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Risk Management

The Profession

The Greenbrier Cos. Inc.'s Donna Tyner says a key part of risk management's appeal is that it's always brand new.
By: | October 1, 2014 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

My first official job right out of college was as a management trainee for the former First Interstate Bank in Portland, Ore.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

Like a lot of risk professionals, I started in the world of insurance. I first worked as a claims adjuster for Allstate Insurance Co. and then looking for a different challenge, I went to work for the State of Oregon as a compliance officer. Eventually I ended up working for the state’s risk management division. I provided risk management consulting services to all state agencies such as the Oregon Health Sciences University, police and the department of transportation.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?

I have been in risk management for many years now, and I like how it’s grown to be a professional business with a code of conduct and educational standards, and that it encourages people to get an ARM or CPCU designation. I like that we’re encouraging youth to pursue risk management careers, and think highly of all the mentoring we provide each other. I’m proud to be part of such a professional industry.

I like that we’re encouraging youth to pursue risk management careers, and think highly of all the mentoring we provide each other.

R&I: What changes have you needed to deal with in shifting from the public to the private sector?

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At the Port of Portland [Ore.], nearly everything you do is transparent. You’re free to share all sorts of information. At a publicly traded company, not everything can be shared. The only thing that’s truly public is the annual report.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

The accessibility of information is the biggest change. I think I got my work computer in 1991. There was no Internet at the time. Information was not at your fingertips. Back in the day, I’d have to create things from scratch. Today, things are different. You can find templates and samples online. I used these resources when I was learning about business continuity planning.

Donna Tyner Corporate Risk Manager The Greenbriar Cos

Donna Tyner
Corporate Risk Manager
The Greenbrier Cos.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

Technological risk is concerning. We’ve all heard stories about what happened with TJ Maxx and Target. And now, people are talking about what an unscrupulous person could do with drones in terms of obtaining proprietary information.

R&I: Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?

I would say no. I want to know if my broker is receiving contingent commissions, so I can factor that in to the advice they’re giving me. I can also look for patterns over time.

Years ago, I brought my children to work during “Bring Your Child To Work Day” so they think that all I do all day is sit in front of a computer, attend meetings and talk on the phone.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

Andrea Marzette the former risk manager for the Port of Portland. She retired this past March. She was my boss for 13 years. She showed me what it means to lead and that being a great manager means making sure your employee is successful.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

My role as a parent. I am proud of my two sons. One is a senior and the other is a sophomore in college. They are just great young men and they’re gifted in many ways. Fortunately, I’ve had lots of great support from my family, and my husband of 30 years.

R&I: Were you a stay-at-home mom?

Pretty much, yes, until my youngest was in preschool. I was fortunate to be able to work two days a week in a job-share arrangement at the risk management division with Robert Nies. You can only do this sort of thing if both of you have a solid work ethic.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

I happen to love Malcolm Gladwell. My favorite book of his is “The Tipping Point.” It investigates the factors that go into making incremental change. He has written five books and I’ve read them all.

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R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

I love E-San Thai food in Portland.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

Among my favorites are the Mayan ruins in Honduras, Guatemala’s ruins of the sun and moon, the Coliseum in Rome, the Vatican for its artwork, and Frederick Douglass’ house in Washington, D.C.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

I think when I went body surfing in Limon, Costa Rica. I was in college at the time. I didn’t check to see if there was undertow or look for any other risks.

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

Roy Pittman. He has a wrestling club at Peninsula Park Community Center in North Portland and has coached thousands of young men and women over the years. Many of his students have won state, regional and national titles.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

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What I’ve always loved about risk management is that it’s so stimulating. Something always comes up that is brand-new.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

Years ago, I brought my children to work during “Bring Your Child To Work Day” so they think that all I do all day is sit in front of a computer, attend meetings and talk on the phone. Some of my friends think I just buy insurance and prevent employees from getting injured. It’s hard to describe what we do in simple terms. I take the time, however, to explain our role in managing risk.

Janet Aschkenasy is a freelance financial writer based in New York. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Focus: Workers' Comp

Do You Have Employees or Gig Workers?

The number of gig economy workers is growing in the U.S. But their classification as contractors leaves many without workers’ comp, unemployment protection or other benefits.
By: and | July 30, 2018 • 5 min read

A growing number of Americans earn their living in the gig economy without employer-provided benefits and protections such as workers’ compensation.

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With the proliferation of on-demand services powered by digital platforms, questions surrounding who does and does not actually work in the gig economy continue to vex stakeholders. Courts and legislators are being asked to decide what constitutes an employee and what constitutes an independent contractor, or gig worker.

The issues are how the worker is paid and who controls the work process, said Bobby Bollinger, a North Carolina attorney specializing in workers’ compensation law with a client roster in the trucking industry.

The common law test, he said, the same one the IRS uses, considers “whose tools and whose materials are used. Whether the employer is telling the worker how to do the job on a minute-to-minute basis. Whether the worker is paid by the hour or by the job. Whether he’s free to work for someone else.”

Legal challenges have occurred, starting with lawsuits against transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft. Several court cases in recent years have come down on the side of allowing such companies to continue classifying drivers as independent contractors.

Those decisions are significant for TNCs, because the gig model relies on the lower labor cost of independent contractors. Classification as an employee adds at least 30 percent to labor costs.

The issues lie with how a worker is paid and who controls the work process. — Bobby Bollinger, a North Carolina attorney

However, a March 2018 California Supreme Court ruling in a case involving delivery drivers for Dynamex went the other way. The Dynamex decision places heavy emphasis on whether the worker is performing a core function of the business.

Under the Dynamex court’s standard, an electrician called to fix a wiring problem at an Uber office would be considered a general contractor. But a driver providing rides to customers would be part of the company’s central mission and therefore an employee.

Despite the California ruling, a Philadelphia court a month later declined to follow suit, ruling that Uber’s limousine drivers are independent contractors, not employees. So a definitive answer remains elusive.

A Legislative Movement

Misclassification of workers as independent contractors introduces risks to both employers and workers, said Matt Zender, vice president, workers’ compensation product manager, AmTrust.

“My concern is for individuals who believe they’re covered under workers’ compensation, have an injury, try to file a claim and find they’re not covered.”

Misclassifying workers opens a “Pandora’s box” for employers, said Richard R. Meneghello, partner, Fisher Phillips.

Issues include tax liabilities, claims for minimum wage and overtime violations, workers’ comp benefits, civil labor law rights and wrongful termination suits.

The motive for companies seeking the contractor definition is clear: They don’t have to pay for benefits, said Meneghello. “But from a legal perspective, it’s not so easy to turn the workforce into contractors.”

“My concern is for individuals who believe they’re covered under workers’ compensation, have an injury, try to file a claim and find they’re not covered in the eyes of the state.” — Matt Zender, vice president, workers’ compensation product manager, AmTrust

It’s about to get easier, however. In 2016, Handy — which is being sued in five states for misclassification of workers — drafted a N.Y. bill to establish a program where gig-economy companies would pay 2.5 percent of workers’ income into individual health savings accounts, yet would classify them as independent contractors.

Unions and worker advocacy groups argue the program would rob workers of rights and protections. So Handy moved on to eight other states where it would be more likely to win.

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So far, the Handy bills have passed one house of the legislature in Georgia and Colorado; passed both houses in Iowa and Tennessee; and been signed into law in Kentucky, Utah and Indiana. A similar bill was also introduced in Alabama.

The bills’ language says all workers who find jobs through a website or mobile app are independent contractors, as long as the company running the digital platform does not control schedules, prohibit them from working elsewhere and meets other criteria. Two bills exclude transportation network companies such as Uber.

These laws could have far-reaching consequences. Traditional service companies will struggle to compete with start-ups paying minimal labor costs.

Opponents warn that the Handy bills are so broad that a service company need only launch an app for customers to contract services, and they’d be free to re-classify their employees as independent contractors — leaving workers without social security, health insurance or the protections of unemployment insurance or workers’ comp.

That could destabilize social safety nets as well as shrink available workers’ comp premiums.

A New Classification

Independent contractors need to buy their own insurance, including workers’ compensation. But many don’t, said Hart Brown, executive vice president, COO, Firestorm. They may not realize that in the case of an accident, their personal car and health insurance won’t engage, Brown said.

Matt Zender, vice president, workers’ compensation product manager, AmTrust

Workers’ compensation for gig workers can be hard to find. Some state-sponsored funds provide self-employed contractors’ coverage.  Policies can be expensive though in some high-risk occupations, such as roofing, said Bollinger.

The gig system, where a worker does several different jobs for several different companies, breaks down without portable benefits, said Brown. Portable benefits would follow workers from one workplace engagement to another.

What a portable benefits program would look like is unclear, he said, but some combination of employers, independent contractors and intermediaries (such as a digital platform business or staffing agency) would contribute to the program based on a percentage of each transaction.

There is movement toward portable benefits legislation. The Aspen Institute proposed portable benefits where companies contribute to workers’ benefits based on how much an employee works for them. Uber and SEI together proposed a portable benefits bill to the Washington State Legislature.

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Senator Mark Warner (D. VA) introduced the Portable Benefits for Independent Workers Pilot Program Act for the study of portable benefits, and Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (D. WA) introduced a House companion bill.

Meneghello is skeptical of portable benefits as a long-term solution. “They’re a good first step,” he said, “but they paper over the problem. We need a new category of workers.”

A portable benefits model would open opportunities for the growing Insurtech market. Brad Smith, CEO, Intuit, estimates the gig economy to be about 34 percent of the workforce in 2018, growing to 43 percent by 2020.

The insurance industry reinvented itself from a risk transfer mechanism to a risk management mechanism, Brown said, and now it’s reinventing itself again as risk educator to a new hybrid market. &

Susannah Levine writes about health care, education and technology. She can be reached at [email protected] Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]