In my workshops I hear many questions about insurance coverage. If you are a yoga studio or teacher you must get insurance coverage to cover you against liability for personal injury. This means that if someone is injured in a class, the student will sue both the yoga studio and the teacher on the theory that the teacher negligently instructed the student in the practice of yoga and that was the cause of the student’s injury. They will sue the studio on the theory that the studio negligently hired the teacher and is liable for the injury.
If you are not using a legal entity for your yoga business such as a corporation or a LLC, then your personal assets would be exposed to the amount of any settlement or judgment in favor of the injured student. If you are using a legal entity, then only the assets owned by the entity would be exposed to pay the settlement or the judgment.
Insurance coverage provides many benefits. First, the insurance company will retain a law firm that will handle your defense and pay its legal fees. Without insurance, you will need to find a law firm, handle your own defense and pay the legal fees. Second, if the insurance company settles the claim or if it is litigated to a judgment, the insurance company will pay that amount on your behalf. Your personal assets will not be exposed to pay the claim.
Carefully read and understand your insurance policy. Know the limitations and exclusions in your policy. Ask a lawyer or insurance expert if you do not understand your policy. Below are some key questions to ask.
1. Does the insurance cover your style of yoga? Make sure that it does. If you have changed the style of yoga that you teach since the date you obtained your policy, re-read your policy to make sure that you are still covered.
2. What are all of the exclusions from coverage? Some policies expressly exclude AcroYoga, acrobatics, running yoga, aerial yoga, boxing yoga and martial arts yoga. Make sure that your yoga practice is not excluded from coverage.
3. What if you are the owner of a yoga studio but you teach wellness modalities that are not covered? These may include body wrapping, gymnastics, massage, recommending or selling any vitamins, herbs, or nutritional or dietary supplements. In this case you should contact your insurance company and get an endorsement to cover your wellness activities.
4. Are you covered if you teach private lessons in your home? Does your insurance policy cover claims that may arise from defects in your home studio? What if someone slips and falls on your driveway?
5. How soon must you report a claim? Some policies provide that you are not covered if you report the claim after the policy expires. Others provide that you are covered
if the claim arose during the period the policy was in effect. As a best practice, you should report a claim or the possibility of a claim to the insurance company immediately.
If one of your students is injured and you receive a demand letter from a law firm representing the student, do not reply to the lawyer. This will only damage your case; there is nothing for you to gain by talking with the lawyer. You must immediately contact your insurance company. If you do not have insurance, then you must hire a lawyer to represent you. Do not try to do this yourself; you have no chance of winning.
Yoga Alliance has negotiated preferential rates with an insurance company for its members. Be sure and check its website for additional information.
Recent legislation concerning ethics in California will have a significant effect on yoga studios and wellness businesses in California starting on January 1, 2020.
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (the “Act”) prohibits discrimination, harassment and retaliation of employees. The Act requires that employers “take reasonable steps to prevent and correct wrongful (harassing, discriminatory, retaliatory) behavior in the workplace The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (the “DFEH”) is the state’s enforcement agency for the Act.
The new law, S.B.1343, requires that all employers that have five or more employees provide one hour of sexual harassment and abusive conduct prevention training to non-managerial employees and two hours of sexual harassment and abusive conduct prevention training to managerial employees once every two years.
This means that if you are a yoga studio or wellness business and you have five or more employees in California, then you have to provide mandatory training. If you only use independent contractors, then you do not have to comply with the new law. If your business is not located in California you do not have to comply with this law but you should check the employment laws of your state to make sure that it does not have similar requirements.
Existing law requires that the trainings must cover harassment based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation, to include practical examples of such harassment and to be provided by trainers or educators with knowledge and expertise in those areas.
The new law also requires the DFEH to provide both training courses on its website, which employers may use instead of hiring an outside trainer.
However, employers may develop their own training platforms, as long as they comply with the new law’s requirements. Many yoga studios and wellness businesses may want to create their own programs and base them upon the resources provided by Yoga Alliance.
Here are some of the main points under SB 1343:
1. Employers must provide sexual harassment prevention training to temporary or seasonal employees within 30 calendar days after the hire date or within 100 hours worked if the employee will work for less than six months.
2. The anti-sexual harassment training may be conducted with other employees, as a group, or individually, and broken up into shorter time segments, as long as the two-hour requirement for supervisory employees and one-hour requirement for non-supervisory employees is reached.
3. Employers who provide the required trainings after January 1, 2019, are not required to comply with the January 1, 2020, deadline.
4. The DFEH must develop, obtain, and make available on its website the training courses for supervisory and non-supervisory employees.
5. The DFEH must make informational posters and fact sheets regarding sexual harassment prevention available to employers and to members of the public in English and other languages on the department’s website.
6. Employers can use other resources as long as they comply with the new law.