible area of bipartisan agreement would be further delay or full repeal of the Cadillac tax (the 40% excise tax on high cost health insurance plans).  The sticking point for full repeal remains how to replace the tax revenue that will be lost.

The most significant impact on the ACA could come when a decision is reached in Texas v. United States, the case challenging the constitutionality of the entirety of the ACA after elimination of the individual mandate penalty beginning in January 2019.  The Department of Justice has declined to defend the ACA and stated its position that only the guarantee issue and community rating provisions of the ACA (and not the entire law) should be struck down because they are so closely tied to the individual mandate.  Eliminating these provisions would end preexisting condition protection.  This case could wind up in the Supreme Court.

Prescription Drugs

In the past two years, drug manufacturers have come under fire from the administration and Congress.  There is bipartisan agreement that changes are needed, but the challenge will be gaining consensus on the specifics. Possible areas of legislation and regulation include:

  • Allowing Medicare to negotiate prices with drug manufacturers
  • Making changes to Medicare Part D catastrophic coverage for outpatient drugs
  • Banning anticompetitive practices that delay generic and biosimilar drugs from coming to market
  • Mandating greater transparency for pharmacy benefit managers
  • Changing pharmacy benefit manager rebate structures
  • Allowing drug importation from select foreign countries

State Initiatives

Healthcare legislation and regulation are also important issues at the state level and newly elected Democratic governors will likely take action to expand access to healthcare and undo federal efforts to weaken the ACA.  Such action may include:

  • State reinsurance programs to help stabilize premiums in the individual market
  • Promotion of state-based Marketplaces
  • Restrictions on association health plans and short-term health insurance
  • Implementation of individual mandate penalties at the state level (Massachusetts, New Jersey, District of Columbia and Vermont have already passed individual mandate legislation)
  • New drug pricing transparency laws

Voters in three states approved expansion of Medicaid, another bi-product of the ACA.  Additional states may also choose to expand Medicaid eligibility after Democratic gubernatorial wins.

In Conclusion

Although Americans remain divided on the ACA (one recent poll showed 53% have a generally favorable opinion), some of its benefits remain popular and difficult to roll back.  With the midterm victories achieved by Democrats, the ACA will likely remain unchanged for the next two years, and efforts by the Trump administration to weaken it will be met with strong resistance from the new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.

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PSA is Doing Good. Better. The Ripple Effects of Strategic Volunteering

For years, PSA has been giving back to the community through periodic canned food drives, giving employees a day off to volunteer for their cause of choice, and fund raising events with dunking booths, bake sales, and more. But recently, we have decided to evolve our efforts to a more purposeful approach. With the help of Business Volunteers Maryland (BVM), we’re not just partnering with our community on a service level, we’re making a deeper impact through strategic volunteering. In short, PSA is “doing good. Better.”

With BVM’s guidance, this past year we’ve implemented a number of improvements to our volunteer efforts. First, we’ve surveyed our employees to gauge their service interests. Then we formed a volunteer committee of employees from each department with roles of a chair, secretary, marketing leader and events planner. BVM led our first meeting and helped us develop a mission statement: Engage PSA partners to connect, support, and set an example in our community.

To generate employee excitement and interest in our fine-tuned volunteer program, PSA held a T-shirt design competition for the shirts our volunteers wear during community service. It has been a fun project, and our employees are proud to show off the winning T-shirt design with our slogan, “Who gives a Shift? PSA does.” Check out fun photos of our employees in action on Facebook.

‘BVM works with many companies, and PSA sets the bar high. We are grateful to be working with them. They care about making a difference and seem to be having a lot of fun in the process of doing so much good.’ – Alissa Ganser, Interim Executive Director, Business Volunteers Maryland

Meeting monthly, the PSA Volunteer Committee develops goals for the company’s strategic volunteering program and decides on community engagement opportunities for PSA. The committee has chosen to focus on three non-profit organizations each year moving forward. This year we’ve been partnering with Meals on Wheels, Civic Works, and Community Assistance Network. Rather than a dispersed service approach helping many causes, focusing on these three organizations represents a good mix of opportunities for PSA employees to address a wide array of human needs. It also allows us to make a more meaningful impact by helping with more activities in each organization, ranging from service- to strategic-level initiatives.

We are also more intentional about measuring our impact, which is why we have built a system to track and better allocate our support where it’s most needed.

Comprehensive volunteering

PSA’s goal for the year was to see 51% of employees engaged in volunteer work through use of their volunteer day off. I am delighted to note that by today we’ve exceeded that goal and inspired about 66% of our employees to get involved at all levels of giving back.

We’ve also built a plan to donate. Every year, employees contribute a small amount per pay to a Good Will fund in exchange for the ability to wear jeans on Fridays. While this money has always been used to give back, we now incorporate these funds into our overall giving strategy to support our selected organizations.

These are just few of the comprehensive service areas where we’ve been plugging in with each organization to address their greatest needs:

  1. Meals On Wheels—We’ve helped with meal prep in their kitchens, delivered food, organized various fundraising events throughout the year to ensure a constant stream of monetary support, donated 150 home-bound health kits, and are exploring board participation.
  2. Community Assistance Network—We’ve donated 2,147 pounds of goods and a total of $1,591. Unlike in the past, this year we also delivered and stacked the food and hygiene products we donated through our annual canned food drive, as well as handed out packages to their clients at CAN’s facility.
  3. Civic Works—During the good weather seasons, we’ve volunteered to help out with various farm work. We also organized a fundraiser night for PSA employees playing bingo, which helped us raise and donate $7,157.

“PSA’s employee Volunteer Committee followed the community engagement plan BVM created and has accomplished a tremendous amount in a short period of time. Their efforts are now strategically aligned within PSA—top down and across departments empowering employees to get involved. Now they also better address the strategic needs of the organizations they are serving.” – Alissa Ganser, Interim Executive Director Business Volunteers Maryland

Anyone can serve for one day, and the impact of hands-on service should not be underestimated. However, when you make the conscious decision to support fewer organizations, but with higher levels of service in each, you make a ripple effect, which propels that organization to serve even more people. And that is smart, strategic volunteering. PSA is doing good. Better.

Stay tuned for future posts discussing more of efforts and results of our strategic volunteering program. In the meantime, contact me at jnash@psafinancial.com if you are interested in learning more and creating a strategic volunteering program at your organization.

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