Vaught Wright & Bond
P.O. Box 1328
533 Main Street
Placerville, California 95667
Phone: 530-622-1835
Toll-Free: 800-652-0168
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Policy Services

Property Insurance For Your California Business

Commercial Property Risks

No two businesses are alike. That is why you need an insurance program designed specifically for your business. When it comes to managing your property, there is nothing better than having an agent with a deep understanding of your risks, the market, and the qualifications to design a program to meet your needs.  Our main focus is always to design a property program that addresses your current and future risks.

Your Property Risks Are Real

  • Business interruption
  • Loss of use
  • Damage to buildings and special equipment
  • Loss of Income
  • Production delays
  • Product contamination
  • Damage to reputation
  • Building code issues

Proven Solutions

  • Policy review and coverage audit
  • Broad range of insurance markets with the ability to place coverage locally, nationally, and internationally if necessary
  • Review of limits and deductibles to make sure your program is designed to maximize your goals
  • Cost benefits of alternative financing options
  • We will review your vendors to determine if you have contractual liability that might impact your property risks.

We maintain relationships with underwriters who are specialists in the commercial property insurance arena, and we consistently monitor the marketplace for new and innovative underwriters. We will evaluate your specific business needs and make personalized recommendations for your business.

At Vaught Wright & Bond our Commercial Lines specialists not only tailor a policy to fit your business’ needs, but also work diligently with you to avoid unnecessary costs and exposures.

 

Wrongful Termination

Although many states are fire-at-will states, there may be circumstances that allow legal action to proceed against employers. For example, a firm that appears to adhere to a plan of progressive discipline actions prior to terminating staff members and then terminates an employee while failing to following that plan can be putting themselves in legal danger. In one example of this, the California Appellate Court ruled that the employees claim could proceed even though the company was a fire-at-will company.

Proceedings in other states have had similar outcomes so it is worthwhile exploring what happened in this situation.

The case in question occurred with Barnes & Noble Booksellers and their employee Christine Oakes. Christine began working for B&N starting in 1987 as became store manager in 1989. She also managed the West Valley-Mission Community University Campus location from 2002-2010.

Several times throughout her career with Barnes & Noble, Christine acknowledge she had received and reviewed the B&N code of conduct. She also signed an acknowledgement that she understood she was an at-will employee.

The company’s employee manual also had a disclaimer that it was not a contract and was for reference purposes only. The manual made it clear that they were a fire-at-will company meaning they could let go of employees without prior notice and without cause.

The manual also contained a specific policy of employee discipline, specifying that managers use certain training tools and procedures to progressively discipline their employees. The discipline begins with a verbal warning and progresses through a written warning. The handbook also stated that if a significant offense was taken, the initial disciplinary steps could be skipped. Also, if the infraction was significant, the person could be terminated without any prior disciplinary steps.

Oakes’ received good annual performance reviews until 2009. While she was rated as satisfactory or exceeded criteria in many measurements, she was found to not meet standards in the area of liability, client focus, and interaction.

Barnes & Noble terminated Oakes on June 1, 2010 without prior warning. Likewise B&N failed to leverage the discipline process it outlined in its employee guide.

In April 2012 Oakes sued the company for wrongful termination. This was based on the concept that B&N was in breach of contract.

The company requested a summary judgment in 2013, asking for the claims to be dismissed before trial. They said that she was a fire-at-will employee let go for legitimate reasons. The court approved the motion but Oakes appealed.

In a deposition taken prior to the dismissal of the lawsuit, Oakes said that she had been told by B&N’s HR department to use the progressive discipline process outlined in the employee manual prior to letting go of employees. She also noted that if she terminated someone without taking these steps, she was reprimanded by the company.

To support her testimony, two other managers affirmed Oake’s testimony. They said that they were not aware of any other cases where employees had been let go without the handbook’s recommendations being followed.

Does employment agreement match actual practice?

Although California is a fire-at-will state, the appeals court noted that events in an employee partnership can alter that status.

Barnes & Noble had stated that they were a fire-at-will company in their handbook but there was indeed evidence that this policy was not their intent. The court noticed that the company was correct in their ability to be a fire-at-will employer. However they acknowledged the existence of a separate unwritten policy. The court found their actual plan was using progressive discipline before terminating an employer. The appellate court used this information to change the trial courts dismissal of the case and stated that a trial was needed to figure out exactly the terms of the employer’s policies and if Barnes & Noble had breached those terms.

Protecting your business from lawsuits…

An expert guideline in this case is that it is essential to understand that actions do speak louder than words. Although a business may state certain policies and procedures, their day-to-day running of the company may not be followed consistently. Not following policies consistently puts businesses at high risk for lawsuits.

If you have a business with employees, we highly recommend that you take a close look at EPLI or employment practices liability insurance. It helps protect you from claims of things like wrongful termination, discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation. Because while you may believe you are operating within the law, a court may disagree. Be sure to talk with us about affordable EPLI options for your business.

Separating Truth From Fiction With Employees

Philip Maltin, who was discussing the ways of spotting liars at the Society for Human Resource Management’s Skill Monitoring Conference & Exposition, began by explaining how we can misread some signs when trying to spot liars in the workplace.

According to Maltin, if someone folds her arms, fails to look you in the eye, and keeps massaging the back of their neck depicting nervousness and stress, it’s not mandatory that they are lying. Maltin feels that body movement of a person is just one of many cues that help us to understand whether that individual is a liar. According to him, an individual might appear worried even when he is looking to tell the truth; that’s because he might believe that people would start judging him after knowing the truth.

Maltin, who is currently a partner with the LA firm Raines Feldman LLP, protects organizations in cases involving employment insurance claims. His other endeavors include helping civil legal delegates in honing deposition skills and teaching district attorneys effective trial strategies. Maltin said that he has met many detectives, police officers, and prosecutors who have the habit of doubting supposed lawbreakers assuming that they have committed a crime. HR experts, who are expected to follow employee management best practices, are also often found to possess a similar tendency.

Maltin played an audio, in which a policeman was heard interrogating ex US Senator Larry Craig hurriedly after the latter was arrested in 2007 for performing vulgar acts at an airport restroom meant for men. Instead of examining Craig carefully and calmly while adhering to the facts, the law enforcement officer maintained an argumentative, accusatory, and confrontational behavior. This, according to Maltin, allowed the policeman to gather little information from the ex senator.

Maltin affirms that people won’t reveal themselves to you just because you are the boss or the head of HR. You will get desired results only upon asking flexible questions, hearing all answers carefully, and staying on track.

Here are a few tips to suss out the truth…

Study well before questioning

Before you question someone suspected of inappropriate behavior or wrongdoing, you must investigate thoroughly. The investigation process might require you to go through the person’s emails, computer history, account details etc. Video monitoring may also be needed. Maltin believes that it’s important to know your witnesses, suspect, and the questioning techniques you will be using beforehand.

Examine your suspect, but always play nice

You must know that accusatory and aggressive interrogation might make your suspect uncommunicative. This might even cause false admissions, which should never be the way to go. You should be irresistible when interrogating. The only way you can gather information is by making the accused individual talk with you. For that, you will have to get along well with the person. Allow the person narrate his story. This will provide you with the weirdest facts. Instead of asking directly about the misdeed you feel the person has committed, you should shoot an open-ended question towards him. For instance, you should begin by asking a simple question like, “How’s life treating you?” and then move your investigation forward based the responses you get.

Evaluate the suspect’s responses

Once your suspect finishes telling his tale, you should assess it. According to Maltin, phonies tend to share tales that are mostly illogical. The details provided by them are filled with uncertainty and discrepancies. He added that liars often use simple constructions for sounding incoherent. They also have a tendency of evading straight enquiries by altering the topic. Sincere individuals, on the other hand, tend to give lots of understandable details in a coherent order. Their narrations are always significantly more meaningful and interactive in nature.

You should question yourself

It’s true that it’s extremely important that you suspect one or more individuals based on the investigation carried out by you and in-depth evaluation of the responses you receive from your suspect or suspects. However, while suspecting someone else, you must also move a step back for locating loop holes in your own thoughts.

Maltin stated that anxiety might also be an indicator of sincerity. He added that feelings would never be able to tell you what factors are responsible for causing them. It’s impossible to know what has made a person mad or nervous or worried. As a result, an individual who primarily counts on his or her intuitions would not be a good lie detector.

Protect yourself from mistakes

We are constantly on the lookout for great information about employee management best practices and how to manage your business risks. Dealing with employees can be tricky. There are a number of EPLI concerns that can impact insurance risk.

The best strategy is to be sure you have an EPLI policy in place if you have employees. If you are curious about EPLI or If you want to review your current EPLI risk, be sure to reach out to us.

5 Key Actions in Case of a Ransomware Attack

Imagine this: you are seated at home working on your computer, either answering your email or polishing a work related presentation. Suddenly, a message blinks on your screen. The message curtly demands that you send cash to a certain destination, failure to which you will be unable to access any of the documents stored on your computer. You also discover that your keyboard has become unresponsive. Logically, you decide to restart the computer. The screen comes right back on, but to your shock, you are still unable to access any of your files and folders. It dawns on you that your data has been remotely locked via a device on your network, and that no matter how much you try you cannot access it.

The above scenario clearly illustrates what happens in a typical ransomware assault. This has become an acute problem globally, with the WannaCry attack being the latest ransomware attack to affect the largest number of individuals on a worldwide scale. The victims are usually at a loss on what to do.

You can use a ransomware attack as a learning point, and consequently take measures to enhance your protection against similar attacks in the future. Here are five steps that you can take if you have been a victim:

1. Do not pay the Ransom Money

Internet security experts advise that it would be a disastrous mistake to pay off the aggressors. For one, it is an indicator that you have given up control of the situation to the attacker, and that you trust they will amicably resolve the situation. Honestly, this never happens. The aggressor is only interested in ripping you off. Once you pay the ransom, it is unlikely that they will unlock your documents. If in the unlikely event they do, be certain that they will see you as soft victim and mark you for repeated blackmail attacks. Giving in to the attackers’ demands also gives them the impetus to continue perpetrating further attacks on more victims.

Christopher Budd, a security supervisor for the electronics security firm Trend Micro, emphasized the above point in a business article he wrote last July. In the article, he advised victims of ransomware attack not to pay, but to keep in mind that they are handling bad guys. He reiterated that giving in would not guarantee that, as a victim, you would get back all your documents. It would only help the criminals perpetuate this criminal activity. As a worldwide communications threats expert, Christopher Budd definitely understands the pitfalls of giving in to the aggressors.

2. Use a Backup to Reinstall Your Files

Using a computer back up system comes with numerous advantages. Many people use computer backups to access their data in case the computer breaks down. In the same way, the backup will come in handy in case you fall prey to ransomware attacks. You will be able reinstall all your files and folders from the backup system, without having to refer to the aggressors. For this to be effective, ensure that you have set your system to automatically backup all the data that you handle via the computer. Once the backup system is well set, it will operate automatically and you do not have to keep thinking about it; unless something happens and you need to access the data.

3. Update Your OS and Anti-virus

It is important that you regularly update your OS and anti-virus with the latest versions. Microsoft is quite aggressive in addressing security concerns. Actually, the latest update of Microsoft’s Window 10 is fully secure against WannaCry -the latest global ransomware assault. There are several firms and individuals, however, who still use earlier versions of windows, or do not activate automatic updates on the later versions. These firms and individuals would not be protected in case an attack is imminent.

4. Engage the Services of Your IT Division or an Anti-Virus Firm.

The personnel in the IT department of your company may have the technical expertise to recover your data in case your computers are attacked. Inform them immediately you notice the problem, and allow them to try and salvage the situation. Conversely, you may opt to ask anti-virus companies to assist. There are some anti-virus software that could help, but do not peg most of your hopes on this.

5. Reformat Your Hard disk

This is a tough decision to make, because it means you will lose all your data. However, it is a good move compared to the alternative of giving in to the aggressors. So, if all the other solutions are not tenable, go ahead and reformat your hard disk and reinstall the OS. Take the entire ordeal of the attack as a lesson well learnt, and ensure to back up your data once you are back in business.

Importance of Identity Theft Protection

Of course, these kinds of attacks indicate that your computer has been violated. Attackers may have gotten access to important information from your system, in addition to holding it hostage. Just as it is important to protect your computers and devices with operating system updates and anti-virus / anti-malware software, it’s also important to protect your identity. Many carriers offer identity theft insurance endorsements on homeowners or renters insurance policies. Some also offer stand-alone identity theft protection options. If you are concerned about the financial implications of having your identity stolen, be sure to check with us for advice on your best options.

Think Carefully Before Imposing English Only Rules in The Workplace

A clothing store recently restricted three employees from speaking Spanish in the workplace. In turn, they sued stating that it was a violation of their civil liberties as well as discriminatory behavior.

The complaint says that the company’s human resources department was detached and dismissive to the worker’s concerns. They ignored phone calls, voicemails. They failed to take any action on behalf of the employees.

To make matters worse, the employees in question were told they would lose their jobs if they continued speaking in Spanish. They also faced other disciplinary actions.

The store’s parent company denies having an English-only requirement. Sadly, their store’s actions tell a different story.

So what does the law say?

At the Federal level the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission takes a dim view of “Speak English Only Rules.”

  • A rule requiring employees to speak English at all time including breaks and lunches will rarely be justified
  • English-only rules must be limited to ensure safety or operational efficiency.
  • The ability to take disciplinary action against employees violating English-only rules is limited.

States have their own rules as well.

For example, California state law allows employers to limit language used while employees are on duty. This is only permissible as long as such a requirement is warranted by necessity.

In other words, the company must have the ability to clearly demonstrate that a language restriction has “an overriding reasonable business purpose”. Such purposes are limited in scope. One purpose could be to ensure safety. Another purpose could be to ensure proper corporate procedures are followed.

Companies seeking to implement an English only language plan must be able to clearly defend it. They have to demonstrate that it comes from more than a simple choice for English in the workplace.

For example, a hospital could make the case that having a common single language is required for a couple of reasons:

  • To ensure the safety of all team members as well as patients.
  • To ensure hospital procedures are reliably executed.

If a business is thinking about embracing English-only policies, it needs to be able to demonstrate necessity of the policy. It also must have a solid implementation plan that is well vetted to ensure it doesn’t cross the line into discrimination. Talking with legal counsel that specializes in this area of law is necessary.

According to Tyler Paetkau of the law firm Harnett, Smith, &Paetkau of Redwood City, CA, his comment was simple. “Typically, the suggestion is proceed with caution.”

If a company is determined to embrace an English-only policy, it must ensure that there is accompanying worker training and that workers clearly understand what disciplinary actions they may face if violating the rule.

And be mindful that a more flexible policy may be appropriate. For example, a company may require retail staff members to speak in English on the sales floor. But if a patron requests help in Spanish and the sales rep speaks Spanish, the employee would be allowed to conduct business in Spanish for the purpose of that specific transaction.

Where English-only rules tend to run into issues is when they are overreaching. For example, insisting that workers speak in English while on breaks or when making personal calls. This is a clear violation of Federal statute.

The issue here is liability and making sure the company isn’t exposed to claims of discrimination.

Having a well-constructed policy built with the help of legal council is clearly critical. But we also recommend you consider EPL insurance. (Also called EPLI or Employment Practices Liability Insurance. It offers critical coverage to employers. It’s designed to protect the company against claims made by employees alleging things like discrimination (based on sex, race, age, or disability), harassment, wrongful termination, and other employer-employee related issues.

For further thoughts on managing all forms of your corporate risk and adequately protecting your company, be sure to reach out to us.

New Risks Facing Agribusiness

A business risk update

Farms, ranches, and wineries are facing several emerging risks that if not managed might have catastrophic results.  There are many unique risks facing farm and ranch owners. Some of these could be covered under your existing commercial policy, while others may require additional coverage.

Here are some top emerging risks for the agribusiness

  • Agritourism activities include everything from bed and breakfasts, corn mazes, educational field trips, hosting weddings and events, store or wine tastings, to “pick your own” and roadside farm stands. It is important to understand your increased liability by having visitors on your property.
  • Environmental risks are increasing due to continued government oversight and control. Many agribusinesses may need to turn to nontraditional chemicals.
  • Technology, which includes drones and robotic equipment, adds considerable value to your operation. However, there are new risks of privacy and costs to insure high valued equipment.
  • Weather continues to be a concern due to continued climate shifts and changes.

We are your premiere source for crop and farm insurance. Residing in the heart of the foothill wine country, as well as a stone’s throw from “Apple Hill,” we understand the needs of farmers like yourself. A few short minutes is all it takes to get the quoting process started. Give us a call now; we love to learn about your operation!

At Vaught Wright & Bond our Commercial Lines specialists not only tailor a policy to fit your business’ needs, but also work diligently with you to avoid unnecessary costs and exposures.

Controlling Auto Insurance Costs

Does it feel like automobile insurance rates just keep increasing? It is part of a national trend. Blame increased accidents resulting from distracted driving.

But there are some ways you can save on your policy:

  • If you are a student, you can save as much as 25% with good grades. It pays to strive for those A’s!
  • Higher deductibles can also help reduce your insurance premium costs. Just be careful about leaving yourself with too much exposure. (Your deductible should be something you can afford to pay.)
  • If you are over 50 you may be able to take defensive driving courses. These could qualify you for savings up to 10% per year depending on your insurance policy.
  • If you own a paid off older vehicle, it may make sense to drop coverage for collisions… but only if the car’s value is less than 10x the insurance premium.
  • If you are driving less than 7,500 miles a year, your costs may also go down since you are limiting your exposure by driving less.

Be sure to review your situation regularly with your insurance agent as life changes can also have an impact on your rates.

For example, in some states, an improving credit score can help reduce your insurance premiums.

Another life change that can have a positive impact is becoming a homeowner. If you own a home, be sure to talk with your agent about bundling. Combining auto and home policies with one carrier can offer savings. (Versus placing the home and auto policies with different carriers.)

And remember, your independent insurance agent is able to shop between multiple carriers to help you find the best rate for your specific situation. They can help you evaluate your risk profile to make sure you have the exact insurance coverage you need for your situation.

Insurable Risks Derived From Growing Businesses

A business insurance review

Recently, small business owners were surveyed to help identify some of the top risks they faced when growing their businesses.  Many small business owners are unaware of the new, and increased, risks that come with growth.  For example, many business owners erroneously think that a claim is not covered, so they fail to file the claim.  A leading commercial insurer has identified the top five most costly business insurance claims.

Leading losses for small businesses and the average claim cost

  • Reputational harm: $50,000
  • Vehicle accident: $45,000
  • Fire damage: $35,000
  • Product liability: $35,000
  • Customer injury or property damage: $30,000

New and growing risks faced by expanding businesses

As your business grows, your risks change.  It is beneficial for business owners to have an understanding of how risks change because of growth.

  • Contract disputes increase. Growing businesses often develop relationships without written agreements, resulting in disputes.
  • Increased employee litigation. When businesses hire new people, often they overlook proper hiring practices. This often leads to litigation.  Make sure your business has an employment practices liability policy.
  • Increase in worker injuries. A greater workload leads to increased hours and the possibility of employee injury.  Your workers’ compensation policy will cover work related injuries.
  • Building damage. Often, growing businesses fail to pay attention to building maintenance, which can lead to all kinds of damage. Read your property policy to make sure you do not void your coverage through lack of attention to safety issues.

Source for article: PC360.com

Factors that Affect Homeowner’s Insurance Rates

Unlike motor vehicle insurance, homeowner’s insurance is not required by law. However, if you purchased your home with a mortgage, your lender likely required you to buy a homeowner’s insurance policy to protect their investment in case of a fire or natural disaster. It’s important coverage to have—even if you own your home free and clear—and you may even be able to reduce your annual premium once you understand the factors that generally affect homeowner’s insurance rates.

  1. Your home’s age and construction.

When setting a homeowner’s insurance rate, the insurer estimates how much it will cost to rebuild the property in question should it be damaged or destroyed. Materials and features common in older homes—such as hardwood floors and ornate details—cost more to repair and replace. Whether the exterior was constructed out of brick or wood will also factor into the cost, as will the age of the electrical, heating/cooling and plumbing systems. Upgrades reduce the likelihood of loss and often lower homeowner’s insurance premiums.

  1. Pools and hot tubs on the property.

If your home includes a swimming pool, spa or hot tub, your homeowner’s insurance is going to be more expensive because additional liability coverage will be required. While most policies include a minimum $100,000 in liability protection, your insurance agent may recommend increasing it to between $300,000 and $500,000 as well as adding an umbrella policy with at least $1 million in protection. If you want to minimize your homeowner’s insurance costs, avoid purchasing properties without outdoor pools and hot tubs.

  1. The location of the nearest fire department.

Direct property loss as a result of home fires has been estimated at $7.3 billion annually. If your home is near a fire department (or even a fire hydrant), you’ll pay less for your homeowner’s insurance as a result. Homes in urban and suburban areas usually have better fire protection than those in rural areas as well. So if you want to keep your homeowner’s insurance costs as low as possible, consider location when buying a home.

  1. The location of the nearest body of water.

If your home is near a coastline, large body of water, or in a floodplain, you’re going to pay higher homeowner’s insurance premiums. Depending on your location, your policy may have a separate deductible for hurricanes and windstorms. And flood damage—from any exterior source—is not covered by standard homeowner’s insurance policies. You’ll need a policy specifically for flood insurance if you’re in a high-risk area.

  1. Your past insurance claims history.

Even if you’ve purchased a new home and changed insurance companies, any claims you made at your previous residence will be considered when setting your homeowner’s insurance rate. Insurers can access this information through the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, which reports filed claims for seven years. In general, the amount of the claim carries more weight than the reason for the claim.

Whether you’re in the process of looking for your next home or just want to explore ways to lower your current homeowner’s insurance rates, your insurance professional is your best resource for information on these and other factors that will affect your premium.

Homeowner’s Insurance or Home Warranty?


Home warranties are offered by many companies, mostly during the selling process. Typically, there are two types of home warranties that people will purchase for their homes.  The first one covers any major systems or repairs for the first year, and the second is an annual renewal type contract which continues to keep the coverage active. See more

Homeowner’s Insurance

This is an insurance policy to protect your home and personal property from damages as result of a fire, wind, storm, or some other act of God or covered activity.

Home Warranty

A home warranty, on the other hand, is optional and typically covers the costs for repair or replacement of the electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems as well as major appliances like the refrigerator or oven.

Home warranty protection usually offers repair or replacement of a specific item for a specific period of time.

Even if you secure a home warranty policy, we recommend that you also have a homeowner’s insurance policy, as there are limitations in home warranty products.  If you have a mortgage, homeowner’s insurance is generally required by your mortgage company.

At Vaught Wright & Bond, our Personal Insurance specialists work with you to tailor an insurance program to protect your family, home, auto, and other valuable possessions at the most reasonable costs our carriers can provide.