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Beware Ransomware Apr 6, 2017
In 2015, victims paid a collective $24 million in ransom and another $325 million to disinfect machines and restore backup data. In 2016, the cost was expected to total $1 billion.

Ransomware is malicious software that locks one’s computer or network until a sum of money is paid, at which point the cybercriminal provide a code to unlock the system. If the ransom is not paid with a set timeframe, they will wipe the data. And, any organization that relies on access to data, and cannot afford to lose access to that data at any time, is the prime target of a ransomware attack.

In most cases, you have two choices: Either pay the ransom or rely on the quality of your system back-up and the expense that goes along with restoring it.

Steps to minimize the risk include:
Avoid suspicious emails and links. This is behavior-based risk management and like all things behavior-based, probably imperfect. The key is training and auditing.
Patch software and block suspicious emails and websites. Unfortunately, cybercriminals are at least one step (if not two, three or more steps) ahead of software patches and email/website blacklists. Nevertheless, have the latest version of everything installed lets the security experts working for your software providers do their jobs.
Disconnect immediately upon an infection. The more ransomware spreads, the more difficult and expensive to address. Again, training is key. Your IT person must be notified immediately and the infection quarantined as soon as possible.
Best defense: Backup everything regularly. This removes most of the risk of suffering a ransomware attack. The worst case is you lose only information added since the last back-up. Make sure the system back-up includes data created with portable laptops and other devices.
Non Subscriber Deadline Mar 6, 2017
No Work Comp? Filing deadline as a Non Subscriber is fast approaching. Texas Department of Insurance announced a grace period for Employers who have not purchased Workers Compensation coverage for their employees.

They are giving employers until April 30, 2017, to file DWC Form 5 as a Non Subscriber. After this date employers failing to properly file can be subject to administrative penalties (hefty fine) for not complying with state law. We have forms available, and they are also online at the Texas Department of Insurance website. The DWC 5 form must be filed annually February 1. Call us with questions.
CALL A DOCTOR 24 Sep 28, 2016
We now offer a membership program through Shepherd's Benefits providing 24 / 7 family access to a board certified physician for $14.95 per month.

To apply or learn more visit calladoctor24.com

This is not insurance.   It's a membership program giving you the ability to contact a physician via your mobile app, telephone, or computer for non-emergency needs like cold/flu, cough, congestion, sinus infection, urinary tract infection, allergies, nausea, constipation, pink eye, and rashes to name a few. 

After the physician diagnoses the condition, they can write a prescription, if necessary, to your pharmacy of choice.  No DEA controlled substances, no lifestyle, or mood altering drugs can be prescribed.  Children under 2 years of age cannot use this service.

This service can prevent un-necessary visits to the ER or Urgent Care Clinics.   There is no consultation fee.  Please contact Bill at 254.582.7555 for more information.
Wage & Hour Changes Sep 19, 2016
A few months ago, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced its final rule for overtime pay exemptions under the Fair Labor Standard Act.  Set to take effect December 1, 2016, the new overtime regulations will have a massive impact on employers.  It is estimated that 4.6M Employees will be affected by this change in year 1 alone. 
 
Key provisions of the final rule are:
Sets the standard salary level at $913 per week or $47,476 annually for a full-year worker;
Sets the total annual compensation requirement for highly compensated employees subject to a minimal duties test to $134,004; and
Establishes a mechanism for automatically updating the salary and compensation levels every three years beginning on January 1, 2020.  The first salary level update is estimated at $51,168. Additionally, the Final Rule amends the salary basis test to allow employers to use nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) to satisfy up to 10 percent of the new standard salary level. The Final Rule makes no changes to the duties tests.
 
Employers will need to identify employees who no longer meet the salary test.  When this rule takes effect, employees subject to the salary test who make less than the new salary level will no longer be eligible for exemption and therefore must be paid overtime compensation.  Responding to this change can have a significant effect on a business and business model.
 
When going through the reclassification analysis there are various strategies for Responding to proposed changes.  Below are a few strategy options:

Increase the salary level for affected employees
Reclassify as non-exempt and overtime eligible
Reduce staff and have other exempt managers absorb duties and perform more work
Hire more part-time workers
 
It is important to note that the solution will not be a one size fits all, employers must take an overall holistic approach to their analysis.  Consulting with outside counsel to help navigate the employer through these issues will give them the best and most affirmative defenses to address this change. 
 
OSHA: Priorities, Inspections, and Citation Defenses Aug 17, 2016
In 2014, one in five worker deaths was construction-related; nearly 20.5% of worker fatalities in private industry were connected to construction. Dubbed the “Fatal Four,” accidents categorized as “falls,” “electrocutions,” “struck by object,” and “caught in-between” are consistently responsible for more than half of the construction-related fatalities.

What is OSHA?
 
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) in order “[t]o assure safe and healthful working conditions for men and women.” In this, OSHA is authorized to enforce the health and safety standards contained in Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations. OSHA operates as part of the United States Department of Labor. Generally, the Act covers private sector employers and their workers in all 50 states and certain territories. Additionally, the Act authorizes states to develop and maintain their own programs under an OSHA-approved state plan. Currently, more than 20 states maintain their own job safety and health plans, which are approved and overseen by OSHA. The programs are required to adopt and enforce standards that are as effective as the federal standards.

In addition to the federal regulations, which set forth federal health and safety standards, state and national emphasis programs are enacted to address particular concerns. Recently enacted federal OSHA special emphasis programs focus on hazardous machinery, shipbreaking, and primary metal industries. Local emphasis programs contain enforcement strategies tailored to specific jurisdictions. Current emphasis programs in California, for example, address confined space safety and heat illness.

OSHA Inspections

OSHA inspections are generally conducted with little or no advance notice. According to OSHA, inspections target imminent danger, catastrophes and fatalities, worker complaints and referrals, severe violations, and high injury or illness rates. The inspection process usually entails an opening conference, walkthroughs, interviews, and a closing conference. Employers have several rights, such as the right to a copy of the complaint and the right to protect trade secrets. It is therefore important that employers are aware of these rights and that they consult with legal counsel throughout the inspection process.

At the end of an inspection, a citation may be issued for allegations of standards violations. When an employer receives a citation, the citation must be posted in specific locations for the longer of three days or until the violation is abated. Penalties for violations in a citation can vary from $0 to $70,000 as set forth in 29 U.S.C. § 666. A lengthy appeal and review procedure is available to the employer if the employer does not agree with the citation.

Defending an OSHA Citation

Frequently, an employer may seek to defend a citation by establishing unpreventable employee misconduct or lack of employer knowledge. For this and other reasons, documentation is critical. Therefore, best practices suggest that an employer designate an employee responsible for maintaining safety-related records. Relevant records may include, for example, training manuals, safety brochures, training session materials, training session attendance sheets, procedures taken to abate any violations, and evidence of enforcement when employee violations occur. Documentation of internal or third-party safety audits are solid support of the safety efforts by the employer. However, it’s important for the employer to know the difference between an insurance carrier’s “inspection” to determine risk attributes and representations and an actual safety audit performed by a professional Safety Engineer. Inspections are to determine risk acceptance while audits are done to achieve risk avoidance.
 
Notably, employers should stay apprised of the record keeping requirements and exemptions under the regulations, such as the requirement that the employer maintain records of serious employee injuries and illnesses on OSHA Form 300.

In addition, employers should be advised that certain events must be promptly reported to OSHA. In this, any work-related fatality must be reported to OSHA within eight hours and all work-related inpatient hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of an eye must also be reported to OSHA within eight hours.

Summary

Although the rules and regulations impose record keeping, reporting, and inspection obligations which places a heavy burden on employers, since its inception, the programs and policies institutionalized through OSHA have dramatically improved employee safety. OSHA seeks to reduce the number of work-related injuries and deaths that occur each year and have been successful at that. According to OSHA, since 1970, workplace fatality rates have been reduced by more than 66 percent and occupational injury and illness rates have declined by 67 percent.
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66 West Elm Street Hillsboro, TX 76645 | Phone: 254-582-2421 | Fax: 254-582-3133 | Email Us | Get Map
Located in Hillsboro, TX . We also serve the Abbott, Bynum, Itasca, Waco and Whitney areas. - Licensed in Texas