In this week's edition of the RISC eNews Blast:
Employer Mandate Delayed Until 2015 - Transitional Guidance Released (Gallagher Benefit Services, 7/9/2013): The U.S. Department of Treasury recently issued guidance delaying the employer shared responsibility penalities and the reporting requirement until 2015. However, the State Exchange Notification requirement was not delayed, so employers still need to provide notice to employees by October 1, 2013. The guidance can be accessed here.
DOMA Unconstitutional: Impact on Employee Benefit Plans (Mondaq, 7/1/2013): The repeal of DOMA will require employers in states that recognize same sex marriage to treat same sex couples as married for purposes of federal law. Some of these ramifications are obvious, such as the requirement to provide tax-free employer paid health benefits on the same basis it is provided to heterosexual couples. Others are less obvious: for example, the single family contribution limit for Health Savings Accounts now applies to same sex couples, and the invalidation of DOMA itself may be a change in status event under cafeteria plan rules. Other issues, such as when the invalidation of DOMA is effective, remain unclear and may be the subject of future IRS regulation. Pools that have not done so may want to consider summarizing the effect of these changes for their members.
Supreme Court’s DOMA Decision Affects Employers’ Obligations Under the FMLA (Mondaq, 7/13/2013): Same sex couples that live in states that recognize same sex marriage will be entitled to FMLA protection in the wake of the Supreme Court action striking down DOMA. Those who live in states that do not recognize their marriage may not be entitled to the same protection unless the Department of Labor issues guidance to the contrary. An interesting nuance is that couples who live in a state that recognizes their marriage may be entitled to protection even if their employer is located in a state that does not recognize it.
Climate Change Will cause More Energy Breakdowns, U.S. Warns (The New York Times, 7/11/2013): The U.S. Department of Energy has released a report concluding that all parts of the U.S. energy system are increasingly vulnerable to severe weather events driven by climate change, a trend that will continue to increase in the future. This increase may affect pools’ exposure to property losses both due to direct member losses and inability to operate resulting from power loss to member premises.
U.S. Earthquake Increase Tied to Disposal Well Boom (USA Today, 7/11/2013): The link between earthquakes and fracking appears to be in the wastewater disposal process, not the extraction process, according to a report published in the journal Science. The mechanism is believed to be pressure placed upon existing faults by injected wastewater. Pools in areas of seismic activity may want to consider whether their members have an increased risk of earthquake due to deep well disposal of fracking wastewater.
Top Ten States Most Susceptible to Storm Surge Damage (Property Casualty 360, 7/1/2013): CoreLogic’s 2013 Storm Surge Report has identified the top ten states at risk of storm surge damage, based on trends in population and residential development, geographic risk factors and the length of the coastline. Most of those on the list are NLC-RISC members.
PROPERTY & CASUALTY
Schools Seeking to Arm Employees Hit Hurdle on Insurance (New York Times, 7/7/2013): Schools in some states that have enacted laws to permit personnel to carry guns at school are having difficulty placing liability and workers’ compensation insurance, which has derailed security initiatives relying on armed staff. In other states with a strong tort protection, schools are not facing the same difficulty.
Social Media Free Speech Rights Complicated for Workers (USA Today, 7/7/2013): Public employers must use caution in reacting to employee postings on social media. If employees’ right to concerted action is protected under state labor law, then online conversations among employees about work conditions may be protected. Public employees’ speech may also be protected under the First Amendment if it meets two criteria. It must relate to a matter of public rather than private concern, and the employee’s right to free speech must outweigh the government’s interest in efficient governmental service. Thus, public employers have latitude to address insubordination by employees that threatens to disrupt the public workplace. Pools may want to address with their insureds how to develop a social media policy that will convey conduct expectations while avoiding a ban on comments about the workplace.
Making Sense of the Complex Patchwork Created by Nearly One Dozen New Social Medial Password Protection Laws (Littler, 7/2/2013): Eleven states have adopted policies that prohibit employers from requesting or requiring employees or applicants to disclose their social media or other personal online account access credentials. The specifics of these statutes vary markedly as to the type of online accounts protected, what an employer is prohibited from doing, and what exclusions are included to allow employers to investigate personal online accounts in some situations. Due to the complexity of these statutes and the interest of many employers in thoroughly investigating applicants, especially in law enforcement, pools may want to consider providing their members with guidance about the requirements of their state’s law.
Opioid Use Leveling, Not Decreasing in Workers’ Comp (Risk & Insurance, 7/15/2013): The use of Schedule II opioid painkillers in workers’ compensation has not decreased in California, as initially hoped following a 2012 analysis of drug use patterns. However, the dramatic increase has stopped for the present.
Insurers, Lawmakers, Regulators Take On Repackaged Drugs (Property Casualty 360, 7/11/2013): The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute has released a study finding that Georgia’s 2011 reforms have reduced the price paid for physician-dispensed drugs by 22 to 36%, without discouraging most physicians from dispensing. A 2012 study of costs from 2007/2008 through 2010/2011 showed rapid growth in those costs. Georgia’s regulations narrowed the price difference between physician dispensed drugs and those dispensed by pharmacies.
Wildfire Cut Off Hotshots’ Access to Safety Zone (Claims Journal, 7/8/2013): An analysis of the circumstances surrounding the deaths of members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots shows that winds shifted nearly 180 degrees, causing the fire to change direction and cut off the firefighters’ access to their planned safety zone. The investigation is ongoing to determine lessons learned. An area resident commented that the terrain in in the area is very challenging. Whether this contributed to the tragedy is unknown at this point, but raises the issue of being sure that firefighters responding to wildfires be sure they are familiar with the terrain and how it might affect their planned escape route.
OTHER TOPICS OF INTEREST
New Jersey High Court Rules Against Homeowners in Dune Disputes (Claims Journal, 7/9/2013): In a partial takings case arising from a New Jersey municipality’s taking of a portion of a beachfront property to construct a sand dune to protect against future storms, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the town was entitled to present evidence of the value the dune offered in protecting the property from storm damage. The homeowners were entitled to compensation for the taking of part of their property to construct the dune, but the court said that benefits to the value of the property must be considered along with detriments.
ACLU Targets 3 States with Gay Marriage Lawsuits (Governing, 7/10/2013): The ACLU has announced that it will be filing lawsuits in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia challenging the constitutionality of laws banning gay marriage. If successful, these cases combined with the Supreme Court action striking down DOMA could set the stage for many changes for local government employee benefit programs.
Property Inspector - Rhode Island Interlocal Risk Management Trust: Property Inspector for non-profit self-insurance pool for RI local governments. Provide detailed loss prevention inspections, identify potential hazards and design preventive programs. Extensive field work. Knowledge of governmental risks and OSHA Construction Standards. Undergraduate degree in insurance or risk management preferred. Professional certifications/designations (ARM, NFPA, OSHA) desired. 3-5 years field experience. Proficiency in Microsoft Office. Salary commensurate with education and experience; excellent fringe benefits. Resume ASAP to Brian T. Ahern, Director of Risk Management Services, RI Interlocal Risk Management Trust, 501 Wampanoag Trail, Suite 301, East Providence, RI 02915; by fax to 401-438-6990; by email to email@example.com.
NLC-RISC Staff Conference (October 21-23, 2013 in Portland, Oregon): The NLC-RISC Staff Conference Provides staff of state municipal league-sponsored risk pools with the opportunity to learn about trends, programs, services and best practices in a variety of coverage lines and functional areas, and offers a great opportunity to network with pool staff from across the country ~ all in a non-competitive, collaborative environment! Online hotel reservations are available here. Conference registration and a preliminary agenda will be available soon.
Southern Municipal Conference Information Technology Meeting (October 16-18, 2013 in Columbia, South Carolina): The Southern Municipal Conference has sponsored the SMC IT meeting for 11 years. The group meets twice each year to share the IT experiences of each league and/or Risk pool. Presentations by IT experts on the latest hardware and software help keep the participants up to date on the cutting edge of technology. Registration for the SMC IT Group meeting is open to all State Municipal Leagues and League Risk Pools.