Climate extremes are hitting 2019 hard. States of emergency have been issued in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan due to the powerful polar vortex bringing life-threatening cold and predicting to break long-standing low temperature records to last into Thursday. Six deaths are already attributed to the bitter temperatures.
Just as government employees are getting back to work after the government shutdown, postal workers are standing down in states in the path of Polar Vortex Jayden. The states affected include parts of Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, the Dakotas, Montana, Missouri, Kansas, Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Due to the extreme cold and the dangers presented to mail carriers, the Postal Service announced it will suspend mail delivery today.
As Grand Forks, North Dakota observed a RealFeel of minus 75 degrees F, our colleagues in Australia are experiencing the extreme opposite. Temperatures are soaring to 121 degrees F, triggering damaging wildfires, overloading the electrical grids, and toppling temperature records. The Australia Bureau of Meteorology says this January is on track to become Australia’s hottest January on record.
WHY ARE WE TALKING ABOUT THIS?
Climate and environmental issues lead the ranking of top global risks produced by the World Economic Forum. The survey of business leaders and experts ranked these risks also among the top five issues in terms of potential impact. Natural disasters and extreme weather caused around $160 billion worth of damage in 2018, with predictions that this figure will be surpassed in 2019. More companies and states are developing Environmental or Climate Action Plans to consider risks to their businesses or operations caused by climate change. This includes supply chains, infrastructure, and even business solvency. These plans can also address their efforts to tackle climate change.
The Lone Star State
Texas doesn’t require most private employers to have workers’ compensation insurance; however, a proposed bill in the legislature would require all building and construction contractors and subcontractors to provide workers’ compensation coverage for all their employees. It also specifically states that all construction contractors working for public entities on public projects must carry workers’ compensation insurance.
With thoughts still fresh of the massive flooding from Hurricane Harvey in 2017, the Texas Department of Insurance recommended to state lawmakers to require flood coverage disclosures in its 2018 Biennial Report to the Legislature dated Dec. 14, 2018. A proposed bill in the House would require all insurers that issue commercial or residential policies that don’t provide coverage for losses to include a specific disclosure. We’re following multiple bills in Texas. We’ll continue to report on them as the legislative session continues.
Making Our Way Around the Country
The Illinois Supreme Court last week upheld the right of consumers to sue companies for collecting biometric data, like fingerprints or iris scans, without telling them how it will be used. The lawsuit alleged that a theme park collected a minor’s fingerprints without proper consent and violated Illinois’ Biometric Information and Privacy Act (BIPA). BIPA regulates the collection, use, and storage of “biometric identifiers” and “biometric information,” which include fingerprints, voiceprint, or scan of the hand or face geometry. Any company using biometric data in Illinois that is not compliant with BIPA, runs the risk of being sued. With penalties of $1,000 - $5,000 per violation (i.e., every time an employee scans in and out of work) and potentially huge payouts, we’re going to keep watch on this as it moves through the courts.
A new federal rule, approved by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, will compel mortgage lenders to accept both government-backed flood insurance policies and private flood insurance policies that meet certain statutory criteria. The new rule aims to increase the number of policies underwritten by private insurers and increase availability of private flood insurance in flood-prone states. The rule is effective July 1.
A friendly reminder that Feb. 1 is the deadline for employers to certify and post a copy of their Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Form 300A, which summarizes job-related injuries and illnesses logged during 2018. Employers must display the summary where notices are usually posted to employees from Feb. 1 to April 30. Businesses with 10 or fewer employees and those in certain low-hazard industries are exempt from OSHA recordkeeping and posting requirements.
BIGGEST EVENT OF THE YEAR
On Sunday, the New England Patriots will battle it out against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta. But in New Orleans, two season ticket holders are still hoping for a long shot “do-over,” after officials’ missed a call that might have cost the New Orleans Saints a chance to go to the Super Bowl. Whatever team you’re rooting for, or if you’re just in it to hang with friends, have fun and be safe this week. (Get a sneak peek of Super Bowl commercials here.)