ADA Alert

There are five reasons that all hotel members in the United States need to comply with all the new Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements before the March 15, 2012 deadline. By acting now, you can save your business countless productive working hours and thousands of dollars in penalties. 

1. The March 15, 2012 deadline is the effective date for the most sweeping changes to the ADA in 20 years.

2. These changes directly affect every hotel owner and operator in the United States.

3. Experts expect that a tidal wave of private lawsuits and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) enforcement actions will start the day after the deadline, on March 16, 2012, and that it will dwarf the approximately 12,000 lawsuits filed over the past five or six years under the original ADA.

4. Owners and operators are each jointly and separately liable for violations of the ADA, and they both will likely be sued. Most ADA claims are not covered by insurance, but most management agreements will require owners to pay or indemnify operators for such claims.

5. It is much cheaper to prevent lawsuits than to fight them. You can pay a little now to avoid the problem, or you can pay a lot more later to deal with it.

Why act now? It is the law. It is the right thing to do. It is much more cost-effective to prevent lawsuits than to fight them. 

If you wait and get sued or investigated by the DOJ, in addition to the cost of making the property fully compliant, you may get hit with fines, plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees and costs. Some states can award damages as well. In addition, the DOJ can fine hotels up to $55,000 for the first ADA offense and $110,000 for each subsequent offense.

Your general liability insurance carrier will not pay for any of these costs either. The best action to take as a business owner is to hire an ADA expert to analyze your hotel operations and determine deficiencies so you can fix them before there is a problem.

SIA Group can provide you with an insurance policy that provides your hotel with coverage in the event that your hotel is sued for not being ADA compliant, and the cost is very inexpensive, especially considering the possibility of facing fines and lawsuits without having it. Contact Bradley Carroll at bcarroll@siagroup.net or Cliff Patterson at cpatterson@siagroup.net or call and ask for either person at 1-800-682-7741 for more information.

Security Breach Policies Becoming Popular With Businesses

In 2011 security professionals experienced more hackers causing data breaches so widespread that the diversity in the types of businesses targeted in the past year showed that no single sector of business is truly safe. Some industries experienced truly large attacks, such as a 32 percent increase in the health care industry alone.

Online criminals have multiple ways of disrupting a business. They access computers to send viruses or release sensitive customer data, and they launch attacks on computer systems to transfer money or credit card information, or shut down operations totally.

The results of such activity are devastating to businesses affected by them. A recent study found that from 2010 to 2011, the time and money required to respond to security breaches has been increasing, with the median cost of data breaches increasing by 56 percent and costing companies an average of $6 million per year.

Given these circumstances, businesses should take adequate precautions by working with an experienced insurance agency to discuss and install policies that cover possible losses from security breaches. These policies should address all types of security breaches, including total denial of service for the business, as online attacks into businesses are occurring more frequently and with more severity.

If you have any questions about security breach policies, contact Bradley Carroll at bcarroll@siagroup.net  or Cliff Patterson at cpatterson@siagroup.net or call (910) 455-7576 and ask for Bradley or Cliff.

Photo Credit: Flickr user Kiwithing

A Leap Into New Blogging

(From Don Mills)

Happy Leap Day! Since an occasion like this comes around only once every four years, I thought this would be a great time to let you know about some unique changes to our blog!

We will be expanding our blog to include a broader range of topics, as well as give a glimpse of what it is like to be part of the SIA Group family. In future days and weeks, look for blog changes from SIA Group team members that will include the following:

  • A broader range of topics coverage – we will discuss personal lines of insurance as much as our commercial ones and other topics.
  • Entries from team members sharing their own experiences in personal and commercial insurance lines.
  • Insight into our community involvement throughout North Carolina and the other markets that SIA Group serves – we as a company are committed and involved in making these cities a better place for people to live and work.

As always, we plan to give you timely and informative news on personal and commercial insurance. These changes will help you know SIA Group a little better, as well as what we do in and beyond the insurance industry.

Feel free to use the comments section to give your thoughts on our posts, as well as ask any questions you might have. These changes are occurring to serve you better, so we want to know what you think. Thank you!

If you have any questions about personal or commercial insurance, our team at SIA Group is here to meet your needs. Give us a call at (910) 455-7576 and we will be happy to help.

How the New Employee Rights Notice Posting Will Affect You

By April 30 of this year, most businesses in the private sector will be required to place an 11-by-17 poster in their workplaces advising employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act. The poster, available through the National Labor Relations Board website in English, Spanish and 26 other commonly used languages, informs employees about their right to organize and bargain collectively with their employers, and to engage in other protected concerted activity.

The NLRB requires that it must appear in a conspicuous place, where other notifications of workplace rights and employer rules and policies are posted, and be linked to an internal or external website if other personnel policies or workplace notices are posted there as well.

The biggest change employers will notice is that the new rules will reduce the time that they have to respond to union organization petitions by nearly half from the current 42 days to 24 days or less. This already has prompted concerns from one group, hoteliers, about a lack of time to engage employees in open, two-way dialogue about the impact of a unionization vote.

The best defense to this new invitation for disgruntled employees to take advantage and organize opposition to their working conditions is to have good personnel practices in place and help available when you need it. A more favorable work environment will limit such talk from occurring.

A top employee benefit and human resources management consulting firm will work with clients to anticipate the implications of changes in federal regulations for employers and how to adapt to them accordingly. The advisors will thoroughly analyze all the risks an employer faces, whether they are hazard-based, financial-based, operations-based, or strategic-based, identify vulnerabilities and establish a “blueprint” to protect his or her corporate and personal assets. 

Assessing personnel practices is one of the wisest ways for an employer to lower the total cost of risk. This review should occur as soon as possible with professionals experienced in mitigating difficulties faced with complying with new rules, particularly when they can adversely affect a business if not addressed properly and quickly.

If you have any questions about the employee rights notices, contact Bradley Carroll at bcarroll@siagroup.net or Cliff Patterson at cpatterson@siagroup.net or call toll free to 1-800-682-7741.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Batle Group: Mar Hotels, Majestic-Resorts & Lively

Bed Bugs a Nagging Problem for the Hospitality Industry

The old saying “Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite” unfortunately has real meaning for many travelers in the last decade who have encountered these unpleasant parasites. Small (adults are about 3/8 to 1/4-inches long) and reddish-brown, bed bugs emerge at night from their hiding places in cracks and crevices near the bed or places where people sleep to feed on humans. Bites are most often found on the neck, arm and shoulders, but can occur on legs or ankles as well, and can be quite painful for some victims.

There has been particular concern about the rise of bed bug incidents in many American hotels, including upscale ones. Since bed bugs can arrive on the clothing or in the suitcases of guests from infested homes or other hotels harboring the pests, hotels can be an easy target for bed bug infestations. The difficulty of removing bed bugs at hotels have spurred a number of lawsuits by guests, including one where the plaintiff, a New York opera singer, is suing a Phoenix hotel for $6 million after she woke up with multiple bed bug bites.

The potential threat of such suits alleging negligence and fraud against an establishment, among other charges, is that they can result in bad publicity as well as monetary damages incurred for lawyers and other defense activities. To prevent such situations, anyone operating a hospitality business should have an emergency plan in place to address them. These plans should include:

It is important to contact a responsible insurance group that offers an emergency plan with these elements and others for handling bed bug incidents. Otherwise, they face potentially catastrophic legal action that appears more likely every day as the bed bug situation remains a nagging irritant for the industry at every level, despite efforts to eradicate it.

In addition to offering hospitality operations general liability and umbrella insurance coverage, SIA Group can help clients make a plan for covering pest control operator costs, as well as costs incurred from negative online reviews. Since SIA Group represents more than 50 percent of the pest control operators in North Carolina, agents can give hotels access to qualified, specialized pest control operators to solve bedbug issues. If you would like to inquire about insurance coverage and bedbug plans for your hospitality operation, contact Cliff Patterson at cpatterson@siagroup.net or Bradley Carroll at bcarroll@siagroup.net or call 910-478-3312.

Photo Credit: Flickr user Gilles San Martin

Crisis Management Coverage

During a crisis, protecting a business’s reputation can become stressful and overwhelming if an action plan is not in place. Crisis management coverage can help business owners successfully face daunting issues while maintaining employee morale, financial security and normal day-to-day operations.

An insurance agent can advise employers on the various components of crisis coverage, including unforeseen events and additional business costs. Some examples of covered events are:

  • Food Poisoning
  • Workplace accidents
  • Natural disasters
  • Criminal activity
  • Workplace violence

These are fairly straightforward, but what exactly are the additional costs when a business must face a crisis? Often, such events garner negative publicity that can severely affect a company’s reputation without proper handling. The services of crisis communication professionals are often covered through a certain period of time, as are the loss of income and other expenses after a crisis. Comprehensive crisis management coverage should also include medical, counseling and transportation expenses for employees dealing with the outcome disastrous events. Make sure you know exactly how long these items are covered, because when they expire, any potential expenses incurred afterward will be your responsibility.

With all of the items addressed by crisis management coverage, businesses without this kind of insurance should consider engaging in proper crisis planning. Does your business have the proper coverage in case of a crisis?

Photo Credit: Flickr user Chris.Violette

Extended Period of Indemnity Business Income – How Protected Are You?

Business owners, like all individuals have to realistically prepare for the best and the worst case scenarios for all situations. Probably the worst thing that can happen to a business is being forced to close its operating doors due to unforeseen circumstances.

Think about what would happen if your favorite, most visited restaurant shut down due to a fire. When business doors close, loyal customers begin to shift their dining out experience to other community restaurants. When the restaurant finally does open back up for business, the old customers may decide they are not going back or may not know they are back open for business.  If the restaurant is only bringing in half of the revenue they were making prior to the total loss, the restaurant may end up having to close their doors for good due to the lack of clientele.  For that reason, insurance companies offer business owners the option for additional financial coverage once their business has re-opened from a loss. Commonly known as “extended period of indemnity business income,” coverage for these types of policies supplies businesses with the amount of financial income that their business was bringing in prior to the loss.

The obvious benefit is that businesses can recoup the financial loss of income that would normally come from day-to-day operations they were making before the claim ever happened. The downside is that coverage only lasts for up to 30 days and does not account for extenuating circumstances. How can business owners be sure that loyal customers will know they will return to operating at full capacity just as soon as possible during those initial 30 days or afterwards?

Because we cannot determine the amount of time it takes to notify target audiences of returning business operations, other alternatives have to be considered. With minimal cost added to insurance coverage, business owners can add an extended period of indemnity, which pays businesses for the finances lost anywhere between six months to one year. Helping businesses transition back into full operations, the additional coverage allows businesses to remain at their previous performance level and provides security to owners and employees in the fact that the income they depend on will be protected.

Do you have the appropriate insurance coverage to protect your business from the worst case scenarios?

Photo source: gill.holgate