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Commercial Insurance Blog

What If a Contractor Takes Money but Doesn’t do the Work?

Posted by Jane Logan on Fri, Jul 22, 2016 @ 04:39 PM

what if a contractor takes money but doesn’t do the work

After an insurance claim you’ll probably need to hire a contractor to repair or rebuild your home or commercial building.  

When hiring a contractor you want to be sure they’re insured in case they injure someone or cause property damage while working.  At the very minimum, the contractor should provide you with a Certificate of Insurance showing they have General Liability and Auto Liability along with Workers Compensation coverage.  The Certificate of Insurance should have a current date in the top right of the form and your name in the Certificate Holder area in the bottom left of the form.


But what protects you from a contractor who takes your money but doesn’t start or starts but doesn’t finish the job?

Contractor Bonds are a financial guarantee that a contractor will perform as agreed to in a construction contract.  For example, you pay a contractor a $25,000 deposit on a $100,000 job, the contractor takes your money but doesn’t do the work.  If the contractor had provided a Bond naming you as the Obligee (protected person) you’d file a claim with Bond company, they pay you the $25,000 you’re owed by the contractor.

Bonds and insurance are completely different:

  • Insurance pays on behalf of and protects the contractor from having to pay if they accidentally cause injury or property damage to others. The insurance company doesn’t expect the contractor to reimburse them for the claim paid other than the Deductible, if any, applicable.

  • Bonds pay instead of the contractor – the Bond Company pays you but they do expect the contractor to reimburse them for the Bond claim paid.

Because Bonds cover events not accidental or outside the control the contractor, applying for a Bond is more like applying for a loan than applying for insurance.  Bond companies want to know if they pay a claim the contractor has the ability to pay them back.  Even if the contractor asks you to cover the cost of the Bond, it will be money well spent to guarantee you won’t lose your money to a contractor who won’t or can’t complete the work.

For more information on hiring a contractor and the Massachusetts Contractor Guarantee Fund:

Tags: Certificate of Insurance, insurance, insurance claim, bonds, contractor

Operating a business at home can void homeowner insurance coverage

Posted by Jane Logan on Tue, May 31, 2016 @ 02:57 PM

A homeowner policy is a bundle of coverages designed for an average homeowner.   Since most homeowners don’t operate a business at their home, a homeowner policy offers very limited, if any, coverage for business property or activities. Sometimes running a business out of your home voids coverage completely.

For example, most homeowner policies provide converge for Other Structures (buildings not attached to the dwelling) such as a detached garage, shed, barn or any free-standing building. However, if you operate a business out of a detached building, the Homeowner policy doesn’t provide coverage for the building.  Your homeowner policy may be able to cover the building for an additional premium charge, but you may need a commercial policy.

In addition to property coverage, a home business may change or void liability your liability coverage.

The main point to keep in mind is a homeowner policy is designed to cover activities typical of a private home. If you operate a business out of, or at your home, you should call your insurance agent to discuss your insurance coverage so you don’t find too late you don’t have coverage for you home based business.


Tags: business insurance, homeowners insurance, home business, business owner policy

Should I cancel my insurance policy?

Posted by Jane Logan on Wed, May 04, 2016 @ 02:38 PM

The decision of when to cancel an insurance policy not being replaced with another policy depends on the type of policy:

Auto – In Massachusetts the vehicle may be deleted, or if there is only one vehicle on the policy the policy may be canceled when the vehicle is sold or the lease terminated, the registration canceled and the Plate Return Receipt submitted to your agent or insurance company.

Property – When the property has been sold and you no longer have an ownership or other interest in the property.

General Liability – When to cancel a liability policy depends on the coverage provided by the policy and the type of operation, service or product sold.  Standard General Liability policies provide coverage for three types of situations ongoing operations, completed operations and product liability.

For example, an electrician installs wires in a house, the ongoing operations covers him while he’s on the job site, completed operations covers him after the completes the work and products liability covers  the wiring, sockets, light fixtures installed in the house.   If the electrician closes his business and cancels his coverage he has no coverage for claims that occur after the cancellation date even though the work was done during the policy term because the coverage reads “the bodily injury or property damage must occur during the policy period”.  To clarify, an electrician installs wiring in August, he cancels his coverage in October and In December the wiring starts a fire – since he canceled his converge in October he has no coverage for the fire in December even though he installed the wiring in August when he had coverage.

Professional Liability - When all operations have ceased, however instead of canceling the policy purchase the extended reporting period or other coverage available to cover any claims reported in the future for services provided in the past.

Workers Compensation – When there is no employee, subcontract, contract or 1099 labor being used  or paid and the Principals aren’t required to be covered the policy may be canceled.  In Massachusetts if a corporation isn’t dissolved and the officers don’t want to carry Workers Compensation they may apply to be exempt from the law requiring the coverage.  In order to be exempt corporate officers must own at least 25% of stock in the corporation, this is the link to the MA Division of Industrial Accidents corporate officer exemption website:

Another issue to consider is have you signed any contracts require you to maintain coverage?

The decision to cancel a policy can be complicated; your agent should be able to help you make your decision.

Tags: Can I cancel my insurance policy?, Cancelling my Insurance

Securing Worker's Compensation insurance in Rhode Island

Posted by Geoffrey Gordon on Wed, Feb 17, 2016 @ 11:04 AM

Worker's Compensation insurance is required in all 50 states for employees who may be hurt on the job.  It is a form of no-fault insurance, meaning you don’t need to show that anyone was liable, or responsible for the accident or injury.  If it happens on the job, workers comp responds.   It includes both medical expenses and wage replacement.


Every state has different rates, rules, and classifications, and the highly regulated nature of Worker's Compensation can make securing coverage tedious due to bureaucratic inertia. But these steps will get you started in securing coverage as required under the law.

Here is a general outline of the pre-procedure for obtaining Worker's Compensation in the State of Rhode Island.

The process starts with establishing with the state of Rhode Island that you are a legitimate business.  For Massachusetts businesses this means obtaining from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts a Certificate of Good Standing.  This confirms is that you are up-to-date on your taxes to Massachusetts including unemployment tax. You can obtain this online at, using your existing Massachusetts unemployment insurance identification number in the ID number field.

Once you have a Massachusetts certificate of Good Standing you can apply to Rhode Island department of revenue as a non-resident business operating in Rhode Island.  You can begin at the State of Rhode Island Business regulation website, or call 401-547-8700.  The main objective is to get your unemployment Tax ID number. 

Once you have an unemployment tax ID number for Rhode Island you can apply to the monopolistic Worker's Compensation insurance company, Beacon Mutual.   Our office assists existing Gordon Insurance customers who are entering Rhode Island by preparing and submitting the required documents.   Knowing your projected payroll in Rhode Island is required to submit for insurance, and often this is a ‘best guess’ when opening a new location.  All payrolls are subject to audit after the first year, so more realistic projections avoid audit surprises at the end of the policy year.  More about audits here.


In general, Rhode Island workers compensation rates are higher than Massachusetts rates (the lowest in New England).  Ask us for a projection as you prepare to expand into the Ocean State.

If you do not have an agent licensed in Rhode Island, call 401-825-2667 or toll-free 888-886-4450, or visit to submit directly. 

If you hire only independent contractors in Rhode Island, these contractors can opt out using the form DWC 11-IC which can be completed on-line here:


Tags: RI workers compensation;

The Workers' Compensation Audit - Why Bother?

Posted by Geoffrey Gordon on Wed, Feb 10, 2016 @ 12:39 PM

Workers’ Compensation is a kind of insurance to protect employees from the cost of medical care and lost income if they are hurt at work.

The cost of Workers' Compensation is directly related to payroll.   Different types of work (based on chances of injury) use different classifications, each of which carry specific rates.   While rates do differ from state to state because of differing loss expereince, rates within a state are the same.   So the rate for any given classification will be different in Massachusetts than it is in Connecticut or New Hampshire for example.

An important factor in getting the pricing correct is the policy year-end audit. The purpose is to reconcile the estimated payroll from the beginning of a policy year with the actual payroll at the end of the year.  For example, if you estimated your payroll would be $1,000,000 in the forthcoming year (and paid premiums based on that payoll), but payroll was actually $1,200,000, the company makes a retroactive adjustment, in this case for insurance based on an additional $200,000 of payroll.

There are three different kinds of audits, broadly speaking.

  1. The first is the self audit where the business owner, treasurer or bookkeeper lists employees, confirms what they do (to determine which class they belong in) and provides documentation from tax forms (quarterly 941s).
  2. Another type is the telephone audit where an auditor calls the book keeper or accountant and asks for the numbers over the phone. The classification and payroll assignment is done by the phone auditor. Tax forms and other documentation may follow by email, fax, or snail mail.
  3. The third format of audit is on-site, commonly used with larger companies and more complicated payroll. For on-site audits the auditor spends time going through the forms and collecting copies to confirm that tax forms match disclosed payroll records.

Once the payroll is known and classifications assigned, raters or underwriters calculate the corrected premium for the previous policy year. If the original estimate was high, then the company buying the Workers' Compensation (the policyholder) gets money back. If, on the other hand, the payroll estimated was low, then the premium for the additional payroll charge is assessed.  It is also payable and due immediately, since it is a charge from a prior year policy.

 What happens if the audit is not completed?

 Insurance companies really want you to complete that audit, tedious and painful as that process can be.

They have a more painful process for not completing the audit.

Here's how it goes down:

  1. If an audit is not received within a reasonable amount of time, (generally 60 days after the policy term ends), the carrier issues an “estimated audit”, increasing the payroll from the prior policy term by 50%.
  2. As with a real audit, the premium is due and payable immediately. When the invoice for half of your Workers’ Compensation is presented to the treasurer, owner or controller, it gets everyone's attention, which is the idea.   Because it is due right away, there is little time after the estimated audit is issued to have the real audit completed before a cancellation notice is issued for non-payment.   
  3. Remember, any premium due for an audit was for a prior policy year, so financing is seldom an option either. More often you need to pay the estimated audit, and perform a real audit to get an overpayment back.  It’s brutal.   
  4. Don’t ignore the cancellation notice, or it gets worse.  If the Insurance is canceled, the state Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) is notified.  These guys are the ‘insurance police’ for Worker's Compensation compliance.   
  5. Because Workers’ Comp is required by law, the DIA can issue a stop work order at your place of business and literally shut your business down, since failure to have Workers' Comp for your employees is illegal. Once this happens the solution is to pay the previous carrier all money it is owed, and purchase a new policy.  To avoid delays (and continued stop-work order), the quickest solution is to go to Boston to get policy reissued by paying the estimated premium and applying for replacement insurance right at the Workers’ Compensation Assigned Risk Board.     

We have seen this clip a few times; it is not worth the aggravation.

For more about Workers’ Compensation and managing costs associated with this line of business, contact us here at Gordon insurance.


Tags: workers compensation, employee, insurance, audit

When to Call your Insurance Agent

Posted by Jane Logan on Thu, Jan 21, 2016 @ 05:35 PM


Notifying your insurance agent of changes prevents suffering an uninsured loss. Any changes that could affect your insurance policy or coverage should be discussed with your agent, examples of changes that you should report immediately include:


  • Location change

  • Mailing address change

  • Additional locations

  • Expanding operations into new States

  • Changes in operations , products or services offered to your customers or clients

  • FEIN change

  • Legal change in entity type (Sole Proprietor to Corporation, LLC, PC etc.)

  • New vehicle – esp. if leasing in a State other than Massachusetts where evidence of insurance isn’t required to take delivery of a vehicle

  • New equipment or other business property

  • Signing a contract or lease - if a transaction involves signing documents there’s no doubt you need to review your insurance coverages

Calling your agent in advance could save you time and money; for example, moving to a new location less than a mile from the ocean will significantly increase the cost for property insurance, restrict coverage options and may require flood insurance.  A call to your agent before signing a lease could prevent additional expense or if the location costs more to insure than you expected, you may be able to negotiate a lease with better terms and rent.


Your agent should be able to tell you with just one quick phone call if the change you’re planning means you need to update your coverage – it’s worth a call to make sure!

Tags: Risk Changes, When to Call your Agent, Insurance Agent, Insurance Policy Changes

The timing, purpose, and reply to an Insurance Inspection

Posted by Geoffrey Gordon on Fri, Jan 15, 2016 @ 05:13 PM

When you insure a building with a new insurance company, the company will send an inspector to inspect the property.   This inspection is done by company safety engineers, or hired contractors, and happens soon after the insurance takes effect.  The purpose is to identify ‘hazards”, or conditions which increase the chance of a loss, insured or not.  

These can be valuable: your insurance company is your risk partner for the property, writing the checks when things go wrong.  And all losses, insured or not, are distracting to the core business operations (and income stream) of the property.  

Timing of the inspection:

Most insurance inspections occur within 30 days of the new policy.  Many inspections need to view the interior of the residence as well.  The company will usually contact you and arrange for the inspection, but conduct unannounced inspections on occasion.

Bear in mind that inspectors are paid to perform inspections, not to try to get an appointment with you.  Failure to agree on a date or delaying an inspection more than once will set into motion non-compliance complications that will make insuring the property more expensive and difficult for the future.  Our advice: just get it over with.

The inspection typically takes anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple hours, depending on the size and nature of the property.  Commercial properties take longer than habitational.  The owner or an authorized person with full access is often needed to be on-site for the inspection.   

Additional Purposes of an inspection:

Rebuild cost

The first objective is to make sure the building is insured properly: that the policy's coverage reflects the cost to rebuild in the event of a total loss.  When we first prepare a property for shopping the insurance we often use replacement value software to determine the rebuild value. The software is good, but every property is unique, and public records are limited.   The most accurate way to validate the cost to rebuild for you is via an on-site inspection.

Identify hazards

Hazards are conditions which may lead to a loss - insured or not. To identify conditions where a loss might occur: safety items we see commonly in habitational (apartment) buildings include a deck with no handrails, or potholes (trip and fall hazards) in the sidewalk, or other susceptibility to loss, most commonly water.

What will be inspected?

Expect that the inspector will ask to see each room including the basement and all mechanicals: HVAC systems, sprinkler and other plumbing, roof, and so forth.  They will take pictures from both inside and out to help tell the story to an underwriter.  Underwriters are sponges for risk-based information, and the inspection fills in what the submitting agent or broker had not disclosed.

The inspector will usually measure the property to validate dimensions information.  If dogs are permitted in a habitational property (rented house or apartments), they will ask about written rules for tenants.  Dogs account for about 30% of personal liability claims payments, so this is one example where clear and enforced tenant rules matter.

They’ll inspect the roof condition, and inspect gutters and downspouts for flow and connections.  Trees or bushes over the roof will degrade the roof before its time, and roofs are important: they keep buildings dry.  

Here’s a tip before the inspector arrives: Debris in the yard or in common areas is a sure sign of lax property management. The little things matter.  Keep the property as clean and tidy as possible.

Avoiding surprises

If you are buying a new property, disclose everything to your insurance agent or broker up front, particularly if you are planning any construction beyond cosmetic improvement.  The pricing of the risk is very different for a functioning and rented habitational or commercial building than a vacant building or an active construction site.  Underwriters don’t like surprises, and have the right – within limited time frame – to get off a policy if conditions are not what were presented for initial pricing.  Both situations can be addressed by our agency but it is always best to disclose these plans when setting up the policy. The insurance company’s contractual right to cancel a policy for misrepresentation gives them all the leverage.


One benefit of a home insurance inspection can be that discounts or credits are identified by the inspector that the customer was not aware. For example, some properties with central fire and burglar alarms do not realize their system also has a low temperature sensors.

The other benefit of course is that a risk professional has examined the property and identified areas most likely to lead to a loss.  As the party with the financial interest in preventing losses, carriers will ask for some changes, and demand others, depending on the perceived risk severity.

What happens after the inspection?

When the inspection is complete, a written report goes to the insurance company. They review and confirm the coverage amount and outline concerns (called recommendations’).    As mentioned above, some recommendations are just that; many are requirements: for example: if a sprinkler system has not been tested within its required cycle, or if a roof leaks.   They’ll forward the report to you or through the agent or broker.   As agent / brokers, we are adept at communications between the underwriter and property owners.  The most important part is opening up a dialogue with the insurance company.   We are experienced with these and will assist with crafting an agreeable action plan.

Keeping costs down – for you, for everyone

Having your property inspected keeps the cost of your insurance down in several ways.  It begins with reinsurance, the insurance that companies buy to protect the company from large catastrophic losses.  Companies that conduct the most rigorous inspections get deeper discounts on reinsurance, a cost passed along to the customers.  Companies that identify and prevent losses will have lower costs before using their reinsurance and continue to offer the better prices.

If you are thinking about buying a property and need a great risk partner to help you navigate this part, contact the experts at Gordon Insurance.



Tags: commercial insurance, Hazards, Insurance Inspections, Inspections, Property Inspections, Apartment Inspections, Inspection Recommendations

Voluntary Parting - When theft isn't covered for small business

Posted by Geoffrey Gordon on Fri, Oct 30, 2015 @ 11:12 AM


Today, many small businesses sell their products online. An order comes in, you run the cutomer's credit card, payment is approved, and you ship the item.  To this point everything appears to be in order.  But then, when your bank reverses the deposit, and takes the money out of your account, maybe a day, a week, a month or even several months later, you find out that you paid with a stolen credit card.  You think, isn’t this be the bank's responsibility to make sure the card is good?  From cases we've seen, it is not.   And insurance won't help you either, for an exclusion known as "voluntary parting".

We assisted a customer of ours who had a payment denied for a large order shipped six months earlier. Evidently the owner of the card was someone who didn’t pay close attention to her purchases, and hadn’t notice the charge for over six months. Finally, she noticed that a 5-figure charge was made to her card a half year earlier and contacted her bank. Indeed the charge was bogus, and the bank credited her account accordingly.  That's when our customer noticed the same amount withdrawn from their corporate checking account. What was not a particularly noteworthy transaction for the woman whose card was charged, it was a big number for this business. They called the bank whose representative referred them to the bank agreement.  The agreement was written by the bank, by well qualified attorneys, to protect the bank's interests for any acts of fraud.  How well it protected the bank was remarkable: the bank indeed had the expressly stated right to withdraw, without notice, the full amount of the transaction made on the stolen card.  Naturally, our customer hoped she had insurance for this loss.  But insurance was no help either. This transaction is what insurance companies refer to as "voluntary parting".

Remember back to when you were ready to buy a car, and the salesman would give you the keys and say, “Take her for a spin”? Those days are long gone. Why? Because some people would take the car for a spin, and never return.  Because the salesperson voluntarily gave up the keys, the car was not stolen: no theft, no insurance coverage.  Being duped for sending product to a location far away falls onto this same category, the product was not stolen; no insurance coverage.

This scam has become more common lately. The bank accepts a card, the product is shipped, and at some point later on, the bank takes the money back. The banks and insurance companies want nothing to do with absorbing this loss, and write their contracts accordingly.

A tragic after-story to the first customer described here: several months after having the money taken from their bank account, they got another order from the same company at the same address in California.  They had already contacted the police in California when the scam first happened, and neither the local or state police said they could do anything about it, as it was probably a fake business or address.  But now they had the same company, operating from the same address, trying to take another shot at scamming our customer. They called the local and state police again and were told they had to elevate to the FBI, since this was an interstate commerce fraud. When they contacted the FBI, they were told that the FBI only got involved with scams over $200,000. I also spoke separately with a friend who is an FBI agent and he confirmed that they only have resources for the big fraud cases. 

The small business takes the hit from the fraudsters, and can’t get help from big financial companies or their government.  Further research suggests that one solution is Pay Pal. We have found that more and more small businesses selling and shipping property prefer the small fee that PayPal charges is well worth it.   We use our Pay Pal account for some of the few services we buy non-locally.

 Bottom line, be ever watchful when you take your first order from a big customer who is in a rush.  It could wellbe a scam where there's no insurance to back you up.

Tags: voluntary parting, credit card fraud, stolen credit cards, small business fraud

Technology Errors and Omissions Liability

Posted by Geoffrey Gordon on Fri, Oct 02, 2015 @ 10:14 AM


Technology Errors and Omissions (Tech E&O) provides protection for the professional services provided by technology companies. Cyber Liability refers most often to a breach in private records held by a company. Where the two coverages intersect is when a cyber liability event happens, resulting in stolen customer records, and the breach may be attributed to the failure of the technology company in providing adequate professional services.


For example, in our office we buy Cyber Liability Insurance in case hackers from a Foreign government, a crime organization, or a high school student next door breaks into our server and steals our customers' private information. The Cyber Liability Insurance will provide notification, life-lock type security for all of the customers affected, and third-party coverage in case the break results in actual losses to our customers. This insurance also includes Forensic Investigations. The Forensic Investigation is not just an academic exercise that asks ‘Wonder who stole all that information?’, the insurance company has an ulterior motive; they want to know how the data was hacked. Let's assume the forensic investigation uncovered that our IT partner had left a vulnerability in our firewall, and that the breach was a direct result of this negligence. The insurance company that paid our claim will look to the Tech E&O coverage of our IT partner provider.  Errors and Omissions Insurance coverage provides protection to professionals, including doctors, lawyers, insurance agents, consultants, and ...IT providers. If the tech who was programming our firewall left a huge vulnerability that was discovered by a robot or human hacker, this represents an error in the professional services expected.


Tech E&O and Cyber Liability are not always exclusive coverages. The two intersect when a tech company provides co-location services or services such as Platform as a Service (PaaS) where they not only maintain the security aspect, but actually hold the information that is stolen.  Professional Errors and Omission insurance must always be reviewed carefully for specific exclusions. Be on the lookout particularly for exclusions for unauthorized access, mechanical or electrical failure, delay in delivery, or deliberate acts by rogue employees.  What this protects against is the unknown Edward Snowden working in his cubicle causing tremendous damage to a company. If an executive officer of the company creates similar acts, including intentional acts, no insurance policy will protect against that.


Some professional liability policies provide limited coverages where only specific services defined in the policy are included for coverage. Underwriters always prefer to know exactly what kind of services are provided in order to quantify the cost of professional liability insurance. Because the functions performed by most tech companies are varied and evolve with available technology, we prefer Enterprise coverage when it is available. This means that all professional activities are protected, even those that the underwriter never even knew about, because they are new or because they are one-offs.


A type of liability that has been somewhat dormant over the past 20 to 30 years has been fully resurrected with the advent of the Internet.  This is Advertising Liability, and today can include what is known as Media Liability. When advertisements were mostly in printed form, or on the radio or TV, the publishing newspaper or controlling radio or television would often vet the contents of ads in production, so that aggressive companies could not spread lies about their competition and get everybody in trouble. With Websites there is no such third-party protection; companies often just put up online whatever they feel like. Web hosting sites and web development Service companies are the new TV and radio platform. While most web hosting and social media service companies have terms of service that limit liability on specific comments or statements, they are immune from advertising liability claims.


Tags: commercial insurance, cyber, reinsurance, liability, errors, technology, omissions

Employment Practices Liability

Posted by Geoffrey Gordon on Wed, May 27, 2015 @ 03:09 PM

Employment_practices_liability_business_insurance_Andrew_G_Gordon_IncEmployment practices liability refers to the chance of being sued if you fail to observe and practice certain employment practices regulations. Here’s a guide to keep from getting sued, and what to do if / when you are.

First, the good news: Many states, including Massachusetts, permit an arrangement known as “at-will” employment. This means employment continues as long as employer and employee decide things are working out OK. The key is that it’s a 2-way street, both for the employer and by the employee. The employee may quit to pursue better opportunities, or just to stop working for a while, without giving a reason. Similarly, the employer may terminate employment without a specific cause or reason: if business changes or other reasons such as when things just aren't working out.  Every employer (where permitted) should actively state that employment is “at-will”: in the employment application, in the employee handbook, and at termination.

Employers are still held to a high standard, even with the “at-will” doctrine, so don’t be complacent. The past year has seen a broad array of new state and Federal regulations, including the Massachusetts Paid Sick Leave law and new federal regulations on accommodating pregnant employees, as well as  changes to FMLA and ADA.

These laws and regulations apply to all three stages of employment; A good HR department or outsourced partner is critical*.  The timeline of employment risk runs across these three areas: 

  1. Pre-employment, including the application process and interviewing:
  2. During employment:
  3. Termination

There are appropriate steps to be taken at each part of this process. For example, the employment application and the employee handbook should state clearly that employer does not permit discrimination by gender, race, religion, age, sexual orientation, and other characteristics.  Not only is this good business practice, it's the law. Tolerating a rogue employee’s discrimination towards any co-worker  member of these protected categories makes the employer complicit in discriminatory practices. And your company can face fines from regulators and get sued for the rogue employee's behavior. Non-discrimination should be part of any business’s culture. 

That troublesome employee - what to do?

When the employer decides that an employee just isn't working out, there are steps that can be taken to mitigate the risk of being sued for wrongful termination.  Performance or misbehavior needs to prompt quick action, but these are more often terminations for cause, always more defendable.  For others, if termination can happen deliberately over a period of time where documentation can be gathered, that’s safer. Lots of documentation is always better.  Imagine you end up in front of a judge or jury in a year: Give your defense team some paperwork to work with.

In Massachusetts, employment regulations require that the employee must be notified whenever a negative review is placed in an employee’s file. Unfortunately, the effect of this can be conflict avoidance: a friendly manager may avoid a negative review, since asking the employee to sign the review for placement into the employees file can be uncomfortable. Too often, no note is added to the file, though everything is just fine. When the time comes to give the termination notice, the file is empty, perhaps because of the notification regulation;   On paper a perfectly reasonable termination appears to be a thoughtless decision by a capricious employer.  The employee feels unfairly treated, and hires an attorney to pursue his or her rights. 

When the letter from the lawyer comes in, it will cite all kinds of allegations that are certain to make the employer's blood boil, and escalate tensions. After all, the plaintiff’s attorney has heard only one side. Additionally the attorneys are skilled at exaggerating and fanning the flames.

This is where employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) can be valuable. Employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) provides money for legal defense, and usually includes consultation with claims adjusters (many of whom are attorneys)  to de-escalate the situation and take stock of the merits of the case. Insurance allows businesses to out-source the cost and many of the headaches, skill sets that are seldom part of a business's core competencies. 

But nobody wants a claim. It’s better to provide employees with training and opportunities to develop in a position.   

Our own experience offers these suggestions:

  • Make sure your employment manual is up to date. Regulators love to cite employers for not providing up to date employment rights information to their employees.  Don't let them play "Gotcha"
  • If you are sure that you are going to let somebody go, it's a good idea to talk to a labor attorney* first.  The attorney’s fee may seem an un-necessary expense, but the conversation itself will be valuable for future situations as well as protect you for the immediate need.  (We network extensively and can refer you to a labor attorney)
  • Document, document, document.
  • Don't tolerate poor performance, but address it in written format.  This can be difficult but is an easier solution than being sued, as well as being fairer to the employee. Every employee should know their value to the organization, as well as ways to enhance that value, and avopid self-sabotage.

Check out our business pages at for more resources and feel free to contact us with any commercial insurance questions.

* Geoff Gordon neworks broadly with other professionals and can refer qualified HR specialists, labor attorneys, and others throughout Masssachusetts. 


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