Rules of Responsibility

It's Sunday afternoon. Your phone rings. A significant threat has been called into one of your facilities. How will your organization respond?

In today's world, this scenario is an all too real potential challenge for a company and its inside counsel. How do you protect your company from liability and safeguard its reputation? More importantly, how do you make certain your facility takes proper action to ensure the safety of employees, customers and the community?

As a company with facilities across the country, Kaplan Higher Education (KHE) uses what we call the "60 Minute Rule."

This rule ensures that our senior management team receives timely notification of critical matters affecting our business, no matter when or where they occur, so that the proper people and resources can be involved from the start.

Of course, no "rule" or policy is effective without proper implementation. The roles and responsibilities of all involved in a critical matter--from detection and reporting to triage and response--must be clearly communicated and regularly reinforced.

To achieve this at KHE, we distribute copies of the 60 Minute Rule annually to the senior officials at all of our facilities as well as during our onboarding process. We ask them and their designees to acknowledge in writing that they understand the rule. Then we task these leaders with the responsibility of informing their staffs about the rule, and we widely distribute wallet cards with contact information for reporting incidents. Any individual can properly report a critical matter any time and anywhere it happens.

Our 60 Minute Rule is broken down into two main categories: Red Alerts and Yellow Alerts.
Red Alerts have the potential to significantly risk or interrupt business operations and require immediate support. Red Alert items must be reported to a live person by telephone within 60 minutes of their occurrence. This contact person is a member of the legal and compliance department, ensuring that matters are addressed systematically and that any related legal issues are taken into consideration.

Red Alerts include events that may involve significant injury or harm to any person, such as a facility fire, medical emergency or accident. They also include legal matters requiring prompt attention, such as service of process or nonroutine visits by law enforcement or regulators.

Our Yellow Alerts also are matters of high importance, but not emergencies. We require our employees to report Yellow Alert matters within 24 hours to the appropriate person at our home office by e-mail (and follow-up communication is required to ensure receipt of the e-mail). The appropriate contact person varies by type of matter. For example, the contact people for our Yellow Alerts may be from legal, regulatory affairs, human resources, information technology or real estate.

Yellow Alerts include the service of routine legal papers (such as garnishments and record subpoenas) and correspondence or calls from attorneys. Other examples include employment matters and routine inquiries from local regulatory or government agencies.

Of course, no policy can contemplate or effectively communicate every possible scenario, so we continually remind everyone, "When in doubt, report it!"

Having geographically dispersed facilities does not mean that any location should be forced to act alone. A wide network of resources is in place to properly support each of our matters. Our 60 Minute Rule allows us to be responsive to important business matters no matter where they are and ensures that the right resources are available to protect our students, employees, communities and organization.

Janice Block

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