Influenza and the health of your business

By: Dr. Yuan-Po Tu and Dr. Dianna Chamblin, The Everett Clinic 

Flu season is coming up and it’s time for business owners to think about your most effective defense against a workplace flu outbreak – the yearly flu vaccination.

How does the flu shot help protect your business?

Vaccinating your staff reduces absenteeism and health care expenses.  It’s estimated that the flu costs the U.S. over $87 billion annually and is responsible for the loss of close to 17 million workdays each flu season. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) tens of thousands of people are hospitalized and thousands die from flu-related illness each year in our country.

When should you consider a vaccination? 

Before the onset of flu season, which usually begins at the end of October.  If you vaccinate too early, the immunity may wear off or be too low. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for the immune system to fully respond with antibodies that protect against flu virus infection.

If you or your employee is over 65, there are new flu vaccines available that are more effective than the standard dose flu vaccine for seniors in preventing hospitalizations   Be sure to ask your provider about these “senior” flu vaccines.

Nasal flu vaccine (FluMist) will be available for persons age 2 to 49 years of age.

How can you reduce your risks of getting the flu?  Some Center for Disease Control, CDC, tips:

  1. Avoid close contact with people who are sick and if you are sick, keep your distance from others.
  2. Stay home when sick (especially if you have fevers or chills) to avoid spreading your illness to others.
  3. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and promptly dispose of the tissue.  If a tissue isn’t available, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands.
  4. Clean your hands frequently with soap and water.  If you don’t have access to water, use an alcohol-based hand rub (at least 60% alcohol).
  5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth so you don’t contaminate yourself with flu germs.
  6. Clean/disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school.  Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.

Don’t fall victim to bad information!

Unfortunately, we hear people say, “I’m not getting the flu shot because it will give me the flu!” It’s medically impossible for someone to get the flu from the flu shot because the flu shot is developed from a dead virus. A dead virus can’t give you the flu. So why does this belief persist? Because some people will experience flu or a flu-like episode after getting their shot, but it’s not due to the shot itself.

Here are four reasons why people might experience the flu or like symptoms after getting their shot:

1) A reaction to the flu shot. Less than 1% of people who get the flu vaccine experience flu-like symptoms such as mild fever and muscle aches. While these are side effects, people wrongly attribute these side effects to actually getting the flu.

2) You’re already infected. Once you get your flu shot, it takes about 1-2 weeks for proactive immunity to develop in your body. Unfortunately, some people will get their flu shot late in the flu season (December or later) and are already infected when they get their shot. When they get sick, they will blame their illness on the flu shot, and not realize that they were going to get sick anyway.

3) Your sick, but not with the flu. Many people will attribute any sickness to “the flu,” when in reality, they have another viral illness. The flu shot doesn’t protect against all viral illnesses, just certain influenza viruses.

4) The flu shot isn’t 100% effective. You can still get the flu, even if you get your flu shot because the flu vaccine isn’t effective 100% of the time. This is especially true in older persons.

Where can you get a flu shot?

Start with your health care provider. Or, you can use this handy tool to find your closest flu vaccine provider.

For more information on this topic, check out this handy reference from the CDC, Flu Vaccine Effectiveness: Questions and Answers for Health Professionals.

Here are some other useful resources:

CDC Business Pulse

Info Graphics for Business

We would like to express our gratitude to Drs. Dianna Chamblin and Yuan-Po Tu who took time out of their busy schedules to serve as guest authors. Dr. Chamblin practices occupational medicine at The Everett Clinic and serves as The Everett Clinic’s medical director for the Centers of Occupational Health & Education (COHE). Dr. Tu practices urgent care medicine at The Everett Clinic and also specializes in flu prevention.

He Said v. She Said

By: Stacey L. Romberg, Attorney at Law

Sally recently left her 9-5 corporate job, and enthusiastically began a new event planning business. Sally’s friend, Larry, wanted to be one of her first clients. Larry wanted to hire Sally’s business to plan his wife Judy’s 50th birthday party. Sally found an event planning contract on the internet, and tweaked some of the language. The contract set forth that Judy’s birthday party would be held at the Gigantic Golf Club, with cocktails and dinner for 100 guests. Larry would pay Sally’s business $5,000 for event planning services, to be paid no later than ten days after the party concluded. Sally is thrilled to work with her friend, and to plan her first big event.

Larry and Sally signed the contract, and Sally then contacted Gigantic Golf Club to reserve the space. Gigantic Golf Club informed Sally that it required an advance deposit of $8,000.00 to lock in the reservation. Sally contacted Larry by email: “Hi Larry. I’ve reached out to Gigantic Golf Club, and they need an $8,000.00 deposit. Can you please send me a check for that amount, made out to Gigantic Golf Club? Then I can forward it over to them to secure the space. Thanks!” Larry responded: “Hi Sally. Our contract says I am supposed to pay for everything ten days after the party has concluded. I’d appreciate it if you could please pay the deposit, and then put it on my bill. Thanks.”

Sally is shocked when she receives Larry’s email. She reviewed the contract. The contract stated:  “Larry is responsible for all costs related to the Event.” It also stated: “Upon conclusion of the Event, Sally will submit an invoice to Larry which will be due no later than ten days after the date of the Event.” The contract is silent as to whether Larry’s responsibility for the event’s costs meant that the costs will be paid up front by Larry, or whether Sally was required to initially incur the costs and then invoice Larry for those amounts. Sally doesn’t recall that they ever discussed this issue. Since Sally knew Larry personally, Sally wasn’t worried about getting paid and didn’t pay a lot of attention to the specifics of the contract.

Sally tentatively responded to Larry’s email: “Hi Larry. I’m so sorry for the confusion. Our contract doesn’t seem to address the issue of whether the costs will be paid up front. I’m afraid I cannot afford to incur an $8,000 fee, since I just started my business. Could you please pay it? Thank you for understanding!” Larry responded to this email within five minutes: “You have got to be kidding me! Don’t you remember that we talked about this? I told you that my son Charlie’s private school tuition is due shortly, and I’m tapped out. I won’t be able to make any payments until after the party. You better pay that deposit right away, because it’s too late at this point for me to fire you and hire a new event planner. If you don’t do right by me here, I’m going to go on Yelp and write the most scathing review possible!”

These types of situations, unfortunately, occur much more often than most business owners realize. A well written contract is the key to avoiding these types of “he said versus she said” disputes. Business owners need to routinely use thorough, well-drafted contracts that are prepared by an attorney. Here are seven tips for working effectively with your business attorney to develop a great contract:

#1: Explain any pertinent background information regarding how your industry works, and also set forth your goals for the agreement.

#2: Communicate your main concerns to your attorney about the proposed transaction (getting paid, receiving poor work quality, handling disputes, etc.).

#3: Provide a written outline to your attorney identifying the parties and principal terms of the deal.

#4: Think through how you’d like the contract negotiation process to proceed. Do you want to work through counsel exclusively? Or do the parties want to negotiate directly, and then go back to their attorneys with questions and revisions?

#5: Discuss the timing of the work.

#6: Understand the attorneys’ fees, and how you will be billed for the work performed.

#7: Be mindful of attorneys’ fees while negotiating contract terms. Some issues may be so minor that it’s not worth the attorneys’ fees to argue about it.

If there is a disagreement about the terms of a contract, rather than continuing an email or telephone “war” with the other party, here are some recommended first steps:

#1: Review the Contract Requirements Related to the Issue in Controversy: What does the contract say about the issue being disputed?  Are you sure you are right and the other party is wrong?

#2: Review the Contract Requirements Related to Dispute Resolution:  The contract may tell you how you have to proceed in resolving the dispute. Mediation? Arbitration? Litigation?

#3: Make an Initial Attempt to Calculate your Damages: Litigation is very expensive. In order to decide whether it’s worth it to pursue litigation, you need to know the monetary value of your loss.

#4: Call Your Attorney: Let your lawyer know your preliminary thoughts based on your initial legwork, and then discuss the situation and your options.

Stacey L. Romberg, Attorney at Law, focuses her practice on business law, estate planning and probate. For more information, please visit the firm’s website at www.staceyromberg.com.

Attend Stacey Romberg’s Biz Fair class “Business Law Essentials” at the 22nd annual Biz Fair on Saturday, September 29 at Renton Technical College, RSVP today: bizfair2018.eventbrite.com

Buyer Beware: 6 Things to Ask the Seller for When Buying a Business

By: Rose Gundersen, Small Business Liaison with WA State Department of Labor & Industries

Did you know when you buy an existing business — or a part of one — you assume the workers’ compensation claim liabilities of that business? It’s true. The new business owner inherits the claim responsibilities and their impact on premium rates.

How to protect yourself
To uncover potential hidden future expenses and risks, ask the seller to disclose the following 6 items before you buy a business. (This information isn’t usually included in financial documents and L&I can only disclose it to the current business owner, not to a potential buyer.)

1. Injury and Cost Profile: This 1-page report covers a 5-year history of workers’ compensation and injury data for the business, including:

  • Premiums which may include savings from a Claim-Free Discount or higher rates due to time-loss or disability claims.
  • Total number of claims per year.
  • Experience factor (over 1.0 means higher rates).
  • Claims-Free Discount history.
  • Top 5 types of injuries specific to the industry and the injury types incurred by the business.

2. Injury Report: This report shows the claim expenses incurred by the business without revealing identifiable information such as the injured worker’s name or the claim number. Claim expense categories include medical, time-loss, partial permanent disability, pension, and more.

3. Estimated Future Rate Projection: This predicts the business’s future experience factor and premium expenses, assuming that the business data remains unchanged.

4. Safety and Health Consultation Report: The business’s workplace safety culture is an intangible asset or risk that you’ll inherit as a buyer. Scheduling a no-cost, risk-free L&I safety consultation will help you assess this culture and evaluate whether it is an asset or a risk. The consultation includes a walk-through visit to the worksite to look for workplace hazards and an evaluation of the Accident Prevention Program. The business can’t be fined as a result of the consultation. Correcting serious hazards, however, is required with no financial penalties.

5. Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) Log Records: Businesses with 11 or more employees may be required to record workplace injuries and illnesses on an OSHA 300 log (OSHA.gov).Reviewing these logs will inform you of hazards and the effectiveness of workplace health and safety programs. (The business must keep these reports on site for 5 years.)

6. Risk Management Consultation: This free consultation provides a review of the business’s injury history and a step-by-step plan with best practices to help control costs. If you plan to proceed with the purchase after learning the injury history and safety culture, a risk management consultation is an excellent mitigation step.

Partial business purchases
Even if you purchase only a part of a business, you can inherit the seller’s workers’ compensation liabilities. For example, if you bought a customer list, inventory or other partial assets and employees working in those reported risk classifications were injured on the job, you could potentially assume the claim liability.

Example of potential impact
To better understand workers’ compensation rates, remember that:

  1. The risk class reflects the overall loss history of each industry.
  2. The experience factor reflects the loss history of the business.
  3. A claim affects a business’s experience factor for 3 years, but your rate won’t be affected for 2-3 years after the injury date.
  4. An experience factor above 1.0 means more claim liability than average for that industry. An experience factor below 1.0 means less claim liability than average for that industry.

Assuming 10 full-time employees working 480 hours per quarter, here is an example of how various experience factors could affect the annual premium you’ll pay.

Table showing how a business's experience factor affects workers' compensation premium rates. Row 1: Telephone clerks with a risk class base rate of $.1569/hour will cost $3,012 at a 1.0 experience factor, $2,711 at a 0.9 experience factor, and $6,025 at a 2.0 experience factor. Row 2: Roofing work with a risk class base rate of $7.6753/hour will cost $147,366 at a 1.0 experience factor, $132,629 at a 0.9 experience factor, and $294,732 at a 2.0 experience factor.

More resources
If you’d like to learn more about ways to protect yourself and manage premium costs for your business, visit www.Lni.wa.gov/ControlMyCosts or our Help for Small Business web page.