What is the Wildfire Defense Program?
Safeco Insurance is contracted with Wildfire Defense Systems, Inc. (WDS) to offer a Wildfire Defense Program (“Program”) to protect certain Safeco policyholder properties threatened by active wildfires.
Which of my policyholders are eligible?
This Program is available only to Safeco customers with homeowners or Landlord Protection policies in designated high-risk wildfire locations in the following states: AZ, CA, CO, ID, MT, NV, NM, ND, OR, SD, TX, UT, WA, and WY. Renters and condo policies are not included in the Program.
How does the contract with WDS work?
WDS maintains a map of Safeco’s policies-in-force within the Program footprint and monitors the area to determine wildfire proximity and threat level. WDS provides Safeco with intelligence, reporting and recommendations for active wildfires. If Safeco makes a decision to trigger the response service for a particular event, WDS will stage fire engines, and its personnel will work to mitigate or protect policyholder’s homes (when equipment and crews are available).
How are my customers notified?
When the wildfire response service is triggered, Safeco’s “Callout Team” from the Claims Contact Center will make outbound calls and send emails to eligible policyholders to explain the services and offer enrollment in the Program. Policyholders who agree to participate must verbally confirm enrollment over the phone and are asked to complete an authorization form and return it by email, fax or mail.
Additional information about enrollment
voicemail and send an email with information about how to enroll.
How will I be notified?
You will be notified each time Safeco’s Callout Team contacts one of your policyholders about enrollment. Safeco will send this information to you via email, and it will also be available in Policy Servicing Tool on Safeco Now.
How will my enrolled customers receive status updates?
During the enrollment process, policyholders are given contact information for Safeco’s Claims Callout Team. Policyholders may inquire via phone or email for property status updates during an event.
What can I do to assist my customer?
If you receive an inquiry from a policyholder who has been offered (or has accepted) enrollment in the Program, you may refer to this FAQ to answer basic questions. Should enrolled policyholders have questions about the status of their property, you may provide the customer with the toll free number or email address for Safeco’s Callout Team, or warm transfer the customer to the team.
Claims Contact Center Callout team: Phone: 888-451-8190
Can I request enrollment on behalf of my customers?
Only Safeco and WDS determine which policyholders are eligible during each event. The Wildfire Defense Program does not allow for policyholders or agents to request enrollment. Because of the many variables involved in an active wildfire, it’s possible that some of your policyholders will be contacted during an event, while others in the same area, are not.
Who makes the decisions during an event?
While Safeco Insurance triggers the response service, we do not give direction or make decisions about mitigation and suppression efforts, or about which enrolled properties to protect during an event. WDS and local firefighting resources work together to identify the properties that are most defensible and determine which steps should be used to protect enrolled homes from wildfire.
What resources are offered by WDS during an event?
Preventative steps may include emergency fuel mitigation (removing overgrown vegetation, fuel tanks, trash etc.), use of temporary sprinkler systems, fire engine operations and/or application of fire blocking gel. Wildfire Defense Systems, Inc. is fully indemnified by Safeco Insurance for damage caused on the policyholder’s property while defending it from fire.
Disclosure: Due to the unpredictable nature of wildfire, limitations of resources, safety considerations and instructions from federal, state and local fire officials there may be instances in which Safeco and Wildfire Defense Systems may not be able to provide these services. Safeco Insurance and its representatives will use commercially reasonable efforts to provide these services and if services are provided there is no guarantee that these services will prevent damage.
By Jenna Reed, JD, MBA, General Counsel and Director, Compliance Services
Last night, Oregon voters passed Measure 91 legalizing the recreational use of marijuana for individuals 21 and older. The law will not take effect until July 1, 2015.
What does this mean for Oregon employers? Here are the basic answers to the questions likely going through your head:
Because the measure did not include any provisions relating to job protections, employers will still be able to enforce their drug and alcohol policies prohibiting marijuana use or possession in the workplace or being under the influence in the workplace. This is similar to the cases that have been decided under Oregon's Medical Marijuana Act (OMMA). Like Measure 91, the OMMA did not include any job protections and the courts in Oregon decided that employers do not have to accommodate such lawful use. Essentially, your employees can lawfully use but if they choose to do so and end up with a positive drug test (pre-employment, reasonable suspicion, random, etc.) then it can still be considered a violation of your company's policy.
What about off duty use? Marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law in all 50 states. As such, even off-duty use or possession may result in violation of your company's policy. This is an argument that has been successful in the medical marijuana cases as well.
How is legal marijuana any different than alcohol? Alcohol is not illegal under federal law. Because of this important distinction, only alcohol use or impairment on the job can be prohibited. Because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, any employee testing positive, regardless of when they used, can still be considered a violation of your company's policy.
Can you rescind an offer of employment if an applicant tests positive for marijuana? Yes. Of course the applicant may argue that even though they tested positive, they weren't impaired at the time of the test and that they lawfully used a few days ago. This could be true, but it probably doesn't matter. Measure 91 doesn't provide any job protections and it is illegal under federal law. Are you seeing a pattern here? Remember, employers cannot conduct pre-employment tests for alcohol because it is not an illegal substance and only use or impairment on the job can be prohibited. This also brings up another important distinction between alcohol and marijuana. Alcohol stays in your system a very short amount of time, and blood alcohol tests are tests of impairment, not detection. Most drug tests are tests of detection, not impairment. This is an issue that is still getting ironed out.
If you are subject to federal regulations such as the FMCSA, FAA, DOT, etc. or are a federal contractor or subcontractor you need to comply with federal regulations which prohibit the use of marijuana under federal law.
What do you need to do and what should you expect?
Update your drug and alcohol policy to include a specific statement on the use of marijuana and whether your company will prohibit such use. Remember, employers do not have to prohibit use outside of the workplace. Obviously, use or impairment in the workplace should still be prohibited. Just be aware of the potential consequences and think about where you are comfortable drawing the line. For example, your company may choose to test only if you have reasonable suspicion of present impairment on the job and not take any action for off duty use. Of course, watch out for #5 above.
Provide reasonable suspicion training to all supervisors and managers before July 1, 2015 and on a regular basis thereafter.
Employers should expect more positive tests, especially pre-employment. Many applicants (and employees) will be under the mistaken assumption that as long as they don't come to work impaired, then there is no need to worry about their use impacting their job. See #1 above.
Now, let's get real for a second. It is just a matter of time before an applicant or employee gets an offer pulled or is terminated for their use outside of the workplace and files a lawsuit. This is inevitable. There are a few issues that the courts will likely need to decide at some point (like they did with medical marijuana). First, whether the fact that marijuana is illegal under federal law is enough to allow employers to prohibit lawful use under state law. The medical marijuana cases suggest the answer would be "Yes." Second, the fact that Measure 91 didn't specifically include job protections suggests the answer would be "Yes." Finally, if (and that's a BIG IF) the Oregon courts decide that employers cannot take action based on off-duty usage, then will employers be limited to testing only for reasonable suspicion and post accident/incident similar to alcohol testing? I think the answer to that would be "Yes," but it certainly poses many more questions, including being able to test for impairment as opposed to just a test for detection.
Finally, consider getting ahead of this issue. You may have employees who think that now that Measure 91 passed they can begin using today. Not true. It's not lawful until July 1, 2015. Even then, if you intend to prohibit the use of marijuana according to your drug and alcohol policy, communicate this fact in writing to employees so they know the potential impact it could have on their job.
Cascade will explore this issue with more depth at our annual Compliance Update on December 4th in Portland and December 11th in Eugene. We will also continue to send out updates as this unfolds.
Of course, if you need any assistance updating your policies, drafting a notice to your employees or scheduling Reasonable Suspicion training, we've got you covered. Call us! We'd love to help you through this challenging issue.
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