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Note: This story has been updated.
In the high-stakes arena of labor and employment law, businesses have to keep up with ever-changing rules in order to stay within the bounds of the law. To help employers avoid rolling the dice on employment mishaps, the ACE Group has paired with management-side firm Littler Mendelson to create EPL Assist, an employment risk management tool.
EPL Assist is only available to a select group of ACE policyholders. The tool provides users with online access to state-specific legal content and analysis, as well as templates for employee handbooks and commonly used legal forms. EPL Assist users will also have live access to Littlers employment lawyers via a custom web portal or telephone hotline.
In a statement announcing the EPL tool, ACE Professional Risk VP Kenneth Latham said, Employers today face a dizzying array of employment laws and ongoing employment issues. Whether it involves discipline or termination, wage and hour, or even the new frontier of social media, the ever-changing legal requirements of these issues can have a devastating impact.
CorpCounsel.com reporter Shannon Green received answers to emailed questions from Jennifer Walker, assistant marketing VP at ACE, about the new product. An edited version of that exchange follows.
CorpCounsel.com: How can both large and small companies make use of EPL Assist?
ACE Group: Smaller-to-mid-sized companies that may not have an internal legal department can use the online functionality. For companies that have an in-house legal team, EPL Assist and Littler can be used for a second opinion. Insureds can take advantage of the various training programs and podcasts contained within the site and speak to attorneys at Littler regarding employment issues.
CC: Access to content will be unlimited, but how much direct access to Littlers lawyers will users have?
ACE: There is no usage limit for insureds who purchase primary employment practices insurance from ACE USA Professional Risk, ACE Westchester Professional Risk, or ACE Commercial Risk Services. Insureds are encouraged to use the hotline for any employment-related legal questions that arise; however, this service is not meant to serve as an outsourced human resources department or replace outside legal counsel with respect to human resources issues.
CC: How will the communication work?
ACE: Questions can be submitted via email or phone and will typically be answered by end of business day or next business day if received after 3 p.m. PST. Companies will receive legal advice and counseling on employment or labor issues, which is subject to attorney-client privilege. Examples of questions may be whether to discipline or terminate an employee who has complained about harassment, or whether to terminate an employee due to employee misconduct.
CC: How frequently with the legal content in EPL Assist be updated?
ACE: As significant changes in employment law occur or major judicial opinions are published, EPL Assist is automatically fed Littlers time-sensitive legal updates, called ASAPs. Additionally, all national and state employer chapters are updated
on an annual basis and will be available on EPL Assist shortly after the updates are published.
CC: What topics are covered in the sample employee handbooks?
ACE: The employee handbook library within EPL Assist contains more than 25 samples of best practices, covering such topics as anti-harassment, disability accommodation, employment at will, overtime, and workplace violence. In addition, several state supplemental policies are also available.
CC: Can you give some examples of the HR forms?
ACE: Within the EPL Assist legal summaries section, insureds can view relevant chapters from Littlers National Employer. This publication summarizes federal and state employment laws and can be used to obtain guidance on federal and state labor and employment law. Sample chapters in EPL Assist include harassment in the workplace, mandatory training, and an overview on disability law. The library also contains Littlers state employer books, which outline state-specific laws related to employment discrimination, employment torts, and employee statutory rights.