Ask the Expert: Kim Brown of KLB Insurance
Q: There doesn’t seem to be a rash of ADA (Americans with Disability Act) cases being filed against local hotels and restaurants as in past years. Is there anything new on that front that hospitality business owners should be concerned with?
A: Unfortunately, yes. One of my clients just received a notice that his hotel website was not ADA compliant. The complaint said that a disabled veteran had gone to the site to find out whether it was handicapped accessible and after searching the website didn’t find any clearly defined references. The plaintiff is asking for $25,000 in damages.
To ensure this doesn’t happen to you, since this appears to be another concerted effort of one or more people actively searching for violations, I suggest you call whoever did your website to be sure you’ve included handicap accessibility information on your site so that it’s easily located and clearly stated. And for hoteliers, just because you carry a flag (franchise brand) doesn’t mean you’re covered.
ADA website compliance also means that the information on your website can be accessed by people with disabilities. An example would be text explanations for videos. Don’t worry about spoiling the mood of your website. You can mood all you want, ‘til you get sued.
When I write a policy I give clients all the ADA information upfront, and then follow up every six months with Minnesota compliance.
Q: As an owner of several restaurants, I’m not always on site. I’ve hired good people, but I want to be sure I’m not naive when it comes to what’s in my current insurance policy, along with what’s not in it. How can I ensure that I’m covered for “intentional acts”—or nonintentional acts—by my employees or something as potentially devastating as overserving?
A: I’m often surprised when business owners don’t always take the time to read their policies to find out exactly what is covered and up to what the dollar amount. Too often they assume they’re covered for a lot more money that they are. With social media and a 24/7 news cycle, we’re much more aware when there are racial discrimination actions (think of the recent Starbucks case with black customers being denied restroom facilities) and EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) employee violations, from sexual harassment to labor and wage violations.
I use Philadelphia Insurance Companies because they cover prior acts. I also do my own liquor training. I want to make sure clients’ staff know the ramifications if they overserve a customer. It doesn’t take much to get to the .08 level; and it’s not always just the belligerent ones who should be cut off. When I finish my training, they’ll never forget what I say!
One thing I take personal pride in is that I personally deal with all my claims. I don’t have an 800-number for them to call with claims. And I’m proactive on the backup needed if there is a claim. I have my client’s back, which is how I get most of my business through referrals. Plus I’ve been doing this for 25 years. People can ask me for advice, they don’t have to be my client.
Kim Brown is president of KLB Insurance headquartered in Woodbury, MN. Her insurance strategy is partnering with organizations and entities that help improve regulations and laws for businesses. Her agency specializes in providing insurance for golf clubs, fine dining, hotels, hospitality, construction, residential living complexes, equine and agriculture services and ADA compliance. While her company is national, she services both large and small accounts, offering 24-hours service for claims. She can be reached at 651-730-9803 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, go to the website at www.klbins.com.