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News and Updates

2023 Q3 Legal Update

Posted By Brandy King
September 21, 2023 Category: legal update, PWFA, workplace discrimination, overtime exemptions, NLRB section 7

Clarity on PWFA In August, the EEOC finally released the proposed regulations for the Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act (PWFA). Until this point, it wasn’t entirely clear what expectations were for employers. It was signed into law in December 2022, and became effective June 27, 2023 – even though the proposed regulations hadn’t been issued. Now that regulations (and examples) have been published and opened for comment (which remains open until October 11), things are much clearer. This doesn’t replace any current protections already in place for pregnant or post-partum mothers, so the PUMP and the Pregnancy Discrimination Acts are still in full force. PWFA closes some loopholes that ADA left open and essentially treats pregnancy itself like a disability, offering similar protections to ADA. This means employers with 15 or more employees will be expected to make reasonable accommodations to known limitations associated with pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.  These regulations won’t require employers to seek supporting documentation as they would in an FMLA or disability claim – but employers may require documentation “only if reasonable under the circumstances.” Luckily, EEOC provides some examples of when it’s not reasonable to ask for supporting documentation – like carrying and drinking water as needed, additional restroom breaks (and breaks in general), sitting/standing modifications,

Let’s Be Blunt: What Ohio’s Issue 2 and Other Changes Could Mean for Businesses

Posted By Brandy King
September 21, 2023 Category: drug testing, ohio marijuana laws, marijuana legalization, ohio issue 2

Ohioans will soon have the opportunity to vote on whether or not the Buckeye state will join 23 other states in legalizing recreational marijuana. Seven other states will have similar measures on their November ballot this year. If all of them pass, nearly 2/3 of U.S. states will have some form of legal, recreational marijuana.  Ohio’s proposal was born from the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, and would create a new government program and infrastructure for adults (21+) to buy, sell, grow and use cannabis. The ballot measure wouldn’t be a constitutional amendment, meaning the legislature could make changes to the proposed rule if it passes. This measure was initially set to appear on the Ohio’s 2022 ballot, but cannabis industry leaders were entangled in a dispute with government officials on the interpretation of the initiated statue process. The proponents of the bill argue that Ohio is missing the boat on tax revenue that would come from the sale of non-medical use marijuana for adults. Patients of Ohio’s medical marijuana program currently only pay the standard 5.75% sales tax. The proposition would be to collect an additional 10% sales tax that would be used for things like social equity and job programs, state efforts to address substance abuse, and supporting municipalities that are home to dispensaries.   States like Colorado have collected over $2 billion in taxes since 2014 from both sales and excise taxes. Th

Is a 401(k) MEP Right for You and Your Employees?

Posted By Brandy King
September 21, 2023 Category: 401(k), MEP, Retirement plans, employee benefits

The job market has regained some stability over the last year, creating a more even power dynamic between employees and candidates, and employers. That doesn’t change the need to attract good prospects and keep current valued employees. Not all employers can afford to roll out the red carpet on employee benefits, including things like no-cost health coverage, unlimited PTO and free childcare. There is one benefit that virtually all employees want access to, and a route for employers of all sizes to access it: a retirement plan.  Our family of companies created a 401(k) Multi-Employer Plan (MEP) under SuretyHR, and it’s available to all of our clients. This plan is designed to provide more cost-effective, streamlined options to employers with existing plans, and make those benefits accessible for employers of all sizes without a retirement plan in place. Multi-Employer Plans aren’t guaranteed to be less expensive simply because of their structure, and it’s hard to judge the service aspect if you don’t know any of their current clients. If you work with Spooner Inc, SuretyHR or Spooner Medical Administrators – you know a few businesses that participate in this MEP. It’s the same retirement plan that provides for all of our employees! Plenty of SuretyHR and Spooner clients have joined as well, and we’ll be sharing some of their success stories in the coming months.  The assumed cost and administrative work involved wi

2023 Drug-Free Safety Program Changes (Including Comparable Level)

Posted By Brandy King
August 25, 2023 Category: DFSP, Ohio BWC, drug free programs, employment policy, employee training, reasonable suspicion

New additional requirements for Ohio companies in Drug Free Safety Program, even at comparable level

OSHA Announces Warehousing and Distribution NEP

Posted By Brandy King
August 25, 2023 Category: osha, osha NEP, workplace safety, forklift operator, warehpuse, distro, amazon dsp, courier service, parcel service

In July, OSHA announced the beginning of a three-year National Emphasis Program (NEP) focused on the warehousing industry. The NEP will also encompass mail and parcel processing, local delivery services, and high-risk retail workplaces. Assistant Secretary of Labor Doug Parker said in a statement that OSHA’s enforcement efforts are “designed to do one thing: lead to permanent change in workplace safety.” The agency will select establishments (based on criteria outlined in the NEP) for in-depth safety inspections that zoom in on the aspects of material handling, means of egress, powered industrial truck operations, fire protection and walking/working surfaces. The inspected establishments will be chosen from both companies with industry codes encompassed in the program, as well as retail establishments with high injury rates, especially those resulting in lost work days (high DART rates).  The number of U.S. employees in the warehousing and distribution center industries has more than doubled in the last ten years, accounting for nearly two million workers across the country. A lot of that growth can be attributed to things like rising consumer demand along with Amazon’s continued growth (which was meteoric during COVID). COVID caused a surge in consumers preferring goods to be dropped at their door, which drastically increased the numbers of not only first-leg drivers, but “last-mile” drivers

August BWC Update: Program and Premium Changes for the Year Ahead

Posted By Brandy King
August 25, 2023 Category: ohio bwc, workers comp, group retro, safety council, 2024 py

Ohio BWC will be making some changes for the 2024 policy year (beginning 7/1/24), some of which may have a small advantage for certain policyholders.  Employers will still be subsidizing BWC’s administrative fund as they always have, but House Budget Bill 31 will change how the money is accounted for. Right now, state fund employers are paying base rates plus 29.01%, and that percentage is an administrative fee that goes into the fund. In the future, the admin fee will be fully baked into the base rates, resulting in rates that are roughly 20% higher. All told, employers shouldn’t see a huge difference in amounts paid to BWC. This will apply to both public and private employers, beginning on their respective 2024 policy year start dates.   Another change will allow for potentially better refunds from post-policy year savings programs, like Group Retro, Safety Council, etc. In prior years, those rebates were calculated based on a percentage of “standard premium” – in other words, premiums before BWC’s 29% admin fee was tacked on. If an employer paid $50,000 in annual premium to BWC, only $35,500 if it was counted as premium that they’d be rebated on. Program credits and refunds will begin using full premium in 2024, instead of peeling off the administrative portion of premium when calculating refunds and credits.  The premium dollars going into Retro consortiums will still exclude Premium Size Factor Reductions. T

OSHA's Aggressive Stance Continues

Posted By Brandy King
July 21, 2023 Category: Safety Consulting, Osha, Osha Compliance, Osha Inspections, Informal Conference, Citations, Loto, Safety Training

Things aren't slowing down at OSHA. If you feel like they've been mentioned in the news a lot lately, that's because they're keeping very busy. Workplace safety enforcement has added significant manpower and has been much more active than in previous years. Inspections have increased in number, as well as in breadth and depth, which is why it’s a great time to give your company a safety tune-up. There have been plenty of other regulatory distractions for management teams in 2023, which may have led to a reduction in attention to detail with required safety compliance programs. Pair that with the current OSHA administrator's aggressive background as the chief of Cal-OSHA, and your company should have a renewed desire to review OSHA compliance matters. This should include all of your written programs, as well as sub-elements under those programs.  When is the last time you updated your health & safety written programs?  When is the last time you checked to ensure all of your training is up to date and documented? When is the last time you completed a safety walk-through of your facility, with corrective action taken for any identified discrepancies? What are your compliance weaknesses? (Maybe you're not even sure) What are the underlying safety deficiencies contributing to your workplace injuries, leaving you vulnerable to OSHA penalties, and what are you doing to correct those issues?   These a

Updates to OSHA Recordkeeping & Reporting

Posted By Brandy King
July 20, 2023 Category: General

Beginning January 1, 2024, OSHA will require employers in certain high-hazard industries with over 100 employees to submit data from Forms 300 and 301 in addition to their 300A by March 2 each year. For those not familiar, Form 300 is a log of work-related illnesses and injuries, and Form 301 is a corresponding form with incident reports that should match up with Form 300. OSHA will also be updating NAICS codes used in Appendix A, which lists the industries required to submit Form 300A. They’ll also be adding an Appendix B, which will state the industries required to now submit Forms 300 and 301. OSHA administrator Doug Parker stated in a press release that this is a big step in helping the administration understand the safety and health problems that workers face. He noted that OSHA will use the data for “interventions involving strategic outreach and enforcement to reduce injuries and illnesses in these high-hazard industries.” If you have questions or concerns about OSHA reporting, or your organization’s safety policies and procedures, please contact Spooner’s safety team at

What Does DOT's Ruling on Oral Fluid Drug Testing Mean for Your Business?

Posted By Brandy King
July 20, 2023 Category: drug testing, dot, department of transportation, oral fluid testing, saliva testing, cdl, commercial driver

In May, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a final rule allowing oral fluid testing for employers and employees under their purview. This applies to any commercial vehicle operator, including many passenger vehicles, hazardous material transport, and vehicles with a gross weight over 10,001 pounds. DOT’s rules have long been viewed as the gold standard for the employment-related drug testing industry as a whole. Historically, DOT’s testing standard has been a 5-panel screening based on a split urine sample and laboratory analysis performed in a lab certified by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Oral fluid (saliva) testing could ease some of the burden and complications of drug testing for employers. Saliva screens are known to be more convenient and accessible, more cost-effective, have fewer issues with tampering, and provide faster results. Although the new rule went into effect on June 1, 2023, several things need to be in place before this becomes a reality. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must certify at least two laboratories to perform this type of testing, and that may not happen until later this year, or even early 2024. It’s also important to note that DOT-regulated employers are not required to switch to oral fluid testing, but they will have the option to do so. While saliva-based drug screens have plenty of advantages, they do have a different detection window than urine d

It's True Up Time Again!

Its True Up Time Again!

Posted By Brandy King
July 20, 2023 Category: ohio bwc, true up, payroll, bwc premiums, BWC reporting

BWC’s True Up window began on July 1, 2023 and will run through August 15, 2023. This is a process required by Ohio BWC at the end of each policy year, where your premiums based on projected payroll for the previous policy year are balanced with premiums based on your actual payroll over the past year. Compliance with both the reporting and payment of any balances affects your company’s eligibility for most savings programs (like Group and Group Retro). If your actual payroll was higher than projected, you’ll be expected to pay that balance to Ohio BWC no later than August 15th. If you are unable to pay the lump sum at that time, please note that any future premium installments will first be applied to your delinquent True Up Balance before being applied to your premium installments. Payment plans for True Up balances are only available through the Ohio Attorney General’s office following an application process.  If this year’s True Up caught you by surprise, next year consider running a mock report in May or June to help your company prepare for any balance that may be owed. The payroll classifications and totals reported this summer will be used to determine your 2024 policy year premiums. For the 2023 policy year that just began, BWC will be using payroll projections based on your True Up from July 2022. Adjustments to your estimated payroll can also be made throughout the year by contacting BWC at 1-800-644-6292. Spooner clients are

Safety Council Rebate Program Enrollment for the 2023 PY

Safety Council Rebate Program Enrollment for the 2023 PY

Posted By Brandy King
July 20, 2023 Category: ohio bwc, safety council, rebate programs, workers comp, safety training

Along with the new Ohio BWC policy year beginning on July 1, 2023 – one of their most beneficial programs will be increasing in ROI for employers. Participating in a local safety council is beneficial not just for the savings – but also the education, networking, and locating resources to aide your internal safety programs. Ohio businesses have until July 31, 2023 to sign on for the 2023-24 program. Your company can earn a 3% rebate (not to exceed $5000) on 2023-24 policy year premiums by attending 10 in-person safety council meetings. At least eight (8) of these must be attended through the safety council you’re enrolled with, and up to two (2) credits can be earned through attending BWC-sponsored in-person or virtual events, or in-person training from external sources like your TPA or trade organizations and Chambers of Commerce. Remember – in order to get the 3% rebate, your policy premiums must be current and your most recent True-Up should have been completed on time. This rebate program can be combined with Group Rating, Group Retro and virtually any other BWC program your company participates in. For more information on the Safety Council Program, reach out to us at 440-249-5260 or check out this page on

Choosing the Best Workers' Comp Partner for Your Business

Choosing the Best Workers Comp Partner for Your Business

Posted By Brandy King
July 20, 2023 Category: Ohio Workers Comp, Ohio Bwc, Ohio Tpa, Claims Management, Group Rating, Group Retro, PEO

Even though the 2023 BWC policy year just started, we’re already looking ahead to 2024 Group Rating and Group Retro programs. It can be hard to feel like a savvy buyer when it comes to workers’ comp in Ohio, but Spooner would like to share some pointers for how to understand the timeline and choose the best partner.   If you’re thinking of changing your partner for Group Rating or Group Retro, be sure not to complete the renewal that your current TPA sends this summer. Most employers don’t realize that cutting a check for a renewal in summer of 2023 will obligate them to their current TPA through June of 2025. Make sure your accounting team is aware of this, too. We’ve seen too many unhappy customers of other TPAs get trapped this way.  Are you under the impression that because you’re a member of XYZ Chamber of Commerce, you have to utilize their partner for workers’ comp programs? Not the case. The sponsoring organization frames it that way because there’s money on the table. For example, if you are an XYZ Chamber member (who happens to be partnered with a specific TPA) and you want to leave that TPA, XYZ Chamber makes less money. Naturally, they want you to stay with their TPA and may even advise you can’t get that discount outside of their partnership. This is patently false. Most TPAs have access to all of the same Group Rating and Group Retro programs for all industries, and the sponsoring orga

2 Hour Safety Training Deadline

2 Hour Safety Training Deadline

Posted By Brandy King
June 14, 2023 Category: General

If your company participated in Group Rating or Group Retro during the 2022 policy year (July 1, 2022-June 30, 2023) and had a claim during the green year(s), you’re required to complete two hours of safety training by June 30, 2023. Please be sure to complete and submit the training certificates to your team at Spooner (or your TPA, if you’re not a Spooner client). If you’re unsure if you need to complete this training, reach out to your client services manager. The training doesn’t have to be completed in person – so there’s still time to meet the requirement by participating in one of BWC’s online courses.  Here are some details on fulfilling the two-hour training requirement, per the Ohio BWC website.   Two-hour Training Options  A variety of training sources are available for you to fulfill this requirement. They include the following offered through BWC’s Division of Safety & Hygiene:  Education and Training Services Center courses Ohio Safety Congress & Exposition (OSC) safety education sessions  Safety council seminars, workshops, or conferences featuring a safety topic that are at least two hours long (Safety council monthly meetings do not qualify.) Guidelines for courses offered through non-BWC training forums  The group sponsor, third-party administrator, or an independent source can sponsor a course, provided it meets the two-hour criteria.  The topic must be workp

Red Flags in Workers' Comp Claims

Red Flags in Workers Comp Claims

Posted By Brandy King
June 14, 2023 Category: General

One of the things our team prides themselves on is identifying potential issues early on in workers’ compensation claims. Some of these can be so obvious that the employer will clue us in during the initial contact, but some are a bit more nuanced – and that’s where our expert claims examiners come in. Most people handling workers’ comp for a business know that a Friday afternoon or Monday morning injury is a little suspicious, even more if there were no witnesses.  However, there are other scenarios that employers may not consider relative to the validity of a claim, and it’s our job to gather that information and educate our clients on how to handle it. Here are a few examples of details that sound our alarms, both early on in the claim, and as it progresses.  Claimant is hostile about answering any questions regarding the accident, or provides very vague answers. Immediate representation by an attorney. The details (like date, time and place of accident) are unknown or can’t be recalled.  Late reporting of the injury. Not everyone seeks medical treatment right away, but an incident report (with witness statements) should be completed even if first aid isn’t needed. The statute of limitations in Ohio is 12 months from DOI. If witness statements don’t corroborate the claimant’s story or are all different, that could be another red flag.  Claimant can’t be reached - never answers the phone, or a

Is it Time to Leave BWC Behind?

Is it Time to Leave BWC Behind

Posted By Brandy King
June 14, 2023 Category: PEO, professional employer organization, workers comp, EMR, losing RFPs, FMLA, payroll, human resources, ohio premium savings, alternative to ohio bwc

Ohio employers have started receiving notifications from Ohio BWC regarding their rates and EMR for the approaching 2023 policy year. If your business is one of the lucky ones to see a rate decrease, congratulations! If your business is one of the thousands of policies that are seeing an increase, or your EMR isn’t going to help you win any bids - it may be time to explore different options. We know that the phrase “PEO” can make some employers gasp at the thought of sacrificing control for lower workers’ comp premiums, or an aesthetically pleasing EMR – but not all PEOs are created equal.  Spooner Risk Control Services designed SuretyHR to be a very different PEO (Professional Employer Organization) than the ones employers have told us so many stories about. We don’t need to take over your day-to-day operations, or make you change brokers and retirement plan administrators. We have solutions for those services if you need them – but if it’s not broken, we won’t insist on fixing it.  SuretyHR was built to improve and support your business, and free up time for management and owners to focus on the important things. Instead of spending time behind the scenes, leadership stays in front of the business to focus on employee engagement, business development, client retention, and creating cultures that retain the best talent.  Employers happy with their BWC rates and EMR can still benefit from partnering w

OSHA Heat Illness NEP Ongoing

OSHA Heat Illness NEP Ongoing

Posted By Brandy King
June 14, 2023 Category: osha, mandate, heat illness, heat stroke, safety, inspections, NEP, heat stress

Let’s not forget that OSHA’s Heat Illness Nation Emphasis Program (NEP) is still going strong. On days that the National Weather Service issues a heat warning or advisory for certain areas, expect OSHA to be making rounds and doing inspections in 70+ indoor and outdoor industry settings that are considered high risk for heat illness.  A study was recently published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health using data reported to OSHA. The research team found that 3% of all injuries and fatalities were exertion related – and of those, a staggering 89% were heat-related. Unsurprisingly, industries associated with outdoor work like construction, agriculture, and farming show heat as being a significant occupational danger – but the stats are also high for assembly line workers. Even today, many indoor industrial environments like warehousing, and production and assembly lines, don’t have A/C throughout their entire facility. Office areas will typically be cooled - but where most of the workers are concentrated, they rely on large ceiling fans, air circulation provided by open windows and loading docks, as well as personal cooling devices brought by the employees themselves.  Much like work-related falls, heat illnesses are preventable. As an employer, you have a responsibility to provide rest, water, and shade to employees, allow new workers to acclimate to the heat in short bursts, monitor staff for signs of

MCO Open Enrollment Wrap Up

MCO Open Enrollment Wrap Up

Posted By Brandy King
June 14, 2023 Category: General

We’d like to sincerely thank all of the Ohio employers that chose Spooner Medical Administrators, Inc. (SMAI) as their MCO during MCO Open Enrollment last month, as well as those loyal clients who chose to remain with our MCO. SMAI continues to experience sustainable, organic growth, thanks to the partnerships we have with Chambers of Commerce, trade organizations, associations, and simply by word of mouth.  SMAI has grown in both policies assigned and claims managed, and was also one of only four MCOs to see a net growth during Open Enrollment. They've also been the only MCO to grow every Open Enrollment since 1997. The team at SMAI is excited to begin building partnerships with the hundreds of new employers that moved to Spooner Medical Administrators this year.   Thanks for putting your faith in us, Ohio businesses! We can’t wait to meet even more new customers when the next Open Enrollment rolls around in

MCO Open Enrollment is Here!

Posted By Brandy King
May 12, 2023 Category: Mco Open Enrollment, Ohio Mco, Best Ohio Mco, Top Managed Care, Ohio Bwc, Workers Compensation

Many of you know that every two years in May, MCO Open Enrollment occurs. This is the time that Ohio employers can choose the Managed Care Organization (MCO) they’ll work with for the next two years, and beyond.  If you’re reading this and Spooner Medical Administrators, Inc. (SMAI) isn’t your MCO, now’s the time to move on possibly the best business decision you’ll make this year. Especially if you work with Spooner Inc. as your TPA, having SMAI as your MCO really opens the lines of communication between both parties. SMAI's team is ready to schedule a call, Zoom, or in-person meeting with you anytime through May 26. Click here to send them a message, or give them a call.  Remember, MCO Open Enrollment only comes around every two years and only lasts four weeks. If you’re on the fence, it may be time to take a chance. Switching MCOs costs nothing, but when claims are managed poorly from a medical perspective - you’ll feel the sting down the road in your BWC premiums. Additionally, bi-weekly management calls and customizable reports can help you feel like you’re never out of the loop with what’s happening in your claims. Speaking of staying informed - SMAI's proprietary web-based software allows you create and run customized reports 24/7, report a claim at any hour, search in-network providers, and even create multiple  company logins with different restrictions and a

2018 & 2019 Group Retro Update

Posted By Brandy King
April 24, 2023 Category: Group Retro, Ohio Bwc, 2018 Group Retro, Group Retro Lawsuit

Many of you may be wondering what the status is of the Group Retro lawsuit that we talked so much about in February. Just over two months have passed – but when it comes to legal matters, it’s not much time at all. To catch you up to speed, a magistrate determined in February that BWC abused their discretion by withholding Retro refunds. BWC had a two-week window following that 2/6/23 decision to file any objections to the decision – which of course, they did. They chose to reiterate several points from their original arguments, and indicated that they did possess the authority to change a portion of the Revised Code without going through the typical rulemaking process. Our lead plaintiff, Kent Elastomer, and their counsel at Roetzel & Andress have already filed a response to those objections. We’re waiting to see if the full court of appeals wishes to hear oral arguments or proceed with the record that has already been established.  Unfortunately, there is no timetable on these next steps, but we will keep you updated here on our blog, on our LinkedIn page, and through our client services managers (if you’re a current Spooner client). If you participated in Group Retro during the 2018 or 2019 policy years and would like to be on our roster so we can fight for your refunds when the tie comes, complete this form and one of our team members will be in touch with

2023 EMR and Rate Publication

2023 EMR and Rate Publication

Posted By Brandy King
April 21, 2023 Category: General

Along with the potential base rate increase we discussed in another article, Ohio employers will soon be receiving additional details for the 2023 policy year. Sometime over the next 60 days, businesses will get a letter from BWC confirming EMR and Group Rating discounts effective 7/1/23. Most businesses assume whatever Group Rating discount they were offered when they signed up over the summer and fall of 2022 was locked in, but that’s not the case. Group Rating is never a guarantee - the number you’re given is always an estimate.  Your Experience Modification Rate (EMR) impacts rates, program eligibility, and for some companies – the success rate of RFPs. General contractors and large corporations (like GM, Honda, AK Steel, etc.) will often require subs or anyone working on their property to maintain an EMR of 1.0 or lower. While the EM Cap program will lower your published EMR to 0.99, those with industry experience often know that it’s not organic. If a high EMR is affecting your company’s success, there are more cost-effective options outside of EM Cap and other BWC programs.  Please reach out to our team of experts if you have any questions or concerns when receiving these notifications from

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