How to Focus on Employment Practices in the New Year

How to Focus on Employment Practices in the New YearAs the New Year begins, we all tend to make resolutions to better ourselves on a personal level. The same can be done for your business. Not only is the beginning of the year a great time to make sure you have the best New Jersey Employment Practices Liability program, it is the best time to evaluate how you manage relationships with your employees and resolve to make adjustments as needed. Here are some simple ways to set your business New Years resolutions.

  • Find your employee handbook that may be in the back of a filing cabinet or forgotten on a shelf and take a good look at it. Review the policies within and compare with your current practices. Are your policies compliant with the law? This is the time to decide if your employee handbook needs to be updated to accurately capture your managing style.
  • Review any issues that may have come up during the last year. Really ask yourself what the root causes of the issues were. Determine if they could have been prevented. If you figure out that there were significant issues that could have been prevented, this is the time to decide how to address them whether it is with training, discipline or policy changes.
  • One of the most important things you need to determine is if your employee practices are compliant with the law. Laws are constantly changing and you don’t want to end up in a situation where you can be fined due to outdated information. Get together with an employment law specialist to review the current employment practices laws. Make sure you have all of the correct required postings regarding the rights of your employees.
  • Review education opportunities you have provided for your employees. Figure out if they have been informed of what to do in the event they witness of even experience harassment or discrimination. Make sure that those that need special accommodation for medical or religious reasons know the procedures required to get it.
  • Figure out if the current job descriptions accurately describe what your employees actually do. Are your employees aware of their performance, good or bad? Are your managers properly evaluating employees? Determine the best way to communicate your expectations to your managers and employees.

At Vreeland Insurance Inc., we understand the importance of being up to date with employment practices. Call us today at 877.755.3767 for information on our New Jersey Employment Practices Liability Plans.

More than Just Water Damage: Understanding Flood Hazards

More than Just Water Damage Understanding Flood HazardsEvery year businesses all over the United States suffer hundreds of millions of dollars worth of flood damage, and small businesses are often the most adversely affected. As studies come out showing an expected increase of flood water levels, it is time to make sure you and your business are protected. While you want to make sure you have the best NJ Business Property Insurance available, you should also be aware of the risk factors.

Understanding The Hazard

  • Duration- the longer your building is exposed to flood waters the greater the likelihood that flood proofing will fail. It is important to know how quickly the water is expected to recede.
  • Depth- Estimate potential depth of waters. Water greater that three feet deep is more likely to create hydrostatic pressure causing cracks that increase the risk of potential collapse for unreinforced masonry.
  • Speed- As the velocity of the water increases so does the pressure it exerts onto your building and its reinforcements. Costal flooding will have wave like qualities while river flooding will likely be swiftly moving water that will settle down.
  • Condition- often, floodwater is dirty or contaminated with sewage, industrial waste, toxic and non-toxic chemicals or oil. All debris can potentially cause breaches in your flood protection and create extensive damage.

Location

Floods generally occur in areas that are close to water sources such as rivers, lakes, and the ocean. If possible when starting up your business, find a location that is not in a close proximity to these bodies of water. Check out a local flood map to see where the 100 year and 500 year locations are. This does not mean there wont be flooding, it just means that these areas are less likely to flood annually.

Elevation

Permits for buildings will show if the building is higher that the base flood elevation (BFE). Major storms and flash floods may cause the water level to rise higher than the BFE. Consult and professional engineer to determine if your building is able to be raised so the floor of the lowest level is at the minimum level, or if there are special reinforcements that can be made.

At Vreeland Insurance Inc., we understand the importance of protecting yourself and your business from the harm of flooding. Call us today at 877.755.3767 for information on our NJ Business Property Insurance Plans.

Tips for Succeeding in Business This Holiday Season

Tips for Succeeding in Business This Holiday SeasonThe influx of new customers the holidays have the potential to bring is a great time to increase sales and it bring in valuable opportunities for your business. While you want to make sure you have the best NJ Business Insurance available, following a few simple tips can help the holiday season be a success.

  • Plan Your Calendar

Having an organized calendar will help you to plan what you need to do for the holidays. Mark down not only the actual holidays coming up but also the special sales days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

  • Social Posts

Once your calendar is set it is time to plan your contacts with clientele. The messages you send will likely change as the season progresses going from holiday preparation to last minute holiday ideas. Plan out when you want different messages to go out and how you want to reach your customers.

  • Draft Emails

Create newsletters and announcements ahead of time and set them up to be sent out when you want. This will allow you to remind customers of upcoming promotions and changes in hours for the holiday season. Having emails and announcements set up ahead of time will allow you to make quick, last minute changes to announcements without spending too much time and stress trying to get them out last minute.

  • Go Mobile

Mobility is key in today’s world. While mobile apps allow customers to shop with the touch of a button there are also some apps that allow you to monitor your activity and interact with customers. Social media allows you to advertise to the masses. This creates great opportunities to announce last minute promotions to everyone without disrupting your schedule.

At Vreeland Insurance Inc., we understand how important the holiday season is for your company. Call us today for information on our NJ Business Insurance Plans. 877.755.3767

Avoiding Common Business Employee Lawsuits

Avoiding Common Business Employee LawsuitsWhen it comes to running a business, many employers assume that because they treat their employees well, they aren’t breaking any laws. Unfortunately, some may find themselves in employee practices liability (EPL) lawsuits. While you want to make sure you have the best New Jersey EPL Insurance to protect you should any claims arise, you should also be aware of some of the most common employee lawsuits and how to avoid them.

Personal Injury

Personal Injury Lawsuits arise when an employer is held liable for injuries that an employee sustains while at work as the result of employer negligence. Workers compensation insurance will cover most cases of on-the-job injury. On top of having workers compensation insurance, make sure that you are aware of safety hazards and proper address issues when they arise.

Overtime

The Fair Labor Standards Act is a federal law created to lay out overtime pay requirements, among other things. In order to avoid overtime lawsuits, make sure that you have an accurate process with which to track hours worked by employees.

Discrimination

Discrimination lawsuits are filled with a bunch of ‘fine lines’. The claimant must prove that they have been wrongfully terminated due to their position in a protected class. These protected classes can include: gender, race, religion, age, disability and more. Make sure that all business protocol is well documented and available to all employees. Always document poor performance and keep in the employee’s file.

Harassment

Commonly associated with discrimination, harassment can range from bullying to flat out hatred and incidents can range from seemingly benign statements to hostile statements and actions. The best way to avoid harassment in the workplace is to set some rules stating what will and will not be tolerated as well as what consequences await those that do not follow harassment guidelines.

While the most common EPL issues may seem obvious to avoid, updates in the ways laws are written mean that small details that can help avoid lawsuits get overlooked.

At Vreeland Insurance Inc., we understand how important it is to protect yourself and your company in the event of EPL claims. Call us today for information on our Employment Practices Liability Insurance Plans. 877.755.3767

Hurricane Advisory: Joaquin Approaching East Coast

Hurricane Advisory Joaquin Approaching East CoastHurricane Season is underway, and breaking news has indicated the development of Hurricane Joaquin that could potentially make landfall on United States’ East Coast in the coming days.

Tips and action steps to prepare before, during, and after a storm can be reviewed with this Hurricane Preparedness PDF. Following these steps can help to reduce damage to your homes, cars, and businesses during this time of eminent danger.

While the storm’s exact path is yet to be determined, the Weather Channel reports “Regardless of the ultimate outcome of Joaquin’s path, portions of the East Coast will still see multiple impacts from the evolving large-scale weather pattern, including flooding rainfall, gusty winds, high surf, beach erosion and some coastal flooding.” The storm is expected to strengthen in the next 48 hours and is expected to hit the Carolinas and its surrounding northern states by Sunday afternoon.

Taking these into consideration, find a safe place to secure your car if you live in a flood-prone area. In the event your home is damaged, contact your insurance carrier as soon as possible after the storm. Each carrier’s website should contain information on how to report a claim as well as all necessary contact information.

Please write down this important information so that it is readily available if and when you need it. We recommend printing out the preparedness checklist and phone numbers in case you lose power as well.

If you live in an area that has been ordered to evacuate, it is advised that you plan ahead and pack emergency supplies. Even if you are not ordered to evacuate, severe weather can cause blocked roads, power outages, and flooding that could isolate you and render you immobile for a few days. As such, having enough supplies, food, and water to support you and your family is critical. In addition, it is very important to create a family emergency communication plan and note where the safety location will be if you are to be separated.

To receive alerts that are available in your area, text HURRICANE to 43362 (4FEMA). These alerts can provide specific information directly to your cell phone. FEMA’s mobile application is available, as well.

The Risks of Liquor Store Ownership

The Risks of Liquor Store OwnershipWhile owning a liquor store may seem like an exciting endeavor, it comes with serious risks. As an owner you become responsible for the safety and actions of employees as well as customers. While you do want to make sure to have the best possible Liquor Store Liability Insurance, you also want to be aware of the responsibilities that you are taking on when opening your doors.

All but four states have what is referred to as Dram-Shop laws. These laws make an establishment responsible for selling alcohol to minors or to visibly intoxicated individuals who then cause damage to properties or cause injury to another person. Generally dram-shop laws are enacted in the event of drunk driving incidents, especially if they involve an intoxicated minor.

Even in areas that do not use dram-shop laws, if you own a liquor license for your store, you obtain a great amount of personal liability. In the event of a case against the store, the courts can seize an owner’s personal assents if the liability structure of the business is not set to protect against such charges. Small businesses with sole proprietorships tend to have a greater personal liability than those of corporations.

Training is key in lowering your risks of liability charges. Checking ID may seem simple enough but still, minors and already intoxicated customers are able to purchase liquor. Two different studies conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the University of Michigan show that up to 97 percent of men ages 19 and 20 were able to purchase alcohol while 138 out of 300 females that look young were not even asked for identification when purchasing alcohol. TIPS or Training for Intervention Procedures, offers a program that helps to train grocery and liquor store clerks how to avoid selling alcohol to minors or already intoxicated customers.

Having a liquor license does tend to bring about higher premiums for your business due to the added risk of incident. However the higher premiums come with the added coverage and safety that you need.

At Vreeland Insurance Inc., we understand the liability pressures of owning a liquor store. Call us today for information on our Liquor Store Liability Insurance Plans. 877.755.3767

Choosing a Business Location: Should You Lease or Buy?

Choosing a Business Location Should You Lease or BuyWhen looking for a location to either start up or expand your business, one of the biggest questions that business owners have to answer is ‘Do I buy or lease the property?’ Along with making sure you have the best New Jersey Rental Property Insurance coverage, you have to decide what the best course of action will be to secure your companies financial future.

Once you, as a business owner, have determined your facility needs, there are many factors to consider when determining whether you should buy or lease the property.

Control of Property

If you buy a property, you have the ability to make any renovations (as long as they are approved by the zoning board) that you want. If you were to lease, the landlord may not allow certain renovations to be made. This is important to consider if you intend to make numerous renovations to personalize your business. You must also factor in that with control of the property, comes control of the maintenance. This includes things like, leaky roofs, plumbing, and parking lots.

Long Term Cost

Leasing a property tends to be better in terms of cash flow in the starting years of your company. Generally when you lease, you start by paying a deposit and first month’s rent, versus the down payment or even lump sum of buying the property. On the other hand, if you purchase the property, should the value of the property increase, you stand to gain that value, rather than risking a landlord raising rent in an effort to build his own profit.

Business Mobility

When you buy a property, you want to make sure that you love the location as well as the building. If you aren’t sure that the location is right for what have planned for your business, leasing may be a better option. Leasing allows for you to make the decision to relocate, whether you want to expand or if you just decide another location would be better for your business profit lines.

Real Estate Values

If you have an eye for the real estate market, perhaps you notice that the property is in an area with appreciating real estate values. If you purchase the property, you have the chance to benefit from that increase in property value. If you notice that the area has stagnant or dropping real estate value, perhaps it would be better to leave it in the hands of a landlord so you don’t have to take the hit should the property value fall.

Making the decision to buy or rent property for your business is one that should be carefully weighed to consider short term and long-term effects to your business.

At Vreeland Insurance Inc., we understand that the decision to buy or rent a property for your business can be difficult. Call us today for information on our Rental Property Insurance Plans. 877.755.3767

What Makes a Good Employment Benefits Plan?

What Makes a Good Employment Benefits PlanHaving a generous employee benefit package is a great way to keep the great employees that you currently have as well and draw in talented potential employees. A good plan can make the difference between a successful business and one that barely gets by.  Since benefit programs are not cheap there are a few things to consider when setting up your New Jersey Employment Benefits Plan.

Health Insurance is generally the largest cost and hardest area to maintain within an employee benefit plan due to rising premiums. HMOs, or Health Maintenance Organizations, are the most common form of health insurance as it allows the employee to choose their primary care provider. The worker then pays copay at each doctor’s visit and the insurance company covers the rest. Preferred Provider Organizations, or PPOs, give more options for healthcare providers and allows the employee to see specialists outside of the pre-approved network. Other health benefit options include: Point-Of-Service-Plans, High-Deductible-Plans, and Self Insurance plans.

Dental plans are common but not required in an Employment Benefit Plan. They include options such as Fully-Funded Employer where the company pays 100 percent of the costs. Partially Funded Employer, where the company covers around 80 percent and the employee pays the rest. The final option is Fully-Funded Employee plans where the employee pays 100 percent of the cost and the company only absorbs payroll deductions and administrative costs.

401Ks are voluntary retirement plans that are greatly appreciated by employees due to the increase of financial independence. The employee puts in a portion of their pre-tax earnings, and many employers offer to match these contributions. The employee can borrow against their 401K before retirement, however they must pay penalties. After retirement they can withdraw funds tax-free.

Vacation Time, also called PTO in many organizations is a fairly common and low cost benefit. Two weeks is generally standard and some companies add additional time as the employee increases in seniority. Many companies create vacation time rules in order to avoid employees taking advantage of the paid vacation policy. Some rules include how much notice is to be given prior to the vacation, or a use-it-or-lose-it policy.

PTO is a term that’s used interchangeably with vacation time, however in some organizations additional Paid Time Off typically includes things such as maternity leave where a new mother generally gets 12 weeks paid leave. Many companies are also now offering paternity leave to new fathers. Family medical leave typically gives an employee 12 weeks unpaid leave to care for a sick or injured family member without the fear of losing their job or health benefits.

While potentially costly, a well laid out Employee Benefit Plan can be a fantastic incentive to your employees.

At Vreeland Insurance Inc., we know how important it is for you to keep your employees happy and healthy while keeping your business profitable. Call us today for information on how we can help you with your Employee Benefit Plan. 877.755.3767

New Jersey Wellness Programs on the Rise: What are the Risks?

New Jersey Wellness Programs on the Rise What are the RisksDue to the rising costs of health care, many companies are developing workplace wellness programs to help eliminate losses due to chronic illnesses generally associated with lifestyle. The issue that has arisen is creating wellness programs that are beneficial not only to the employee, but to the company as well, in addition to creating programs that reduce your New Jersey Employment Practices Liability risks.

Federal guidelines have drawn out several requirements in order to ensure wellness programs comply with HIPAA, including: limitation of individual rewards, availability of rewards to those who don’t meet initial standards, and a reasonable design to promote a healthier lifestyle. HIPAA also states than an employer cannot discriminate against workers by using factors such as genetic information, medical history, and health-status when figuring eligibility or coverage premiums.

The ADA also has an impact on how companies can develop and implement programs. While nothing in the law prohibits employers from enacting programs, it does prohibit discrimination by limiting what employers can ask about medical conditions and medical history. Under the ADA, employers are allowed to conduct “voluntary” examinations and Health Risk Questionnaires. While “voluntary” wellness programs do not violate the ADA there is still debate about what constitutes as “voluntary”.

In January 2009 changes were made to the ADA known as the ADA Amendments Act that puts more responsibility on employers to prove the necessity of their decisions, including clearly defining accommodation for employees with disabilities unable to participate in a wellness program. Discussion of options for appropriate alternatives must be made with employees in question.

While there are advantages in having corporate wellness programs for both the employee and the employer, employers must remember that certain legal restrictions require them to carefully craft their wellness program to avoid discrimination charges.

At Vreeland Insurance Inc., we understand your desire to protect your company while implementing a wellness program that is beneficial to your employees. For more information on our  insurance, please contact us today at 877.755.3767.

 

Common New Jersey Surety Bonds Explained

Common New Jersey Surety Bonds ExplainedSurety Bonds are an essential risk management tool for many New Jersey businesses, especially those in construction and land development sectors. New Jersey surety bonds are a promise to pay one party a certain amount if a second party fails to meet some obligation, such as contract fulfilling. Here are a few types of New Jersey surety bonds that are most commonly encountered by New Jersey contractors.

License Bond– Often required by federal, state and local regulations in order for a contractor to legally attain a license and operate on a commercial development project. Bond amount requirements will vary depending on the division.

Bid bonds– Project owners often request that bidders provide proof that they are financially able to complete the job. This proof comes in the form of bid bonds. Bid bonds are essentially a guarantee from the contractor to the project owner that the contractor is capable of completing the job at the bid price. Not all construction projects require bid bonds, however they are required when bidding on federal and often state commercial construction projects.

Payment bonds– Payment bonds are posted by contractors as proof of funds and financial stability to pay subcontractors and material suppliers. These bonds are required of contractors working on projects that cost $100,000 or more as well as any publicly funded project due to the Federal Miller Act.

Performance bonds– Performance bonds are designed to protect project owners from poor or incomplete project completion, and guarantee that a contractor will fulfill all contractual obligations, in a timely manner. Should the contractor fail to fulfill their obligations, the duty falls to the surety provider to ensure project completion to the project owners satisfaction or financially compensate the project owner s needs.

Vreeland Insurance writes these bonds and more in New Jersey. As a licensed contractor, getting bonded is critical to your business. If you have any questions regarding surety bonds in New Jersey, give us a call today at (877) 709-6761

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