If I drive my personal automobile on fraternity/sorority business, will I be covered by the fraternity/sorority policy?
If you drive your personal automobile for fraternity/sorority-related business and are involved in an accident, you need to rely on your own personal automobile insurance to pay for any injuries or damages to a third party or to your own automobile.
The organization’s policy will protect the organization if they are named in a lawsuit, but you would need to look to your own policy for your protection. With the use of automobiles, the liability always follows the automobile.
We strongly discourage the use of members’ vehicles for transportation of members and guests from fraternity/sorority functions, including recruitment and social activities. We encourage our clients to utilize professional transportation services when at all possible that meet the following criteria:
- The transportation company supplies proof of commercial automobile insurance that provides coverage for transporting people and property for a few and a minimum of $1,000,000 combined single limit for bodily injury and property damage.
- The transportation company engages professional drivers who have valid commercial vehicle operator’s license in the state in which the company is located.
We do not support our clients hiring volunteers as employees. The main concern is with workers’ compensation coverage. First, there is a question of whether or not this type of employee would even be eligible for workers’ compensation coverage because of the way workers’ compensation policies are structured. If they do have it, employing members, whether they are residents of the facility or not, broadens the liability of the workers’ compensation coverage. It becomes more difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain whether the injury took place at work or during personal time, which could ultimately make the workers’ compensation coverage a de facto health insurance replacement.
We also have concerns with Employment Practices Liability, including the following complicated questions:
- Are hours clearly defined?
- What happens if members are doing work on personal time, either on their own or at the direction of their supervisor?
- What if they are disciplined either based on not completing job responsibilities OR for violating policies as a member?
- Does that open the employer (chapter or house corporation) to claims for hostile work environment?
As is evident, this is a complicated exposure. Please contact your Client Executive with further questions.
For purposes of the Workers’ Compensation coverage, the usual definition of an employer is as follows:
- “Employee is generally defined as a person hired to perform certain services or tasks for particular wages or salary under the control of another (the employer).
- “A worker hired to perform a specific job usual and customary to the employer’s business operation in exchange for money or other remuneration.”
The main feature of this definition is the amount of control that the employer has over an individual, which then qualifies that person as an employee. Independent contractors are the opposite of being an employee and these individuals or firms are hired to do work that is generally not within the usual trade or business of the employer. An example of this would be the landscaper hired to do your landscape needs or a handyman to clean off snow from your sidewalk.
What is considered compensation that I will need to report to the insurance company as our exposure?
The insurance policy will be issued on your organizations national policy effective date with an estimated compensation for your location. At the conclusion of this policy period, you will be asked to provide MJ Insurance with your actual compensation dollars for your employees.
The compensation number is to include not only the monetary compensation paid to your employees, but also is to include any “in kind” compensation such as room and board allowances, use of a cell phone for the house director and meals for your hashers/house boys as some examples. The total value of both is monetary and “in kind” compensation is what you should report at the policy year end’s audit.
Yes. The insurance company, Travelers, has developed a web site to answer some of the questions you may have about the workers compensation process. By logging on to mywcinfo.com, you will tap into an online resource center that:
- Clearly informs you of your rights and responsibilities in the workers compensation process
- Provides access to claim status and claim payment information
- Provides access to the most common state forms needed to expedite the workers compensation process
- Is available in English and Spanish
- Provides online support to answer your questions
If you have employees, you are required by law to purchase workers’ compensation coverage. Virtually every state requires its employers to buy workers’ compensation insurance coverage for its employees. Should there be no Workers’ Compensation and an employee is injured, the state will levy significant fines and costs to the employer for not meeting their obligation.
In the states of ND, OH, WA and WY, the Workers’ Compensation insurance coverage is purchased through a state agency and these states are referred to as monopolistic states. If your employment exposure is in one of the other states, your organization has secured a national Workers’ Compensation policy of which you have access. Please refer to the Insurance Overview for your chapter/house corporation to determine if your location is covered by the national insurance policy.
We recently had a claim reported whereby the son-in-law of the House Director was injured while doing some “maintenance” type work for the chapter. This type of practice is concerning for two reasons: (1) If you have “volunteers” perform any type of work for you at the chapter house, it is incumbent upon you as the property owner to make certain they understand that it is at their own peril. Thus, if they are injured while performing this work, it is the expectation of your insurance company that any medical expenses will be borne by the individual. In all likelihood, they would need to then turn to their own health insurance provider. (2) Also many states have very rigid expectations of someone performing any type of work on your behalf, and this could elevate them to the status of an employee and subsequently you have both tax and insurance requirements to then deal with.
We certainly understand the convenience and interest of using volunteers to help out at the chapter house; however, it is important that you understand the extent to which this can complicate and ultimately impact your insurance coverage. We urge you to consider hiring out those tasks, which are likely to create a bigger risk to injury to the individual and/or put the property itself at peril. Feel free to contact us with any further questions that may arise on this subject.
General Liability Questions
We are in agreement with the FIPG guidelines regarding BYOB guidelines, which states:
“The possession, sale, use or consumption of ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES, while on chapter premises or during a fraternity event, in any situation sponsored or endorsed by the chapter, or at any event an observer would associate with the fraternity, should be in compliance with any and all applicable laws of the state, province, county, city and institution of higher education, and should comply with either the BYOB or Third Party Vendor Guidelines. BYOB is defined as one (1) six-pack of 12-ounce beers or one (1) four pack of wine coolers brought by a member or guest who is legally able to consume an alcoholic beverage.”
Review the rest of the FIPG Guidelines on their website.
The policy defines an insured as the Fraternity/Sorority, Foundation, House Corporations, Chapters, Colonies and Alumnae Associations. In addition, any member, volunteer or employee is also an insured, while they are acting on behalf of the organization. Your organization has purchased a comprehensive policy to protect you should you be named in a lawsuit while acting on their behalf.
House Boys living in the chapter house is a rarely seen exposure in women’s fraternities/sororities. Each situation is unique and should be very carefully analyzed. The exposures as we see them are enumerated below and should be considered by your House Corporation. Our position is that as long as the House Corporation is addressing the following risk management considerations, we can support this practice:
- Male visitation restrictions are common in every facility
- Access to common areas must be limited and probably have only limited times during the day where it is possible
- Access to the sleeping rooms should be restricted at all times
- Security of the resident/members is of utmost concern
- The compensation of room and board becomes both a taxable and worker’s compensation exposure for the employer
- The House Corporation can ultimately have the confidence in the “men” abiding by the rules;however, any allowance for the men to have male or female guests creates a more complex situation. It would be our recommendation that guests not be allowed.
Please contact us directly, so that we can help you to ensure that you are properly prepared and protected.
It depends! If the food allergies are minor and something that you feel your cook/caterer can easily accommodate, then we recommend that you carefully lay out the expectations with both the members in question and the cook/caterer. If the food allergies are too severe in nature or very difficult to accommodate, we recommend that you release the member(s) in question from the meal plan. If the allergy is so severe that it calls for total elimination of the ingredient from the premises, then we recommend that you consider releasing the individual from their housing contract.
In order to avoid repeated dietary requests, we recommend that the House Corporation require a doctor’s note before agreeing to any special arrangements. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us
Any type of incident should be reported immediately to MJ Insurance . Officers and
members will be interviewed by the insurance company to uncover the details of the incident. More than likely several people are going to be named in the lawsuit. The insurance policy will provide defense costs and pay any judgment against you as an insured as long as you are acting on behalf of the Sorority/Fraternity and following the rules and guidelines that are in place.
The General Liability policy covers premises, as well as operations liability. Premises liability means that coverage exists for claims arising on owned or rented property. Operations liability means that coverage exists for any typical event that is held off premises, such as philanthropic activities, dances, and social events. The organization’s policies are very comprehensive and protect that organization and its members. Virtually all sponsored events are covered; however, intentional acts (defined as deliberate intent to harm or break the law) that produce a loss are not covered.
Remember: as long as you are following the policies and/or guidelines of your organization and are acting on behalf of your organization, your interests will be protected by the insurance policy.
If I am injured during a sponsored event or at the chapter house, will the organization’s insurance policy pay for my injuries?
When a member or volunteer is injured during a sponsored event or at the chapter house, they need to rely on their own medical insurance to pay for their injuries, unless the organization is grossly negligent in causing their injuries. The General Liability policy exists to defend the organization’s members and volunteers should they be named in a lawsuit. It is not a substitute for a personal medical insurance policy.
Under the insurance program, the fraternity/sorority is covered under host liquor liability coverage, which is similar to the type of coverage under a homeowner’s policy. This coverage protects an insured should they be named in a civil lawsuit in which someone was injured due to the consumption of alcohol. This coverage will respond as long as the courts interpret that the insured is not in the business of serving, selling, manufacturing, furnishing or distributing alcoholic beverages.
Remember: It is extremely important that all members of the fraternity/sorority follow the organization’s alcohol policy.
We discourage the practice of scavenger hunts because of the inherent risks from both an automobile and general liability standpoint. For further information, please refer to our position paper on the topic. In addition, many of our clients have policies that forbid scavenger hunts, so, as always, be sure to check with your specific organization before engaging in questionable chapter activities.
We are renting a venue that will be serving alcohol. Is evidence of their state liquor license sufficient?
Each state has very strict guidelines for businesses who are licensed to sell alcohol, and we certainly recommend that you only use businesses that have a current liquor license. However, it is equally if not more important, that you require evidence of the business’ liquor liability insurance coverage, which is separate coverage from general liability insurance and will have a separate limit of liability. For much more information on this issue, please refer to our position paper.
Our concern with off-duty police officers is that it is unlikely that they carry their own General Liability and Workers’ Compensation coverage, so if something were to happen to them, the organization could be liable as the employer. We do not want to be in a position where an armed off duty police officer would be considered an employee of the organization, so a more practical solution would be to contract with a security company. In our opinion, security guards contracted by the organization should not be armed.
Contact Ruth Akers, who handles the Certificate of Insurance requests in our office, or request a Certificate directly via this form at www.mjsorority.com. For more information on Certificates of Insurance, check out these resources that we’ve developed on our website: Certificate section of the Insurance Summary, Reviewing Contracts document, Certificate section of the website.
Many chapter members have contacted us to find out if it is acceptable for them to provide babysitting services as a fundraiser or to just allow chapter members to baby-sit at the chapter facility. This exposure is not acceptable and coverage is excluded from the insurance program. The chapter should not participate in or sponsor any activities related to childcare either at the chapter house or elsewhere.
The insurance company does not contemplate the difficult exposures involved with childcare in your General Liability rates. We do not support this activity because this exposure is not expected by the underwriting. In addition the potential for physical and sexual abuse exists, chapter members are not necessarily trained appropriately, and the chapter houses are not furnished with “little ones” in mind.
Yes! Obviously, exercise equipment in the chapter house poses an increase in exposure to bodily injury claims for the House Corporation. If you do have exercise equipment, we recommend that you address its use in your housing agreements with each tenant member. In addition, we strongly encourage the House Corporation to have some kind of maintenance schedule in place to ensure that the exercise equipment is properly maintained and meets minimum safety standards.
What is the risk management position on collegiate chapter members and chapter advisors serving on a local house corporation board?
Pursuit of strong risk management will sometimes get in the way of solid business practices. A prime example of this is the reluctance of a house corporation board to have either collegiate chapter members and/or chapter advisors on the board. The fear being the threat this could pose of not “fire walling” liability away from the HC of the chapter operations.
In that the chapter operations and house corporation operations are equally and jointly insured under your organizations national insurance policy, this should be less of a concern from a liability standpoint. We do believe that the increase in the communication between the two operations will be greatly enhanced, which ultimately provides for a healthier relationship between the two entities.
One possibility to help narrow this liability would be to have them as non-voting members of your local house corporation board and a minority in number. The local house corporation is taxed at running the most optimum business for its resident members/other members and using available resources to do so makes sense.
From an insurance standpoint, alumnae are allowed to stay in the chapter house for controlled and specific events; however, they should be reminded that the same rules apply to them as to member tenants, including no alcohol, no male visitation, and that a House Director be on premises. We also recommend that the commercial kitchen be closed off for any event.
The current policy does not address the exposure of having an ATM on-site, however, the underwriters have not considered that as a possible exposure. Having an ATM would likely increase insurance rates because of the increased risks of burglary and theft. The safety of the residents is an additional concern, as unsavory characters could see that ATM as an easy target for theft and the members’ liability in their responsibility for it, should something go wrong. With the increased use of credit cards and online banking, as well as the abundance of ATMs in banks, on campus, in stand-alone kiosks and convenience stores, it is our recommendation that the risk isn’t worth the minor convenience that it might provide for your members.
We have an employee who was accused of a previous embezzlement at her prior employer. We have put in place strong controls with the employee to ensure that no funds are stolen. Is there anything else we should do?
The insurance coverage is very clear on this point. If you, as an insured, are aware of a theft, forgery, or other fraudulent, dishonest, or criminal act committed by this employee while employed by your organization, there is no coverage for this individual. If you chose to employ a person with a previous record of theft or forgery, he/she will need to be placed in a position where he/she does not have access to any funds. Additionally, if an insured becomes aware of a theft, forgery, or other fraudulent, dishonest, or criminal act committed by an employee involving money, securities, or other property valued over $25,000 prior to their employment with your organization, there is no coverage for this person under the Crime coverage.
We have been asked this question more frequently lately, and, yes, collecting individual’s social security numbers poses a huge financial risk to the organization. There are various levels of information that an organization can collect about its members, volunteers, clients, etc. Names and addresses make up the lowest tier of information. Social security numbers rank highest and must be properly secured. Most states have statutes in cases of data breach that obligate the organization responsible for collecting individual’s information to pay for notification costs and, often, credit monitoring for the individuals affected. We are finding that the average cost per individual in cases of data breach is around $217; multiply that by your number of members, and you can see why we are concerned about our clients collecting social security numbers.
YES! We have literally hundreds of resources in our Library. Also, check out our e-modules on the following subjects: Contracts 101, Certificates of Insurance, Insurance Basics for Member’s Parents, Risk Management Module, and more. Send your suggestions for resources to Sara Sterley, Director of Risk Management Education.
As a general practice, we discourage use of space heaters in sorority facilities. Alternate heat sources cause the majority of residential-related fires, and keeping the women safe is our top priority. Additional concerns include combustible material getting too close to the unit, condition of the electrical system within the facility, etc.
We have had several bunk bed-related claims over the history of the MJ Sorority Department. We recommend the following risk management requirements when it comes to bunk beds in the chapter facility: require that bunk beds be commercially manufactured, require that the top bunk have permanent rails installed, and require that the bunk bed not be placed adjacent to a window.
The insurance program does not have a candle exclusion; however, most of our clients have policies regarding the use of candles in the chapter facility and prudent risk management suggests that candles should not be allowed in the chapter house. There are so many battery-operated alternatives these days that are realistic and high quality that it is our opinion that real candles should not be used in sorority-owned properties.
We recommend that chapter members take their personal property home at the end of each school year. The organization is not responsible for damage to member’s personal property at anytime throughout the year. In addition, there is typically less oversight and more outsider traffic (with renovation and maintenance work) in the chapter house during the summer months, which makes it more likely for theft or damage to occur to any personal property left at the property.
From an insurance standpoint, we recommend that any snack/weekend kitchens available to members do not include hot plates, ovens or stoves due to fire and burn concerns. However, if the House Corporation would like to have a microwave, refrigerator, sink and toaster available, that would be acceptable. Please contact us directly to discuss further if necessary.
What should each House Corporation do on a regular basis to maintain the replacement value when new furniture has been purchased and should we inform the insurance agent of major purchases?
The current value of your contents or furniture as listed on your Insurance Overview document from MJ Sorority Division is the cost of replacing these items if they would be damaged or destroyed by an insured peril. In buying new furniture to replace existing furniture, you do not necessarily always increase the cost of the item that is already contemplated in the total value. If however, your replacement is materially of a higher grade than that of what is being replaced, then notification of MJ would be prudent. As an insured, you are obligated to insure 100% value of your property and the insurance company is obligated to replace it at 100% of the value.
Video cameras on the exterior of your premises can be a good deterrent if you are having problems with vandalism of the property or of the exterior doors not being as secured as you would wish.
Interior cameras are another matter altogether and the member’s right of privacy must be weighed against any pressing need to have interior surveillance.
Candle warmers (e.g. Scentsys, wax burners, etc.) are an alternative to candles that eliminate the open flame while still allowing for the fragrance aspect of candles that many enjoy. From a risk management perspective, we do not see a fire hazard risk with these types of appliances. However, the hot wax poses the potential for messy spills and burns. We defer to the local House Corporation to determine whether or not to allow these types of appliances on premises.
How do we know if we have an adequate limit of insurance for Loss of Income and Extra Expense coverage?
The insurance policy covers against loss resulting from necessary interruption of business caused by direct physical loss of or damage to covered property. The Loss of Income coverage will pay for the loss of rental income that a House Corporation may incur if members have to move to alternative housing due to the property being damaged by an insured peril. The policy will pay for equivalent temporary replacement quarters if you can no longer occupy the facility.
The insurance company will also pay for reasonable and necessary extra expenses incurred in order to continue as nearly as practicable the normal operation of the business. This could include increased costs of providing meal services, payroll or any legal obligations by contract (i.e. taxes or insurance).
All of the above should be taken into consideration when determining if you have an adequate limit of insurance for Loss of Income and Extra Expense. We recommend that at a minimum your Loss of Income/Extra Expense limit is equal to a year’s rental income. Refer to your Insurance Overview to determine your location’s current Loss of Income/Extra Expense limit.
The property coverage under the Sorority insurance program is written on a replacement cost value basis, which means that in the event a claim, the policy will pay the cost to repair or replace lost or damaged property with property of comparable material and quality on the same or another site, and used for the same purpose, without deduction for depreciation, deterioration, and obsolescence. Conversely, property insurance policies are often written on an actual cash value basis, which means that the policy will pay for the replacement cost of an item minus depreciation, which, depending on the item, can often be a high deduction.
We have developed the Chapter House Self-Inspection form (and the accompanying recommendations) for just this purpose. The form walks the user through a series of safety considerations throughout the chapter house. We recommend that the House Corporation perform the self-inspection on an annual basis (the summer is the perfect time!).We have also developed a Property Maintenance Checklist, which makes it easy for House Corporations to record their maintenance efforts throughout the year.
According to the recent University Housing Report compiled by FEMA, 76.5 percent of campus fires start in the kitchen! For that reason, we recommend that you limit the use of your commercial kitchen space to trained professionals.
As we see it, the equipment in the kitchen represents a significant financial expense for the property owner to purchase and maintain. The presumption by the insurance company is that the staff, who work with this commercial equipment, are properly trained on the proper use of the equipment. This is the preferable way to protect this investment.
Indiscriminate use by untrained individuals not only puts the equipment at risk but improper use also puts the entire facility in harm’s way. Certainly a kitchen can be a high hazard area even for the trained personnel. Other risks include injury to the member while cooking in the kitchen and issues with proper food storage.
Ultimately the property owner must decide the manner under which their kitchen is utilized, taking into consideration other issues that emerge as respects to general chapter operations.
Go to www.floodsmart.gov, enter your address in the red box titled “One-Step Flood Risk Profile” along the lefthand side of the screen, and your flood risk will be generated. Please contact us if you wish to purchase flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program after determining your flood zone risk.
The insurance company’s loss control department discourages the installation of exterior wood burning pits or similar setups for the following reasons:
- Such a device could possibly create sparks or burning embers, which could be captured by strong winds and possibly cause a building and/or grass fire.
- There would be the possibility that the unit is left unattended at times, especially after the fire has effectively died down for the evening. The fire could actually still be smoldering and could possibly re-ignite, causing problems as noted above. Any time someone goes to add additional wood to a fire already going, there would be the potential for burns.
- There would be a burn potential when persons initially ignite the fire, especially if they pour a large amount of a highly flammable fluid onto the wood to start the fire, such as charcoal lighter (could be spilled onto their persons, making this a potentially critical situation).
- If the pit is portable raises a number questions, all of which could cause problems, such as just how sturdy is the pit? What if someone tries to move/push it while it is still burning or is still hot? (It could fall over, resulting in a fire and/or burns). What if the unit is initially positioned too close to a building or other combustibles and then lighted?
We recommend that the use of outdoor grills fit into the following perimeters:
- Grills of any type should not be used on wood decks due to the fire risk.
- Gas grills are safer to use from a fire safety standpoint because they do not involve the use of flammable liquids, such as lighter fluid, or of hot coals during the grilling process. Hot coals also pose a disposal risk.
- Gas grills are less safe during the lighting process. If excessive gas builds up in a closed grill before being lit, it can cause an explosion. Gas grills should always be lit with the lid open, and the gas tank should be turned to the off position following each use.
- Instructions for use of the grill should be posted clearly next to the grill and the use of the grill should be restricted to responsible persons who have been instructed on safety measures.
Typical smoke alarms last about eight-to-ten years, after which they should be replaced. Like most electrical devices, smoke alarms wear out. You may want to write the purchase date with a marker on the inside of your unit. That way, you’ll know when to replace it. We also recommend that smoke detector batteries are changed annually.
For more tips about smoke detectors, check out this article at mjsorority.com.
We have a boiler in our chapter house and there appears to be some type of tag with an expiration date on it. What obligations do we have as a property owner with this item?
Each state has inspection requirements for pressurized vessels or boilers being inspected by a boiler inspector on a regular basis. The tag reflects the status of your item with the state. Should you determine that the expiration date on the tag has expired, please contact Bev Stiles who will assist you with this matter.
The doors that open up into any interior hallway, such as doors to cold dorms or to individual room doors, should be solid material and have a fire rating of at least twenty minutes in duration. During a fire, it is critical that the spread of smoke be delayed as long as possible and these doors are the best deterrent.
An additional risk management recommendation to reduce the spread of smoke and slow down the spread of a fire is for every interior door in the chapter house to be self-closing. It is through this feature that the doors have a substantial impact upon this exposure.
This can be achieved with your current doors via an inexpensive spring-loaded hinge that can be purchased at any hardware store for roughly one dollar a hinge.
Carbon monoxide gas is a product of the inefficient or incomplete combustion of fossil fuel. Poorly vented cooking appliances, furnaces, and water heaters are a few of this potential generators of carbon monoxide. This gas cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted, making it particularly dangerous. Carbon monoxide poisoning is the leading cause of injury or death by poisoning.
Refer to this video and resource for additional information.
See the automatic sprinkler article below for additional information on the use of heat detectors. We recommend that you use heat detection systems in your attic. Some additional reminders:
- Be sure smoke and heat detection systems are UL Listed or FM Approved systems and have been properly installed by .
- The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Standard 72, National Fire Alarm Code, is the recognized standard for ITM of fire alarm equipment.
- Local or state fire codes may also be different from NFPA 72 and impose stricter ITM standards. The building owner or manager must be aware of the local and state fire codes. It is especially important to realize that if local and state codes are stricter than NFPA 72, then the stricter code applies.
- Keep in mind a heat detector is just that… a detector. It will do nothing to extinguish a fire.
For additional information, review this resource developed by Travelers.