News and Information …

Workers’ compensation – does my business need it?

Retailers Processing Network - Friday, February 24, 2017
Congratulations! Your start-up business is growing and you’re considering expanding your workforce beyond yourself.

You may be wondering whether you need to obtain workers’ compensation insurance to cover your new worker or workers.

Don’t worry, Retailers Insurance Company is here to help answer your questions!

Workers’ compensation insurance was developed to create a remedy for employees that were injured on the job.

Prior to 1912, an injured employee would have to sue his or her employer and prove that the employer was negligent – a difficult task.

Under the Michigan Worker’s Disability Act (the “Act”), a compromise was achieved: workers gave up the right to sue but earned the right to recover for workplace injuries, no matter who was at fault. 

Employers benefited because the Act limits damages to certain wage loss benefits, medical treatment and rehabilitation.

The “simplest” way for an employer to determine whether it must provide workers’ compensation coverage is to count the number of its employees.

Even if coverage is required by the numbers test, the Act does allow for certain exclusions.

It should be noted that appropriate corporate action (e.g., board resolution) is required by the legal entity to properly exclude an individual.

Because the numbers test is fairly straightforward, it is not the source of most coverage confusion. More likely, it’s the nature of the employer-employee relationship that raises questions.

For instance, is the individual an independent contractor? A volunteer?

The procedure for determining whether an individual is an employee changed on January 1, 2013, though the change didn’t necessarily make the process easier.

The law now requires the application of a multi-factor test, the purpose of which is to determine whether the employer has the right to control the employee (e.g., ability to control when, where and how the work is done, whether full-time work is required, whether a continuing relationship exists).

Employers should examine all of their relationships so they can properly determine which individuals are covered. An employer also may request a determination from the Michigan Administrative Hearing System.

Limiting Liability
Even if an employer is not covered by the Act or required to provide coverage, an employer may voluntarily choose to provide coverage. Why?

Workers’ compensation coverage is a way of limiting liability. When coverage is provided, the insurance benefits become the employee’s exclusive remedy against the employer for injuries or diseases that arise in the course of employment.

The only exception to that exclusive rule is a high standard and is triggered only if the employer acted deliberately and intended for an injury to occur (i.e., the employer had knowledge that the employee was likely to be injured and willfully disregarded that knowledge).

If you’ve determined that you need coverage, Retailers Insurance Company can help.

We provide workers’ compensation insurance to more than 1,300 businesses of many different types – not just retailers – in Michigan. Included with our coverage are some of the highest limits of employers liability, plus EFT Guard protection (protects against online business banking theft). 

Contact your independent agent to get a quote or visit www.retailersinsurance.com to find a Retailers Insurance agent near you.

by William J. Hallan, MRA Executive Vice President, COO and General Counsel

Retiring RIC underwriter excited about her future and company’s

Retailers Processing Network - Friday, February 17, 2017
Looking back at four decades of experience in Michigan’s insurance industry, Patty Zaskowski discusses the past 11+ years with special enthusiasm.

With good reason.

Zaskowski, director of underwriting for Retailers Insurance Company, was there at the beginning, going to work for Michigan Retailers Association in September 2005 to help the organization convert its more than 20-year-old workers’ compensation fund into an insurance company.

“I was excited,” she recalls of MRA’s bold move to create a new Michigan insurer.

“It was a fantastic opportunity and a chance to grow something from the ground up.”

Grow, it did. When Zaskowski retired at the end of last month, following another solid year for the company that specializes in workers’ compensation insurance and small-group dental insurance, the amount of annual written premium had grown to $8.5 million.

Fate Intervenes
Growing up in East Grand Rapids and working part-time in her family’s local pharmacies, Zaskowski never considered a career in insurance.

Nor did she as a student at Michigan State University, where she studied political science and planned to go east for law school after graduation.

But fate intervened, and she married and remained in the East Lansing area. She was an associate in the children’s section at Jacobson’s department store and managing an apartment building with her husband, Ron Zaskowski, when a tenant told her about an opening at an insurance agency and asked if she wanted to apply.

That was in 1973, and for the next 32 years she rose in the industry, moving from agencies to the staff of the Professional Insurance Agents Association to insurance companies.

She first became an underwriter at the former Michigan Physicians Mutual Liability Company in East Lansing. It underwent several organizational changes, including transformation into a public company as AP Capital, Inc.

Fate intervened again. AP Capital shed its work comp business in 2005, around the time MRA was looking for underwriting expertise to help create and build Retailers Insurance Company. She was hired quickly.

Legislative Tribute

At a retirement luncheon MRA held in her honor, Zaskowski received many gifts, well wishes and a legislative tribute signed by Governor Rick Snyder and her local state lawmakers, Rep. Tom Cochran (D-Mason) and Sen. Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing).

The tribute commends her for “exceptional commitment to [MRA’s] members, its board of directors, policyholders, network of independent insurance agents and the retail and insurance industries….

“Ms. Zaskowski’s industry knowledge of insurance and workers’ compensation trends and changes collected over her celebrated career made her a strong asset for Michigan Retailers Association and Retailers Insurance Company.”

Not surprisingly, she’s quick to mention the importance of underwriting.

“It’s important because you have to look carefully at every request and determine the risk involved to see if it’s a policy the company is willing to write – and at what price,” she said. “Professional underwriting builds the solid foundation that a company needs in order to prosper and grow.”

“It’s challenging,” she adds. “It’s never boring, because there are so many things you must do and there’s so much information you must gather in order to be able to underwrite properly.

“You also have to develop strong relationships with the insurance agencies, because it’s really a partnership between the company and the independent agents.”

Proud of Growth
Reflecting on her service at RIC, Zaskowski said: “I’m most proud of the fact we’re profitable and growing. Our agency network is growing and our book of business is growing.

“I wish great things for this place. I see Retailers Insurance expanding into other areas. There are so many possibilities and places in the industry to take this company.

“It won’t necessarily be overnight, because good things take time and everything has to be done right, but the company will continue to grow.”

She added, “I’m also comfortable leaving at this point because of where the company is and because Laura [Schilling, her successor], is very talented and will do a great job.”

Her immediate future will be filled with travel and winter skiing with her husband, she said. They also plan to remodel part of their Okemos home.

“In retirement, every day is Saturday, so we get to figure out each day what we want to do.”
She also plans to do volunteer work.

“I’ve done volunteer work before in hospitals and Habitat for Humanity, so I might get back to that. First, I’ve got to see what’s out there. I want it to be fun and not a chore.”

Memories
Zaskowski’s comments also focus on the people she has worked with at MRA.

“I have great memories from working here the past 11 years,” she said. “In addition to the exciting and challenging work, it has been a fun place to work because of the people here.

“I know we all use the term ‘family’ when we talk about Michigan Retailers, but it is a very supportive environment here. I’ll miss that part of the job the most.”

New rule requiring public reporting of work injuries – nudge or public shaming?

Retailers Processing Network - Friday, February 10, 2017
Many Michigan businesses will be required as soon as July 1 to start using a new, online system to report their companies’ work-related injury and illness records to the public.

Federal safety officials say public disclosure is intended to encourage companies with at least 20 employees to create safer workplaces by giving them a “nudge.”

Critics say the system amounts to little more than “public shaming” of employers and doesn’t enable them to provide fuller explanations of the information.

The secure website enabling employers to comply with the new reporting requirement had not yet been finalized as Michigan Retailer went to press. It is expected to go live in February.

When the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is updated on the federal level, Michigan’s corresponding agency, MIOSHA, has six months in which to implement the new rules and/or standards.
The new OSHA rule became final in January 2017.

Worker Safety
An OSHA fact sheet states: “We are taking information that employers are already required to collect and using these data to help keep workers safer and make employers, the public, and the government better informed about workplace hazards.”

OSHA says public release of the data via website will:
1) Encourage employers to increase their efforts to prevent worker injuries and illnesses, and, “compelled by their competitive spirit, to race to the top in terms of worker safety.”

In addition, “Behavioral science suggests that public disclosure of the data will ‘nudge’ employers to reduce work-related injuries and illnesses in order to demonstrate to investors, job seekers, customers, and the broader public that their workplaces provide safe and healthy work environments for their employees.”

2) Enable researchers to examine these data in innovative ways that may help employers make their workplaces safer and healthier and may also help to identify new workplace safety hazards before they become widespread.
In addition, the final rule includes provisions that encourage workers to report work-related injuries or illnesses to their employers and prohibit employers from retaliating against workers for making those reports.

Critics counter that OSHA lacks the legal authority to impose the public disclosure rule. They also contend the move could backfire by discouraging some workers from reporting injuries and illnesses because they don’t want neighbors and others to know.

Website
The new electronic reporting requirement could create some duplication of recordkeeping requirements, because employers are also required to maintain their hard copy records of the same information.

MIOSHA says OSHA will provide a secure website, scheduled to go live in February, that offers businesses three options for data submission.

First, users will be able to manually enter data into a webform.

Second, users will be able to upload an electronic file to process single or multiple establishments at the same time.

Third, users of automated recordkeeping systems will have the ability to transmit data electronically via an application-programming interface. 

An online publication with Q&A is located at: osha.gov/recordkeeping/finalrule/index.html.

Phased In
The new online reporting requirements will be phased in over two years, according to MIOSHA.

Establishments with 250 or more employees in industries covered by the recordkeeping regulation must submit information from their 2016 Form 300A by July 1, 2017.

These same employers will be required to submit information from all 2017 forms (300A, 300 and 301) by July 1, 2018.

Beginning in 2019 and every year after, the information must be submitted by March 2.

Establishments with 20-249 employees in certain high-risk industries must submit information from their 2016 Form 300A by July 1, 2017, and their 2017 Form 300A by July 1, 2018.

Beginning in 2019 and every year after, the information must be submitted by March 2.

Below is a partial listing of businesses identified in the group of 20-249 employees. The full list from OSHA is located at: osha.gov/recordkeeping/NAICScodesforelectronicsubmission.pdf.
Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting
Manufacturing
Wholesale trade
Automotive parts, accessories, and tire stores
Furniture stores
Home furnishings stores
Building material and supplies dealers
Lawn and garden equipment and supplies stores
Grocery stores
Specialty food stores
Department stores
Other general merchandise stores
Used merchandise stores
Direct selling establishments
Warehousing and storage
Lessors of real estate
Consumer goods rental
General rental centers
Museums, historical sites, and similar institutions
Traveler accommodation
Commercial and industrial machinery and equipment (except automotive and electronic) repair and maintenance
Dry-cleaning and laundry services.

Retirement, promotion and new underwriter at Retailers Insurance Company

Retailers Processing Network - Thursday, February 09, 2017
LANSING – Michigan Retailers Association’s Retailers Insurance Company announced the following personnel changes:
• Patty Zaskowski, director of underwriting, retired on January 31.
• Laura Schilling was promoted to director of underwriting from manager of underwriting.
• Jamie Moore was hired as underwriter.

Zaskowski, an Okemos resident, spent four decades in Michigan’s insurance industry. The Michigan State University graduate joined Michigan Retailers Association in 2005 to help convert its workers’ compensation insurance fund to a new insurance company and launch the new insurer. Prior to joining MRA, she was an underwriter at the former AP Capital in East Lansing.

At a retirement luncheon MRA held in her honor, Zaskowski received a legislative tribute signed by Governor Rick Snyder and her local state lawmakers, Rep. Tom Cochran (D-Mason) and Sen. Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing).

The tribute states: “Ms. Zaskowski’s industry knowledge of insurance and workers’ compensation trends and changes collected over her celebrated career made her a strong asset for Michigan Retailers Association and Retailers Insurance Company.”

Schilling, an Okemos resident, was named manager of underwriting in July 2016 and had served as an associate underwriter since 2012.

A Michigan State University graduate, she began her career at MRA in 2006 as a data processing intern and was hired full-time in 2007.
Moore, a DeWitt resident, previously was an underwriter for 12 years with the Phoenix Property & Casualty Agency in East Lansing. She is a graduate of Hope College.

Retailers Insurance Company is a Lansing-based company providing workers’ compensation and small-group dental insurance to all types of businesses in Michigan. Its insurance is sold through an outstanding network of independent agents throughout the state.

Retailers Insurance was established in 2006 by Michigan Retailers Association, which represents more than 5,000 member businesses and their 15,000 stores and websites. MRA has been a trusted business resource for 77 years and provides cost-saving membership services, such as expert credit card processing, business and personal insurances, legislative advocacy, college scholarships and shipping discounts to all types of businesses.

Note: For High-resolution photos, please contact MRA’s Rachel Schafer at rschafer@retailers.com.

RIC: Extending protection against tomorrow’s world

Retailers Processing Network - Tuesday, December 13, 2016

In these times, employers’ risks and exposures are constantly expanding.

That’s why, as Michigan’s preferred workers’ compensation insurance carrier, Retailers Insurance Company is always looking for ways to extend coverages and reward policyholders for being proactive in protecting their employees.

In 2014 we were the first carrier in the nation to automatically include EFT Guard to our standard policy at no additional charge.

You wouldn’t ordinarily associate this coverage – it protects against online theft from business banking – with a workers’ compensation policy. But we determined that the standard commercial property policy wasn’t adequately protecting against this type of exposure, so we took it upon ourselves to find a solution for our policyholders.

EFT Guard is necessary because, to the surprise and shock of many business people, businesses that bank online are not protected by federal Regulation E.

That regulation is the one that obligates banks to reimburse retail banking customers for online losses. But it does not require the banks to extend the same protection for their business customers banking online.

 

Cybercriminals
What happens is that cybercriminals phish for victims in an attempt to lure unsuspecting business employees into installing malware. Once downloaded, it runs unnoticed as it captures the company’s online banking credentials.

The cybercriminals then log into the business’ account to create and transmit unauthorized Electronic Fund Transfers to a different account of their own. The money is gone and the business has no recourse.

Until now. EFT Guard provides your business with protection, up to a $100,000 aggregate limit, for such an event.

Again, that’s a coverage you can find nowhere other than a Retailers Insurance workers’ compensation policy.

$2 Million Liability
With 2017 approaching, we again looked at the industry and the needs of our policyholders.
Currently, all Retailers Insurance policies provide Employers Liability Limits of $1,000,000/$1,000,000/$1,000,000 – well above the industry average. To make certain our policyholders are even better protected, we have increased our limits to $2,000,000/$2,000,000/$2,000,000, which will be reflected in your next policy renewal.

Again, Retailers Insurance increased these limits without any premium increase. In fact, our overall rates have been reduced for 2017!

Rewarding Safety
Retailers Insurance has always looked for ways to encourage and reward businesses for their commitment to the safety of their employees. For this reason, we have adopted Safe Work Place Credits that include:
• Employee-sponsored health plans
• Pre-employment medical exams
• Drug-screening programs
• Video-surveillance systems
• Light-duty return-to-work programs
• Active-safety programs
• Employee-assistance programs.

During your year-end audit, please take the time to identify your employee safety efforts and make sure they are acknowledged.

More Than Retail
Don’t let our company name be misleading. We service more than the retail industry. We offer coverage to a multitude of industries, including wholesale, service, manufacturing, agriculture and more. If you would like to connect with one of our 145 industry-leading Independent Agencies, simply call me at 586.703.1897 or fellow Senior Vice President Tom Tuggle at 517.927.6122.

On behalf of everyone at Retailers Insurance, thank you for allowing us the opportunity to protect your business and employees.

Kurt M. Dettmer is Retailers Insurance Company senior vice president, insurance sales and business development.

Michigan Retailers announces board officers for 2016-17, new directors

Retailers Insurance Company - Friday, September 16, 2016
LANSING – Michigan Retailers Association (MRA) announced 2016-17 officers for the MRA Board of Directors and the Retailers Insurance Company Board of Directors. Results of each organization’s election of directors at its August annual meetings also were announced, along with directors of MRA-subsidiary Michigan Retailers Services, Inc.

MRA Board of Directors

Orin Mazzoni, Jr., president of Orin Jewelers, Inc., which owns and operates stores in Garden City and Northville, was elected chair.

James P. Hallan was re-elected as president and chief executive officer.

Becky Beauchine Kulka, of Becky Beauchine Kulka Diamonds and Fine Jewelry in Okemos, was elected vice chair.

Peter Sobelton, of Mondial Properties in Birmingham, was re-elected treasurer.

William J. Hallan, MRA executive vice president, chief operating officer and general counsel, was re-elected secretary.

Dan Marshall, president of Marshall Music Company, headquartered in Lansing, serves as immediate past chair.

Newly elected to the MRA Board of Directors was Ken Hayward, executive vice president and managing director of Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. Re-elected to the board were: Orin Mazzoni, Jr.; Barb Stein, owner/operator of Great Northern Trading Co. in Rockford; Joe Swanson, district team leader for Target Corp.’s Indianapolis Region; and Thomas Ungrodt, president and CEO of Ideation Inc. in Ann Arbor. All directors’ terms are three years.

Retailers Insurance Company Board of Directors

Retailers Insurance Company (RIC), established by MRA, provides workers’ compensation insurance and other insurance lines to all types of Michigan businesses.

Jeff Joyce, vice president and co-owner of Mieras Family Shoes, Grand Rapids, was re-elected RIC board chair for 2016-17.

James P. Hallan was re-elected as president and chief executive officer.

Peter Sobelton, of Mondial Properties in Birmingham, was re-elected treasurer.

Newly elected to the RIC board by policyholders was Andrew Gemmen, co-owner of Gemmen’s Home and Hardware in Hudsonville.

Re-elected to the RIC board were: Jeff Joyce; Dan Marshall, president of Marshall Music Company, headquartered in Lansing; and Larry Meyer, retired president and CEO of MRA and a member of the Lansing Community College Board of Trustees.  

All directors’ terms are three years.

Michigan Retailers Services, Inc. Board of Directors

In addition, the MRA board elected members of the Michigan Retailers Services, Inc. Board of Directors for 2016-17. The wholly owned subsidiary of MRA provides a wide-array of profit-boosting membership services to MRA members.

Newly elected to the MRS board was Chad Ayers, partner and general manager of Allendale True Value in Allendale. Re-elected were James P. Hallan; Bo Brines, owner and president of Little Forks Outfitters in downtown Midland; Bill Golden, co-president of Golden Shoes in downtown Traverse City; and Emily Matthews, manager of Dart Foundation and partner in Potent Potables, which owns and operates Zoobie’s Old Town Tavern, Cosmos and The Creole in Lansing’s Old Town commercial area.

Michigan Retailers Association represents more than 5,000 member businesses and their 15,000 stores and websites. MRA has been a trusted business resource for 76 years and provides cost-saving membership services, such as expert credit card processing, business and personal insurances, legislative advocacy, college scholarships and discounts on shipping, to all types of businesses.

Note: A high-resolution photo of each director is available by contacting MRA’s Rachel Schafer at rschafer@retailers.com or calling 800.366.3699 ext. 346

News Release: Retailers Insurance elects board members, officers

Retailers Insurance Company - Tuesday, November 03, 2015

LANSING – The Retailers Insurance Company Board of Directors has re-elected all officers for 2015-16, following the election of three incumbents to the board at the Company’s 2015 Annual Meeting.

Serving as officers through August 2016 are:
• Chair Jeff Joyce, vice president and co-owner of Mieras Family Shoes, Grand Rapids;
• Retailers Insurance President and CEO James P. Hallan;
• Mark Miller, executive vice president of Hylant Group and president of its Ann Arbor office.

Miller and Hallan were re-elected by the policyholders to new three-year terms on the board, as was Jean Sarasin, a Traverse City resident and retired executive vice president and COO of Retailers Insurance and Michigan Retailers Association.

Retailers Insurance Company, established by the 5,000-member Michigan Retailers Association, provides workers’ compensation insurance and small-group dental insurance to Michigan businesses of all types.

High-resolution photos are available from MRA’s Laura Schilling at lschilling@retailers.com.

News Release: Retailers Insurance Adds Automatic Protection For Online Business Banking

Retailers Insurance Company - Friday, October 31, 2014

LANSING – Retailers Insurance is coming to the aid of business men and women who bank online and face a serious risk they probably didn’t know they faced.

Under current banking regulations, financial institutions don’t cover losses from online attacks on business accounts, even though they do for individual accounts.

Retailers Insurance has partnered with RSG, Limited LLC, a Michigan-based risk services company, to bring the EFT Guard program to existing and future workers’ compensation insurance policyholders. This new coverage will be added automatically to new and renewed Retailers Insurance workers’ compensation policies starting November 1, 2014.

Provided in the EFT Guard program are several unique benefits not found in other carriers’ policies, including:
    • Free educational resource center where you can use an assessment tool to determine your risk level;
    • Free malware detection software to create a higher level of security and peace of mind;
    • $100,000 in protection against unauthorized electronic funds transfer (Corporate Account Takeover).

Protection begins with issuance of the renewal or new policy. For additional information, policyholders should contact their insurance agent or visit www.royalgroupservices.com/retailerseftguard/.

News Release: Retailers Insurance Company grows from Retailers Mutual

Retailers Insurance Company - Friday, October 24, 2014

LANSING – Retailers Mutual Insurance Company is now Retailers Insurance Company, a move requested by Retailers Mutual and approved by state regulators on October 23, 2014.

All new and renewed policies and future correspondence will reflect the new name.

The change is more than just in name, said James P. Hallan, president and CEO of both Retailers Insurance Company and Michigan Retailers Association.

“The move to Retailers Insurance Company represents a change in corporate structure that enables the company to grow at an even faster rate in the future and provide additional benefits to policyholders,” Hallan said.

The new structure includes a holding company that can issue stock to raise additional capital for expansion, new technology and other growth-oriented activities.

Retailers Mutual policyholders approved the change at the August 19 Annual Meeting at the Michigan Retailers Association headquarters in downtown Lansing. The Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services gave final approval on October 23 after approving it conditionally in April. The Retailers Mutual board had unanimously recommended policyholder approval.

The change will be seamless for policyholders, and there are no significant operating changes planned for the immediate future, Hallan said. Changes and additional benefits will occur over time.

News Release: Retailers Insurance Adds SpeedBuilder Systems’ BindExpress Policy Suite

Retailers Insurance Company - Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Columbia, S.C. – January 17, 2014 – SpeedBuilder Systems, Inc. today announced that Michigan-based Retailers Mutual is live with workers’ compensation on the BindExpress Policy Suite.  The entirely web-based system will enable agents and underwriters to collaborate seamlessly with once-and-done processing for all insurance transactions – from new business quoting to renewals.

"Among other benefits, the new system provides a complete point-of-service solution that now includes electronic underwriting, instant on-screen pricing, and same-day turnaround," said James P. Hallan, President and CEO of Retailers.  “The easy-to-use yet robust platform will enable us to compete side-by-side with literally any carrier – even the nationals.”

“We are pleased to add Retailers Mutual to our family of success stories,” said Rod Giess, President of SpeedBuilder Systems.  “This implementation proved the value of the numerous configuration options we built into BindExpress, greatly reducing the time, cost, and risk of the project, yet enabling us to deliver a solution tailored to Retailer’s specific needs. As important, Retailers will be able to adapt quickly when market needs change in the future.”

About SpeedBuilder Systems
SpeedBuilder Systems, Inc. (www.speedbuildersystems.com) offers large enterprise-class solutions for small-to-medium sized P&C insurance carriers.  The BindExpress Suite is an integrated set of components including policy administration, rating, automated underwriting, agent and consumer portals, product configuration, billing, automated workflow, analytics, and document generation. Built using open source technologies, the BindExpress Suite improves ease-of-doing-business for both consumers and professionals, reduces the time-to-market for delivering new products, and extends the life of both new and legacy systems.

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