In This Issue


National PRIMA Scholarship

Spring Member Workshops

Call for Symposium Topics

Coverage Corner - Renewal Applications

Reducing Employment Practices Liability through Proper Handling of Employment Issues and Related Claims


Tennessee Trivia

Q. What is Tennessee’s official motto?

Click here for the answer

Message from the President

Dawn Crawford

Happy 2020 to all! In addition to a new year, Public Entity Partners continues to observe our 40th anniversary year. By the time you receive this, we will either have moved or will be close to moving into our new office building. Located in Franklin, this facility has more to offer than our previous location, including a large room to provide onsite training.

Speaking of training, our first member training event of the year will be held on March 10th in Franklin. This will be the first of seven regional spring workshops scheduled throughout the state. Please see the article on the workshops in this newsletter for more information.

Last fall, we lost a number of member email subscriptions with our external email service provider. We did an audit of the subscribed members and have notified those impacted. Please see the attached letter that was sent out regarding this issue, and urge anyone in your organization who may have been unsubscribed to re-subscribe using this link. Additionally, we had some important announcements in our November and December PartnersNews that may have been missed due to this issue. You can read these editions here.

While on our website, be sure to apply for our 2020 PRIMA National Conference Scholarship. The deadline to apply for the scholarship is Feb. 21.

Regards,

Dawn Crawford signature
Dawn R. Crawford
President/CEO


 

National PRIMA Scholarship Applications are Now Available

Applications are now available for the “Excellence in Risk Management” Scholarship for the 2020 Public Risk Management Association (PRIMA) Conference, which will be held June 14 - 17 in Nashville. The goal of this scholarship is to promote professional public risk management by providing greater educational opportunities, training and peer networking to both new and seasoned risk managers, safety directors and other public employees who have risk management responsibilities.

The Public Risk Management Association (PRIMA) Conference is an annual training opportunity featuring close to 50 engaging educational sessions. Each session shares best practices and innovative methodology to address timely issues impacting public risk management professionals.

Public Entity Partners will award five (5) scholarships (reimbursing up to $1,700 in financial assistance each) to qualified individuals for attending the national PRIMA conference. Eligibility for consideration is limited to individuals whose employing organizations are insured by Public Entity Partners.

To complete your application or learn more about the scholarship, please click here. Completed applications must be received at Public Entity Partners by Feb. 21, 2020. Winning scholarship recipients will be notified beginning Feb. 24, 2020.

Since this scholarship is a reimbursement program, recipients must turn in paid receipts, invoices or other proof of expenditures before funds will be disbursed. If you have any questions, please contact Tahtia Mitchell at tmitchell@PEpartners.org.

“In order for an organization to achieve some level of risk management success, it is vitally important that the local government risk manager is provided the opportunity to develop his or her risk management knowledge, skills and abilities. This scholarship fund will assist selected recipients with advancing their understanding of important risk management concepts, thereby adding more value to the risk services they provide to their public employer.”

Dawn R. Crawford
President/CEO of Public Entity Partners

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REGISTER NOW
Spring Member Workshops

CMFO Credit – 5 hours in the Financial category!


What:Understanding the basics of loss control and underwriting and how to properly handle an employment practices liability claim.

Description:
Loss Control
The Critical Step in the Risk Management Process: Connecting Best Practices to Your Premium Modifiers

Establishing effective loss control practices designed to keep employees safe, reduce the exposure to 3rd party liability, and conserve a public entity’s assets and real property is an essential step in the risk management process. Following best practices and continually refining those practices and approaches is critical to ensure that your governmental entity is being a good steward of the public’s finances, assets, and trust. This session will outline an approach to refining best practices, and then draw a correlation from how your entity works and communicates with PE Partners’ loss control department to your annual premium contributions. In other words, your commitment to refining your best practices factors significantly into how much premium your entity pays into the risk management pool each year.

Instructors: Public Entity Partners Loss Control Staff

Underwriting: Helping Member Protect Themselves Against Modern Risks

The Underwriting training program will be aimed at helping members protect themselves financially against modern risks. The presentation information is designed to ensure that attendees understand the details of insurance coverages available through PE Partners in order that they are property covered against the risks they face. The content in this presentation will help attendees properly complete insurance renewal applications and provide information to obtain appropriate coverage at the most reasonable cost. Attendees will learn the need to properly value property in order to have proper, adequate insurance. The content will help increase the understanding of the cyber risks currently facing municipal governments and this section will conclude with an explanation of the limits of cities authority and common problems with contacts for services.

Instructors: Public Entity Partners Underwriting Staff

Employment Practices Liability: Defending Employment Cases: The Pitfalls and Pratfalls

This section of the workshop will give attendees a better understanding of how employment cases are handled. It will give an in-depth look at how employers can help employment cases run smoothly and give a comprehensive look at the dos and don’ts as employers when dealing with an employment claim.

Instructors: Sarah Mathews and Austin Simmons with Farrar & Bates
                   John Burleson with Rainey, Kizer, Reviere & Bell
                   Ben Lauderback and Emily Cleveland with Watson, Roach, Rowell & Lauderback


Timeline:
8:30 am Onsite registration/Welcome
9:00 am Loss Control: The Critical Step in the Risk Management Process: Connecting Best Practices to Your Premium Modifiers
10:00 am: Underwriting: Helping Member Protect Themselves Against Modern Risks
Noon Lunch
12:30 PM Defense Attorneys: Defending Employment Cases – Pitfalls & Pratfalls
2:00 PM Wrap-up


Dates / Locations:

 

March 10
Public Entity Partners Training Room

562 Franklin Road
Suite 200
Franklin, TN 37069

March 11
City of Algood – City Hall

215 West Main Street
Algood, TN 38506

March 17
City of Martin – Police Department

732 North Lindell Street
Martin, TN 38237

March 18
City of Bartlett

Bartlett Station Municipal Center
5868 Stage Road
Bartlett, TN 38134

March 24
Greeneville City Schools

West Entrance
129 West Depot Street
Greeneville, TN 37743

March 25
Madison Insurance Group

800 Oak Ridge Turnpike
Oak Ridge, TN 37830

March 26
City of Collegedale

4910 Swinyar Drive
Collegedale, TN 373150

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Registration or Questions
Call 800.624.9698 or email
Heather Hughes HHughes@PEpartners.org or
Callie Westerfield CWesterfield@PEpartners.org


Call for Symposium Topics

Public Entity Partners’ 5th Annual Risk & Insurance Symposium will be held Aug. 19 - 21 at the Franklin Marriott. Each year, we develop an agenda that is custom-tailored to the risk exposures our members are currently facing. We would like to hear from you about potential topics for this year’s symposium sessions. Please send your ideas or suggestions to Halie Gallik at HGallik@PEpartners.org or by calling her at 615.371.6005.

And be sure to save the date for the 2020 Risk & Insurance Symposium!

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Coverage Corner – Renewal Applications

Each year, your organization is sent a set of renewal applications that lays out the coverages that are offered, along with limits, deductibles, and your schedules and endorsements. Reviewing these carefully and making the right choices can be a large task, but it’s important to take time to thoroughly understand the coverages that are afforded to you. Having the right coverage for your operations is a critical piece of your risk management program.

Your local agent of record can help guide you as you evaluate the exposures of your operations. Your underwriter or member services representative can also help as you review some of the pieces that set Public Entity Partners’ coverage apart.

Here are a few of the common things we see that members can easily overlook at renewal time:

  • Coverage:
    • Several coverages require a supplemental application to be completed, such as Privacy & Network Liability and Employment Practices Liability. It is important to answer all questions.
  • Endorsements:
    • We have shared before how important it is to review all endorsements that are supplied with your renewal applications or attached to your policy. Endorsements change the coverage that you receive under your policy document.
    • Examples of endorsements include the Additional Named Insured Endorsement, Sewer Backup/Water Main Break Endorsement, Class Action Liability Endorsement, or Voluntary Medical or Accident Coverage for Elected Officials.
    • Your declaration page for each line of coverage will have a listing of endorsements. Most endorsements are attached to your renewal application.
  • Schedules:
    • Schedules that are attached to your policy document list out areas with specific coverage. Reviewing your property, mobile equipment, and fire and utility stated value schedules is important when completing your renewal applications.
    • We frequently see members forget to add traffic signals or street lighting to property schedules, or review personal property at each location.
    • As you review your coverage, be sure to check whether you have purchased anything new or have left off important items.
    • Also consider any storage buildings you may have and what items are stored there.
  • Deductibles:
    • When you select a deductible, you are choosing the amount of a loss you are willing to take on.
    • Sometimes for high-exposure areas, a deductible might be required. Typically, if you take on a higher deductible, your premium will be lower.
    • As you evaluate your renewal, make sure you are looking at your deductibles and choosing the amount that is right for your organization. Your underwriter can help you as you evaluate deductibles by providing premium quotes.

It is very important to submit your completed renewal applications signed and on time in order to ensure you continue to receive the proper coverages. Our underwriting department must receive your applications 45 days prior to your renewal in order to fully evaluate the exposures you have reported to us. This also ensures that we can get your policy documents to you by the renewal date.

During the underwriting process, your underwriter may reach out to you with additional questions that need to be addressed. Feel free to contact them, or your local agent, if you have any questions about your policies or renewal application.

East Tennessee
Jim Bell Hatchel
JHatchel@PEpartners.org
800.624.9698

Middle Tennessee
Anthony Roman
ARoman@PEpartners.org
800.624.9698

West Tennessee
Janine Helton
JHelton@PEpartners.org
800.624.9698

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Reducing Employment Practices Liability Exposure through
Proper Handling of Employment Issues and Related Claims

Properly handling employment issues and related claims are key factors in reducing your entity’s employment practices liability exposure.

As simple as it may sound, there are right and wrong ways to discipline or terminate an employee. Unfortunately, increasing numbers of employment claims, court awards and settlements all seem to indicate that the “wrong way” may be gaining ground.

The workplace and the laws that govern it have changed in multiple ways, which has increased the number of exposures governmental employers face regarding employment practices. For instance, 20 or more years ago, governmental employers didn’t to have to worry about claims of a hostile work environment, age or disability discrimination, or whistleblower protections, let alone even know about the Public Employee Political Freedom Act. Lack of awareness of today’s laws, or choosing to ignore them, increases governmental employers’ chances of making poor employment decisions.

There are multiple reasons why employers make poor employment decisions:

  1. Current employment laws and court decisions are not static.
    • New state and federal employment laws are being passed, and case law has expanded the interpretation of these laws and how they apply in the workplace.
    • It’s challenging for human resource professionals to keep up with these changes.
    • These changes aren’t always reflected in the employer’s personnel policies and practices.
  2. There are increasing numbers of employees today who fall within one or more of the seven protected classes as outlined in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
    • As the workforce ages, it’s possibile that every employee can be placed in at least one of the seven federally protected classes.
    • When employers seek to discipline or terminate an employee, they often don’t take into consideration that their actions, which may appear to be legal, might create a disparate impact on a group of legally protected employees.
    • A disparate impact occurs when an employer uses “a facially neutral employment practice that has an unjustified adverse impact on members of a protected class.”
    • A facially neutral employment practice is one that does not appear to be discriminatory on its face, but rather is a practice that is discriminatory in its application or effect.
  3. Smaller employers lacking professional human resources staff may provide little or no training for their management staff on personnel policies and current employment laws.
    • These managers do not always understand what actions are permissible under their own personnel policies, much less whether or not they are legal.
  4. Many employers make high-risk employment decisions without the guidance of legal counsel.
    • This is perhaps the biggest mistake governmental employers make with regard to employment liability.
    • Often, legal counsel is not engaged until after the poor employment decision is made and the employee has suffered some sort of adverse employment action.
    • It is difficult, if not impossible, for legal counsel to develop a defense for a poor employment decision when they are consulted after the fact.

By no means is this an exhaustive list of reasons as to why governmental entities sometimes make poor employment decisions. It does, however, provide evidence as to why it is vitally important for governmental entities to seek legal advice from their staff attorneys, or a PE Partners hotline attorney, before making high-risk employment decisions. High-risk employment decisions are those actions that may violate the civil rights of an employee or run contrary to the governmental entity’s personnel policy.

Employment liability lawsuits against governmental entities and their officials usually involve the alleged violation of an employee’s civil rights. Typically, this means that someone believes, and/or wants the court to believe, that his/her employer has violated the employee’s constitutional right to due process, the right to equal protection of the law, and/or the right to be free from discriminatory actions. Although these cases can be heard in state court, they are largely heard in federal court, where the awards can be much greater.

Employment-related claims continue to be a large loss leader for Public Entity Partners’ members, and we will cover this topic at our upcoming regional workshops.

To help reduce employment liability exposures, Public Entity Partners has developed an Employment Liability Checklist that is available on our online portal. The checklist provides a decision-making framework to guide public administrators on high-risk employment actions. Before making a final decision on any high-risk employment action, or if there is any doubt or question regarding an employment action under consideration, governmental entities should first contact their staff attorney.

Please contact our Member Services Department should you need assistance in accessing the online portal.

East
Wayne Anderson
WAnderson@PEpartners.org

Middle
Callie Westerfield
CWesterfield@PEpartners.org

West
Celeste Taylor
CTaylor@PEpartners.org

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Tennessee Trivia

Q: What is Tennessee’s official motto?

A: “Agriculture and Commerce.” This wording is also used on the official state seal and was adopted in 1987 by Public Chapter 402 of the 95th General Assembly.