To promote volunteerism, the Volunteer Protection Act (VPA) was signed into law in 1997. This act pre-empts existing, looser state laws protecting nonprofit volunteers, encouraging the public to participate in social service.
Overview of the Volunteer Protection Act
The VPA protects volunteers against civil liability under the following conditions:
The volunteer was acting within the guidelines of his or her job description
The volunteer had the proper licenses, certifications or was authorized to act, and those acts were within his or her job description
The volunteer did not cause harm that was caused by willful or criminal misconduct, gross negligence, reckless misconduct, or a conscious, flagrant indifference to the rights or safety of the individual harmed
The volunteer did not inflict harm while using a motor vehicle, aircraft or other vehicle
The VPA provides consistent protection for all nonprofit personnel since state laws vary. More specifically, many states only provide protection to the organization’s director or board members, while others protect everyone associated with the organization.
The VPA does not, however, protect a volunteer from litigation brought by the organization onto the volunteer for violating one of previously mentioned criteria.
Most importantly, the VPA does not protect the nonprofit organization from litigation; it only protects the volunteer. In other words, the organization may be liable for the negligent actions of the volunteer, even when the volunteer is immune from litigation under the VPA. Therefore, the burden of responsibility is on the organization to assure that its volunteers are acting in a lawful manner while carrying out the duties assigned to them by the nonprofit.
Examples of the Scope of the VPA
Use these examples to see the scope of the VPA:
A child is severely injured while swimming at a church-sponsored summer camp. The volunteer camp counselor who neglected to supervise the pool would not be liable for the incident. However, the church is liable for not hiring a properly trained lifeguard to supervise the pool.
While driving several young players to a little league baseball game, a volunteer coach makes an illegal left turn and hits another car. In this instance, the volunteer is liable and is not immune under VPA or the state law because he violated a traffic law.
Consequences of VPA
Though the act does encourage the public to volunteer without fear of litigation and assures that volunteer protection laws do not vary significantly from state to state, it also poses threats to you, the organization. With this added legal security, volunteers may take more risks while doing assigned jobs or take on responsibilities without proper training. Furthermore, they may not exercise the type of caution needed or become careless in their dealings with the populations the organization serves.
The act may also deter organizations from enacting risk management programs to ensure that volunteers are properly trained, knowledgeable and prepared.
Organization Liability Prevention
To prevent excessive liability on your organization, you should do the following:
Establish a risk management program run by a designated committee to address factors that could negatively affect your organization. The committee should identify risks that have the potential to be costly for the organization.
Have risk financing in place to pay for damages, legal expenses, injuries or other costs associated with litigation.
Obtain general liability insurance, which protects against bodily injury and property damage claims that are brought against you organization by the volunteer.
General liability insurance will protect an organization’s assets in the event of a lawsuit. In some cases, the VPA may also reduce the organization’s risk and, therefore, may reduce the insurance premium. Contact B+H Insurance, LLC to learn more about our cost-effective liability insurance solutions to protect against litigation as a result of volunteer actions.
The best time to learn about what’s included in a basic homeowners insurance policy is before you have a claim. We’ve gathered the answers to the most common “Am I covered if…” questions about your homeowners insurance policy to help you to minimize any coverage surprises.
What property and perils are excluded from my policy?
Typically, coverage does not apply to damage caused by flood, surface water, water that backs up through sewers or drains, earth movement, nuclear damage, war, etc. Personal liability and medical payments do not apply to the operation, ownership, use, etc., of any aircraft, automobile, RV, water craft powered by more than 50 horsepower motor; bodily injury or physical damage caused by an intentional act of the insured.
What happens if I have a fire? How do I collect for my personal property?
Whether your policy pays for the replacement or just the actual cash value of your possessions, you will be paid for personal property that you can show you owned at the time of loss. It is a very good idea to keep an up to date inventory in a secure place. Also, to help you remember what you had, it is helpful to take pictures or video of each room.
If my sump pump fails due to water backing up through the sewers, am I covered?
No, but you can easily add a sewer and backup endorsement to your homeowners policy to cover the loss.
Is my boat covered?
Theft to watercraft, including furnishings, equipment and outboard motors, is typically excluded if the theft occurs outside your residential premises. To cover your boat and its accessories, you need a separate boat owners insurance policy.
I have insured antique items listed on my policy. If I have a total loss, do I receive payment for the full insured value?
We will first confirm the value of the items with one or more independent antique dealers. You should then be paid a dollar value based on the dealer(s) estimate of the worth of the antique items. The best way to insure your antiques? Get appraisals and establish the stated values in the policy.
During a storm, a tree from my neighbor’s yard fell and destroyed my fence. Who pays for the loss?
Generally, your own policy should cover the loss. Our agency may be able to recover the amount paid for the loss from the neighbor’s homeowners insurance if the loss occurred as a result of your neighbor’s negligence.
If I have water damage from a rainstorm, am I covered?
No, a separate flood policy is needed to covers losses to your property caused by flooding. As long as your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), you’re eligible to purchase flood insurance. We can assist you in determining if your community participates in the NFIP.
What if I lose power and the food in my freezer spoils?
A basic policy typically does not cover this loss; however, coverage for electrical outages is available for a nominal additional premium.
If my iPod is stolen from my vehicle, is it covered under my auto insurance or my homeowners insurance policy?
Almost all auto and homeowners policies exclude coverage for any losses of iPods and other sound transmitting or receiving equipment used in an automobile. For added protection, check with us to determine if coverage can be purchased for the stereo and media players used in your auto.
How can I be sure I have the right coverage?
A complete review of your policy is the only way to determine what property is covered and what perils are insured against. We can help you identify your risks and explain what’s included in a homeowners insurance policy, including the standard limits of coverage on property insured such as money, watercraft, theft of jewelry, silverware and guns. Contact us today to learn how we can help you insure your home, auto and life.
As the number of reported cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to rise, employers are increasingly confronted with the possibility of an outbreak in the workplace.
Employers are obligated to maintain a safe and healthy work environment for their employees, but are also subject to a number of legal requirements protecting workers. For example, employers must comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in their approach to dealing with COVID-19.
There are a number of steps that employers can take to address the impact of COVID-19 in the workplace. In addition to reviewing the compliance concerns outlined in this Compliance Bulletin, employers should:
• Closely monitor the CDC, WHO and state and local public health department websites for information on the status of the coronavirus. • Proactively educate their employees on what is known about the virus, including its transmission and prevention. • Establish a written communicable illness policy and response plan that covers communicable diseases readily transmitted in the workplace. • Consider measures that can help prevent the spread of illness, such as allowing employees flexible work options like working from home. are enforced.
What is the Coronavirus?
The 2019 novel coronavirus (“COVID-19” or “coronavirus”) is caused by a member of the coronavirus family that is a close cousin to the SARS and MERS viruses that have caused outbreaks in the past. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, runny nose, cough and trouble breathing. Most people develop only mild symptoms. But some, usually people with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal. The incubation period for COVID-19 is from two to 14 days. Initially detected in Wuhan, China in late 2019, the first case of COVID-19 in the United States was reported on January 21, 2020. Since then, the disease has spread to more than 50 people within the continental United States, with CDC officials warning of further outbreaks.
How is Coronavirus Spread?
The available information about how the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads is largely based on what is known about similar coronaviruses. COVID-19 is a new disease and there is more to learn about its transmission, the severity of illness it causes, and to what extent it may spread in the United States. According to the CDC, the virus is thought to spread mainly from person to person, between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet) or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby, or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. It may also be possible for a person to contract COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has been contaminated with the virus and then touching his or her own mouth, nose, or eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic. Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms, and there have been reports of this occurring, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
Disease Prevention in the Workplace
Whenever a communicable disease outbreak is possible, employers may need to take precautions to keep the disease from spreading through the workplace. It is recommended that employers establish a written policy and response plan that covers communicable diseases readily transmitted in the workplace. Employers can require employees to stay home from work if they have signs or symptoms of a communicable disease that poses a credible threat of transmission in the workplace, or if they have traveled to high-risk geographic areas, such as those with widespread or sustained community transmission of the illness. When possible, employers can consider allowing employees to work remotely. Employers may require employees to provide medical documentation that they can return to work. Employers can consider canceling business travel to affected geographic areas and may request that employees notify them if they are traveling to these areas for personal reasons. Employees who travel to China should be informed that they may be quarantined or otherwise required to stay away from work until they can provide medical documentation that they are free of symptoms. There are several legal considerations that employers should keep in mind when implementing and administering a communicable illness policy. These considerations are addressed in the following sections.
Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970
Under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (the OSH Act), employers have a general duty to provide employees with safe workplace conditions that are “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” Workers also have the right to receive information and training about workplace hazards, and to exercise their rights as employees without retaliation. There is no specific Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard covering COVID-19. However, some OSHA requirements may apply to preventing occupational exposure to COVID-19. In addition to the General Duty clause, OSHA’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standards and Bloodborne Pathogens standard may apply to certain workplaces, such as those in the healthcare industry.
Employers should continue to monitor the development of COVID-19 and analyze whether employees could be at risk of exposure. It is also important for employers to consider what preventative measures they can take to maintain safety and protect their employees from potentially contracting COVID-19. Also, OSHA requires many employers to record certain work-related injuries and illnesses on their OSHA Form 300 (OSHA Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses). OSHA has determined that COVID-19 is a recordable illness when a worker is infected on the job. Establishments that are required to complete an OSHA 300 log should be sure to include all COVID-19 infections that are work related.
The Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) protects applicants and employees from disability discrimination. It is relevant to COVID-19 because it prohibits employee disability-related inquiries or medical examinations unless:
• They are job related and consistent with business necessity; or • The employer has a reasonable belief that the employee poses a direct threat to the health or safety of him-or herself or others (i.e., a significant risk of substantial harm even with reasonable accommodation).
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), whether a particular outbreak rises to the level of a “direct threat” depends on the severity of the illness. Employers are expected to make their best efforts to obtain public health advice that is contemporaneous and appropriate for their location, and to make reasonable assessments of conditions in their workplace based on this information.
The EEOC has said that sending an employee home who displays symptoms of contagious illness would not violate the ADA’s restrictions on disability-related actions because advising such workers to go home is not a disability-related action if the illness ends up being mild, such as a seasonal influenza. On the other hand, if the illness were serious enough, the action would be permitted under the ADA as the illness would pose a “direct threat.” In either case, an employer may send employees home, or allow employees to work from home, if they are displaying symptoms of contagious illness.
The ADA requires that information about the medical condition or history of an employee, obtained through disability-related inquiries or medical examination, be collected and maintained on separate forms and in separate medical files and treated as a confidential medical record. Employers should refrain from announcing to employees that a coworker is at risk of or actually has a disease. Instead, employers should focus on educating employees on best practices for illness prevention.
Employee Leave Requirements
If an employee, or an employee’s family member, contracts COVID-19, the employee may be entitled to time off from work under federal or state leave laws. For example, an employee who is experiencing a serious health condition or who requires time to care for a family member with such a condition may be entitled to take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). An illness like COVID-19 may qualify as a serious health condition under the FMLA if it involves inpatient care or continuing treatment by a health care provider. Employees may also be entitled to FMLA leave when taking time off for medical examinations to determine whether a serious health condition exists.
Many states and localities also have employee leave laws that could apply in a situation where the employee or family member contracts COVID-19. Some of these laws require employees to be given paid time off, while other laws require unpaid leave. Employers should become familiar with the laws in their jurisdiction to ensure that they are compliant.
Some employees may wish to stay home from work out of fear of becoming ill. Whether employers must accommodate these requests will depend on whether there is evidence that the employee may be at risk of contracting the disease. A refusal to work may violate an employer’s attendance policy, but employers should consult with legal counsel prior to disciplining such an employee. However, if there is no reasonable basis to believe that the employee will be exposed to the illness at work, the employee may not have to be paid for any time that is missed.
Compensation and Benefits
If employees miss work due to COVID-19, whether they are compensated for their time off will depend on the circumstances. As noted above, employees may be entitled to paid time off under certain state laws if they (or a family member) contract the illness. In other cases, non-exempt employees generally do not have to be paid for time they are not working. Exempt employees must be paid if they work for part of a workweek, but do not have to be paid if they are off work for the entire week. Note that special rules may apply to union employees, depending on the terms of their collective bargaining agreement.
Employees may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if they contract the disease during the course of their employment. For example, employees in the healthcare industry may contract the disease from a patient who is ill. Whether an employee is eligible for other benefits, such as short-term disability benefits, will depend on the terms of the policy and the severity of the employee’s illness.
Communicating with Employees
As part of their efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, employers should consider communicating information about the illness to employees. The CDC, WHO and OSHA have all created informational material on the virus and its symptoms, prevention and treatment that can be helpful for employees.
The illness caused by the coronavirus can cause symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Cases are expected to spread throughout the United States.
Employers must maintain a safe work environment for employees. They may require employees to stay home from work if they are at risk of spreading the disease.
Employers must also consider their obligations under workplace laws.
Business owners have so much on their plate these days, and many times the last thing on their mind is insurance. As a business owner, what do you think about when someone says the word “insurance”? Does it bore you? Do you roll your eyes? When was the last time you reviewed your insurance portfolio? Even the word itself has a bit of an outdated and traditional undertone. We get it, and we’re doing everything we can to change the market and our client and prospects’ antiquated outlook on “insurance.” We believe it’s one of the most important pieces to put in place for business continuity and not worthless paper stacked on a shelf that you hope you never have to use!
Let’s take this one step further as it’s not just about proper insurance coverage for your business. It’s about mitigating all types of risks that involve your employees, clients, and third parties. Insurance should be part of a much greater risk management approach that considers safety, human resources, and health and wellness practices – all important things in a successful business, and cost-savers if implemented strategically.
At BHI, we have set out to do insurance differently than your traditional broker. We aim to be more like your Insurance Consultant, rather than just your broker. We are comprised of industry specialists in Property & Casualty (P&C) insurance, benefits, human resources and safety with a common love for doing good business. We believe that having proper insurance policies and risk mitigation strategies in place is the foundation to doing good business.
Think about it like this – if we make an error or fail to include an important coverage in your portfolio, you can lose your whole business. Imagine the worst thing that can happen to your business – a fire, a cyber attack, an accident resulting in fatalities – are you covered in these scenarios? We are here to tell you from experience that these types of things DO happen, so it’s important to review your coverage regularly and choose a broker who isn’t just your broker, but a consultant to your business.
We operate by the following mission: BHI is the opposite of a traditional insurance brokerage, offering not only Commercial and Personal Insurance, but also Benefits, and Safety/Risk Control and HR Consulting.
Instead of sitting back and waiting for policies to renew, we proactively mitigate risk, share knowledge, and employ creative strategies to stay at the forefront of ever-changing client needs. We work harder and smarter than our competitors, tackling challenges with tenacious persistence and endless drive. In our industry, people accept subpar service—we’re here so they don’t have to.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John joined BHI in 2006 as a part-time advisor, became a partner in 2010 and President/CEO in 2016. His primary role is that of an insurance advisor, working with industry leaders to implement insurance and risk management strategies that are a best fit for each client. In addition to John’s role as an advisor, he oversees all financial and strategic initiatives for BHI. He has experience dealing with multiple insurance strategies, including guaranteed cost, loss sensitive and captive insurance programs, for organizations and businesses across most industries. John is licensed to sell insurance in 43 states and to date, has sold over $100,000,000 in Property & Casualty Insurance premiums.
Most recently, John has been honored by Delaware Business Times as one of their 40 Under 40 Leaders. DBT presents this award to “role models who are striving to make a difference in our community.” Under John’s leadership, BHI was also named a Fastest 50 award winner, signaling BHI’s growth and placement as a premier brokerage in the Mid- Atlantic region.
A lifelong Delawarean, John resides in Hockessin with his two children, Jack and Bailey.
This article is featured on Delaware Business Times – BIZINSIGHTS. For full access, click here.
As technology becomes increasingly important for successful business operations, the value of a strong cyber liability insurance policy will only continue to grow. The continued rise in the amount of information stored and transferred electronically has resulted in a remarkable increase in the potential exposures facing businesses. In an age where a stolen laptop or hacked account can instantly compromise the personal data of thousands of customers, or an ill-advised post on a social media site can be read by hundreds in a matter of minutes, protecting yourself from cyber liability is just as important as some of the more traditional exposures businesses account for in their general commercial liability policies.
Regardless of the industry you operate in, it’s likely your employees need to operate vehicles for tasks like client visits, product deliveries, and product pickups. While larger organizations often provide insured company vehicles to their staff for daily use, small and medium-sized business often don’t have that luxury.
If employees use personal vehicles for business-related activities and get into an accident, your organization could be held liable. That’s why it’s critical to have non-owned auto liability insurance, which can provide the following benefits:
Notice: Our office will be closed to the public until further notice to ensure the safety and health of our clients and team members. We are still operating as usual and can be reached by phone or email.
Notice: Our office will be closed to the public until further notice to ensure the safety and health of our clients and team members. We are still operating as usual and can be reached by phone or email.