Serving Colorado's Counties

A return-to-work program enables employees to resume their duties after an injury or illness, even if they have specific medical restrictions that prevent them from performing their current role at full capacity. This program ensures that employees remain active and valued members of the workforce while they recover, with the expectation that they will return to total capacity within a reasonable period. By implementing this practice, the employer demonstrates employee support, fostering continued engagement among the county staff.

The benefits to the employer include a reduction in lost work hours, lower workers' compensation costs, and decreased employee turnover. Statistics show that the likelihood of an injured employee returning to work diminishes significantly each month they remain out of work. 

By providing a short-term modification of a job or alternative work based on the employee’s current abilities or limitations, the employee is more likely to return to full duty sooner. A well-implemented modified work program helps maintain the connection between the employer and the employee, preventing the sense of alienation that can develop during prolonged absences from the workplace.

CRAFTING EFFECTIVE POLICIES

Many counties have policies that guide their return-to-work programs. These policies should clearly outline expectations for both the employee and employer. They should specify how and when medical updates will be provided, the process for assessing and offering modified duty, and the maximum duration that modified duty will be available.

Modified duty work assignments should be clearly defined and include the following:

Counties do not have to create work, but we encourage you to be creative and think of other ways the employee can assist outside their regular duties. Assignments should not be seen as punitive or demeaning but should help the county achieve its overall objectives.  Below are suggestions to consider offering:

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR COUNTIES

Return-to-work programs enhance employee morale, lower workers' compensation claim costs, reduce turnover, and improve the overall culture and functioning of the workplace. If you believe that light duty might be feasible for an employee recovering from an injury and need assistance in facilitating their return, please contact CTSI for guidance at (303) 861-0507.

It is important to file claims to the Colorado Counties Casualty & Property Pool (CAPP) within a few days of the incident. CAPP protects the assets of counties throughout Colorado.

SOONER THAN LATER

A claim, a formal request of CAPP for payment after a covered incident, is a vital step for the coverage of county employees. If no claim is made, then no action can be taken. CAPP does not need all the information at the time of the original report; additional information can be received as it becomes available. Ideally, the appropriate claim form is completed within a few days of the incident, if not 24 hours.

It should be noted that late reporting shortens the amount of time it takes to investigate a claim before having to admit or deny liability. So, the sooner a claim is filed after an incident, the more likely it is to be found in favor of a client.

However, it must also be stressed that it is important to notify CAPP immediately of any claims that involve a fatality or serious injury. If an accident results in death, it is advised to file a claim within 24 hours of the incident.

HOW TO FILE A CLAIM

Complete the appropriate claim form:

Necessary information needed on the ACORD form:

Information to include:

New Claims should be sent to cappclaims@ctsi.orgAfter taking this initial step, CAPP members will be notified of what to do next. Please set up a claim file and keep all information together for future use and reference.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR COUNTIES

Prompt reporting of a CAPP claim benefits all parties involved, allowing us more time to investigate a claim before admitting or denying liability. Ideally, a claim should be made within the first few days of the incident, if not within 24 hours. For more information, contact CAPP at (303) 861-0507.

In today’s digital age, cybersecurity is a critical concern for counties of all sizes. As cyber threats become increasingly sophisticated, counties must stay vigilant and proactive in protecting their sensitive data. CTSI will stay informed of evolving threats and provide quarterly cybersecurity updates on the latest concerns, best practices, and security protocols. This knowledge can significantly reduce the risk of a successful cyber attack and promote a security-first culture.

CALLBACK PHISHING

Have you ever received an email telling you to call a phone number? Calling a phone number may seem safer than clicking on a link, but that's what makes this tactic so effective. In callback phishing scams, cybercriminals send you an email about something urgent, such as a fraudulent charge or a vital software update. This tactic is unique because the email includes a phone number you are prompted to call. Cybercriminals use callback phishing scams for their malicious purposes. Cybercriminals will trick you into revealing sensitive information if you call the number in the email. They may use an automated voice message that prompts you to enter sensitive information, such as your credit card or social security number. Cybercriminals can also try to trick you into downloading malware. To do this, they’ll answer the phone and walk you through downloading malicious files onto your device. 

Follow the tips below to stay safe from callback phishing scams:

EMPLOYEE TRAINING

Employees are widely considered counties’ first line of defense against cyber incidents, especially since all it takes is one staff mistake to compromise and wreak havoc on an entire workplace system. In light of this, counties must offer cybersecurity training. This training should center around helping county employees correctly identify and respond to common cyber threats. Additional training topics may include specific cybersecurity policies and methods for reporting suspicious activities. Because digital risks are everchanging, this training shouldn’t be a standalone occurrence. Instead, counties should provide cybersecurity training regularly and update this training when needed to reflect the latest threats, attack trends, and workplace changes.

Human error is one of the leading causes of cybersecurity breaches. Regular training and updates can help reduce the likelihood of mistakes leading to a breach. Keeping cybersecurity top of mind and providing clear guidance makes them less likely to fall victim to scams or inadvertently compromise security.

Follow the tips below to keep county employees safe:

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR COUNTIES 

Regular cybersecurity updates are vital to an effective security strategy. They help keep counties informed, vigilant, and prepared to respond to threats. CTSI recommends counties implement these essential cybersecurity controls to help manage their cyber exposures. This will safeguard and reduce digital vulnerabilities at the county level and assist in obtaining coverage with higher limits and lower premiums for CAPP. For more information, contact CTSI at (303) 861-0507.

According to the CDC, nine people in the United States are killed every day in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver. Defined as any activity that takes a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving, distracted driving is an ever-increasing problem as more and more technology creeps into our vehicles, dividing our focus. Texting, cell phone use, eating, changing the radio station, or even conversing all count as distracted driving. 

TYPES OF DISTRACTIONS

Many everyday activities people engage in while driving can be distracting. Cell phone use is one of the most significant risks, as it causes visual, manual, and cognitive distractions. According to insurance claim data, 11% of auto accidents in 2021 were caused by phone-based distractions. People tend to think they are good at multitasking, especially while driving; however, study after study has found that the brain cannot give full attention to more than one task at a time. Distracted driving can cause life-changing injuries and even fatalities.

NAVIGATING COUNTY RISKS

A driving and vehicle-related accident could become a claim in the Colorado Counties Casualty and Property Pool (CAPP) and County Worker’s Compensation Pool (CWCP). For instance, if a county employee driving a county vehicle causes an accident and is injured and injures another person, this would be a worker’s compensation claim and an auto liability claim.

In CAPP, driving and vehicle-related claims are first in frequency by accident type and third in severity. For CWCP, driving and vehicle-related claims are fourth in frequency by accident type and third in severity.

TIPS TO AVOID DISTRACTED DRIVING

The best way to avoid distracted driving is to limit distractions before putting the vehicle in drive. Plan your route before starting the trip, as even GPS navigation systems can be distracting. Set the radio, climate controls, etc., before driving. Do not eat while driving. Plan to stop for food and rest breaks if you are taking a long trip. Put cell phones out of sight and out of reach. Set your cell phone to send an automatic text informing anyone who texts that you are driving and will contact them later, or better yet, turn off your cell phone while in the car. According to one study, using a cell phone while driving reduces your focus on driving by 37%. 

Counties can help prevent distracted driving by establishing clear procedures for what is and is not acceptable in county vehicles, such as banning employees from using cell phones while driving. Make safe driving a priority with training plans encouraging employees to pull over if they need to make a phone call, check a map, text, or engage in other potentially distracting activities.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR COUNTIES

Auto accidents pose an enormous risk to the county pools and endanger county employees. Implement clear policies that discourage distracted driving in county vehicles. In addition, county employees should be trained about the risks of distracted driving. CTSI offers online educational training on distracted driving, including “Hang up and Drive” and a “Defensive Driving Refresher.” There are also in-person trainings on Defensive Driving that your county’s Loss Control Representative can present. For more information about the dangers of distracted driving or for information on implementing a fleet safety program, contact CTSI at (303) 861-0507.

NOTICE: On April 23, 2024, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a final rule, Defining and Delimiting the Exemptions for Executive, Administrative, Professional, Outside Sales, and Computer Employees, which takes effect on July 1, 2024. The final rule updates and revises the regulations issued under section 13(a)(1) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, implementing the exemption from minimum wage and overtime pay requirements for executive, administrative, and professional (EAP) employees. Revisions include increases to the standard salary level and the highly compensated employee total annual compensation threshold and adding to the regulations a mechanism that will allow for the timely and efficient updating of these earnings thresholds to reflect current earnings data.

Employees are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) minimum wage and overtime protections if employed in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity, as those terms are defined in the Department of Labor’s (DOL) regulations. To fall within the EAP exemption, an employee generally must meet three tests:

  1. be paid a salary, meaning that they are paid a predetermined and fixed amount that is not subject to reduction because of variations in the quality or quantity of work performed;
  2. be paid at least a specified weekly salary level; and
  3. primarily perform executive, administrative, or professional duties, as provided in the DOL's regulations.

The DOL's regulations also provide an alternative test for certain highly compensated employees who are paid a salary, earn above a higher total annual compensation level, and satisfy a minimal duties test.

The final rule will increase the standard salary level and the highly compensated employee total annual compensation threshold on the rule’s effective date on July 1, 2024, and on January 1, 2025, when changes in the methodologies used to calculate these levels become applicable. The final rule also provides for future updates of these levels every three years to reflect current earnings data. 

WHY IS THE DOL REVISING THE EXEMPTION REGULATIONS?

The DOL is committed to keeping the earnings thresholds up to date for the benefit of workers and employers. Over four years have passed since the 2019 rule, during which time salaried workers in the U.S. economy have experienced rapid wage growth, which decreased the effectiveness of the $684 per week salary level established in 2019 in helping to define the EAP exemption.

DOES THE RULE APPLY TO GOVERNMENT WORKERS?

State and local government employers are subject to the FLSA and the DOL's regulations concerning EAP employees.

HOW WILL EMPLOYERS RESPOND TO THE UPDATED THRESHOLDS ESTABLISHED IN THIS FINAL RULE?

Employers have various options for responding to the updated thresholds. For each employee who is affected, an employer may:

For additional frequently asked questions, visit the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division.

What This Means for Counties

Labor laws and regulations can change, so it’s crucial to consult authoritative sources for the latest information. For complex payroll and labor law matters, it's advisable to consult with your county attorney or HR expert familiar with the amendments effective in 2024 and how employers can comply with Colorado’s new obligations. The material in this Technical Update is informational and general in nature and doesn’t constitute legal advice. For more information, contact CTSI at (303) 861-0507.

CTSI previously distributed a Technical Update on wildfire mitigation in October 2023. This update focused on confronting the wildfire crisis, providing mitigation tips, and sharing the Marshall Fire Mitigation Assessment Team (MAT) Report released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in June 2023. Please click here for reference

Wildfire mitigation is crucial in Colorado to safeguard lives, property, and the environment. Counties can significantly reduce the risk and impact by implementing strategies such as creating defensible spaces, thinning forests, using fire-resistant materials, and conducting controlled burns. Wildfires pose a direct threat to human life. Mitigation efforts can significantly reduce the risk of loss of life. Effective mitigation strategies also help protect homes, infrastructure, and other valuable properties from wildfire damage. These efforts also preserve forest health, maintain biodiversity, and ensure the resilience of ecosystems against climate change.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

Wildfire suppression is highly costly and an economic burden. Mitigation can significantly reduce these costs by preventing fires from becoming large and unmanageable. By reducing the frequency and severity of wildfires, mitigation efforts lower the financial burden on state and local governments, freeing up resources for other critical needs. Protecting homes, businesses, and infrastructure from fire damage also preserves property values and ensures economic stability for communities. Mitigation also supports the tourism industry by safeguarding Colorado's scenic landscapes and recreational areas, vital to the state's economy. Overall, investing in wildfire mitigation is a strategic move for safety and environmental health and a sound economic decision promoting long-term financial resilience.

DEFENSIBLE SPACE

Creating defensible space is essential to improving your property’s chances of surviving a wildfire. Defensible space is the buffer between a building and the shrubs, grass, trees, and any wildland area surrounding it. Not only does this space slow or stop the spread of wildfire, but it can also protect your property from catching fire–either from direct flame contact or radiant heat. Defensible space is also essential for preserving the firefighters.

The spacing between vegetation is crucial to reducing the spread of wildfires and is determined by the type and size of brush and trees, as well as the slope of the land. For example, a property on a steep slope with more extensive greenery requires greater spacing between trees and shrubs than a level property that has small, sparse vegetation. 

MITIGATION MAINTENANCE TIPS

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR COUNTIES 

CTSI recommends that all county facilities be assessed for fire exposure and that basic mitigation practices be deployed to help reduce loss potential. This can be accomplished by having a comprehensive Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) conducted for each community and collectively for the county. Entities like the Ember Alliance can conduct and help build a CWPP. CTSI also has a Loss Control Specialist on staff who is an NFPA Board Certified Fire Protection Specialist to assist if needed. It is also recommended that vehicle and equipment storage configurations be looked at to reduce multiple equipment losses through proper spacing and orientation to common wind patterns. For more information, contact CTSI at (303) 861-0507.

Cyber incidents—including data breaches, ransomware attacks, and social engineering scams—have become increasingly prevalent, impacting organizations of all sizes and industries. Such incidents have been mainly brought on by additional cyber threat vectors and growing attacker sophistication. As these incidents continue to rise in cost and frequency, counties must address their cyber exposures and bolster their digital security defenses.

CTSI presented a three-part series on essential cybersecurity controls. April focused on multifactor authentication, endpoint detection and response, and patch management. June highlighted email authentication technology, secure data backups, and incident response planning. Reviewing these risks and liabilities helps counties prevent cyber incidents and associated insurance claims from happening. It can also help secure adequate cyber coverage in the first place.

EMAIL AUTHENTICATION TECHNOLOGY/SENDER POLICY FRAMEWORK (SPF)

Many ransomware attacks start with employees receiving deceiving emails, such as those from fraudulent senders claiming to be trustworthy parties and providing malicious attachments or asking for sensitive information. It’s paramount that organizations utilize email authentication technology to monitor incoming emails and determine the validity of these messages based on specific sender verification standards that organizations have in place. Organizations can choose from several different verification standards, but the most common is SPF—which focuses on verifying senders’ IP addresses and domains.

Upon authenticating emails, this technology permits them to pass through organizations’ IT infrastructures and into employees’ inboxes. When emails can’t be authenticated, they will either appear as flagged in employees’ inboxes or blocked from reaching inboxes. With SPF, unauthenticated emails may even be filtered directly into employees’ spam folders. Ultimately, email authentication technology can make all the difference in keeping dangerous emails out of employees’ inboxes and putting a stop to cybercriminals’ tactics before they can begin.

SECURE DATA BACKUPS

One of the best ways for organizations to protect their sensitive information and data from cybercriminals is by conducting frequent and secure backups. First and foremost, organizations should determine safe locations to store critical data, whether within cloud-based applications, on-site hard drives, or external data centers. From there, organizations should establish concrete schedules for backing up this information and outline data recovery procedures to ensure swift restoration amid possible cyber events.

INCIDENT RESPONSE PLANNING

Cyber incident response plans can help organizations establish protocols for detecting and containing digital threats, remaining operational, and mitigating losses in a timely manner amid cyber events. Successful incident response plans should outline potential attack scenarios, ways to identify signs of such scenarios, methods for maintaining or restoring key functions during these scenarios, and the individuals responsible for doing so. 

These plans should be routinely reviewed through penetration testing and tabletop exercises, to ensure effectiveness and identify ongoing security gaps. Penetration testing refers to the simulation of attacks that target specific workplace technology or digital assets to analyze organizations’ cybersecurity strengths and weaknesses. In contrast, tabletop exercises are drills that allow organizations to utilize mock scenarios to walk through and test the efficiency of their cyber incident response plans. 

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR COUNTIES 

CTSI recommends counties implement these essential cybersecurity controls to help manage their cyber exposures. Not only will it help safeguard and reduce digital vulnerabilities at the county level, but it will also assist in obtaining coverage with higher limits and lower premiums for CAPP. For more information, contact CTSI at (303) 861-0507.

When creating the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Congress did not want to discourage people from volunteering for civic, charitable, or humanitarian causes. Instead, it wanted to prevent the abuse of minimum wage or overtime requirements through coercion or undue pressure upon individuals to “volunteer” their services.

DEFINITION OF VOLUNTEERS

The FLSA defines a volunteer as an individual who performs hours of service for a public agency for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons, without promise, expectation, or receipt of compensation for services rendered.

Volunteers are individuals who offer their services freely and without pressure or coercion from an employer. Private individuals are not restricted from volunteering for any type of service for public agencies.

Individuals are not considered volunteers if they are employed by the same public agency to perform the same type of services as those for which they propose to volunteer. For example, a county nurse cannot volunteer nursing services for that same county.

WHEN CAN VOLUNTEERS BE PAID?

According to the FLSA (29 CFR 553.106), volunteers may be paid expenses, reasonable benefits, and/or a nominal fee for their services without losing their status as volunteers. A volunteer may receive:

To determine if an individual will lose their volunteer status under the FLSA, the total amount of payments (expenses, fees, benefits) must be examined in the context of the particular situation's economic realities.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR COUNTIES

Colorado counties rely on volunteers to perform a range of tasks. Counties should know the rules for when a volunteer can be compensated so that a volunteer’s status does not cross over to an employee under Federal and State law. For more information, contact CTSI at (303) 861-0507.

Due to exposure for jail-related death claims, it is important to remember a few basic guidelines regarding jail intake and suicide prevention.

MINIMUM RECOMMENDED RULES ON JAIL INTAKE

SUICIDE PREVENTION PRINCIPLES

SUICIDE PREVENTION AUTHORITY AND LIMITS

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR COUNTIES

Sheriff deputies should be vigilant in intake and suicide prevention for the inmates entrusted to their care. Policies and procedures must be developed, and staff must be trained in the implementation and use with strict enforcement. For more information, please contact CTSI at (303) 861-0507.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has been a cornerstone of labor law in the United States since its inception in 1938. Designed to protect workers and establish a minimum standard of living, the FLSA has undergone several amendments to address evolving labor practices. In 2010, significant changes were made to strengthen the Act's provisions, particularly concerning the restriction on the use of child labor.

The federal child labor provisions of the FLSA were enacted to ensure that young people's work is safe and does not jeopardize their health, well-being, or educational opportunities. These provisions also expanded and clarified the types of activities and occupations forbidden to youth under the age of 18. Review the various restrictions to ensure that your county complies. Remember that even where the rules do not apply to volunteers, allowing a minor to engage in an activity regulated or considered hazardous can increase potential liability in the event of an injury.

In 2023, the U.S. Department of Labor concluded 955 investigations that found child labor violations, a 14% increase from 2022. They found nearly 5,800 children employed in violation of the law, an 88% increase since 2019, and assessed more than $8 million in penalties, an 83% increase from the previous year.

REPRESENTATIVE HAZARDOUS DUTY RESTRICTIONS ON YOUTH AGED 16-18

Generally, hazardous occupations involve using or being exposed to various hazardous tools, power-driven equipment, and dangerous conditions such as heat, pressure, fire, chemical hazards, explosive substances, etc. Below are some examples:

REPRESENTATIVE HAZARDOUS DUTY RESTRICTIONS ON YOUTH AGED 14-16 AND YOUNGER

This would include all restricted activities for the older age group, plus the following:

These provisions may be viewed on the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (e-CFR) website. Child labor regulations are covered in Title 29, Subtitle B, Chapter V, Subchapter A, Part 570 -Child Labor Regulations, Orders and Statements of Interpretation. 

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR COUNTIES

The FLSA's restriction on the use of child labor is a crucial component of the legislation, which is aimed at protecting the rights and well-being of children in the workforce. CTSI recommends an annual review of county youth employee occupational assignments to address any needed changes. For more information, contact CTSI at (303) 861-0507.