2021 DMEC Virtual Annual Conference


Over a year later, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact workplaces in various ways. Employee well-being, workforce mental health, and the overall employee experience is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. As such, we will be focusing the 2021 DMEC Virtual Annual Conference around the theme of “Building a Stronger Workforce”.

Over the course of five days in August, our expert speakers will guide you through navigating the new legal landscape, providing mental health support to your workforce, returning employees to the workplace while reimagining the employee experience, and considerations for operating at the next-level in the post-pandemic future.

We will be utilizing a combination of live video platforms to create dynamic interaction with speakers, virtual networking for attendees, and opportunities to chat with and learn more about various vendor solutions in the marketplace. Conference attendees may earn up to 20 continuing education credit hours for a variety of designations. CLMS designees may earn up to 19 CEUs.

Register Today

We are offering a single registration option that allows access to all live events and networking as well as on-demand access to the session recordings post-event. Reserve your spot today!

DMEC members receive discounted pricing for the event. Not sure if your organization is a member? Follow these steps to add your company affiliation and verify your DMEC membership status.

Build a Stronger Workforce

Below is the schedule for the 2021 DMEC Virtual Annual Conference.

Tuesday, Aug. 3 | 11:00 am-5:00 pm ET

Workforce Well-being

11:00-11:15 am – Welcome & Opening Remarks

Kevin Curry, Board Chairman, DMEC
Terri L. Rhodes, Chief Executive Officer, DMEC

11:15 am-12:15 pm – Recent FMLA/ADA Trials and Court Cases: Employer Wins & Losses

Hundreds of court decisions interpreting employer obligations under the ADA and the FMLA are decided each year. This interactive session will reveal lessons learned from recent lawsuits and the “do’s” and “don’ts” with regard to FMLA/ADA compliance challenges. You will have the opportunity to test your knowledge and participate in interactive polling to predict the jury outcomes. By the end of the session, you will learn how to improve your own policies, practices, and processes to adequately navigate FMLA requests and ADA accommodation issues and avoid liability.

Megan Holstein, JD, SVP of Absence and Claims Product, FINEOS
Marjory Robertson, JD, AVP & Senior Counsel, Sun Life Financial

12:15-12:25 pm – Break
12:25-1:25 pm – COVID-19’s Effects on Mental Health Absences

Employee mental health issues are becoming a greater focus among business leaders today. Many employers had already begun to realize the impact employee mental health could have on organizational productivity and performance. Production demands, financial worries, chronic pain, and strained relationships can all create added stress at the workplace. Then the COVID-19 global pandemic hit in 2020 creating fear, uncertainty, and unimaginable disruption across the country and around the world. While some businesses were able to pivot and introduce remote work arrangements, many front-line employees continued to go to work amid the added risk and exposure to the virus. During this session, we will review statistics and trends around COVID-19’s impact on mental health absences during 2020. We’ll also discuss lingering effects in the first half of 2021 and what we expect to see in the second half of the year.

Andrew Berg, Assistant Vice President Operations, Sedgwick

1:25-2:00 pm – Break
2:00-3:00 pm – Returning to the Workplace – While Avoiding Mental Health Challenges

The pandemic has shifted over 70 million American workers from the office to home. This dramatic change produced positive results — reduced commuting, more family time, lower risk of infection, and improved productivity. But for many, there were significant obstacles — ineffective technology, role conflicts, poor communication, isolation, and less collaboration. As a result, stress, burnout, and mental health problems became more common.

In this presentation, we’ll discuss the reasons that work from home was not always successful, and how some of the challenges may resurface as employees transition back to the office. We will outline specific steps that employers can take to improve the process of returning to the workplace; to improve the quality of work life for those who will still be working at home; and to avoid the problems that may lead to stress, burnout, and mental health issues in teleworkers.

David Berube, MD, VP and Medical Director, Group Disability, Lincoln Financial Group and Assistant Clinical Professor, Yale University School of Medicine
Glenn Pransky, MD, MOccH, Scientific Advisor, Lincoln Financial Group and Associate Professor, University of Massachusetts Medical School

3:00-3:10 pm – Break
3:10-4:10 pm – Back to the Future: Insights to Combat Chronic Conditions Caused by COVID-19

Despite decreasing cases and increased accessibility to vaccines, the impact of the pandemic will remain for the foreseeable future. For many organizations there could be a large group of employees returning to work or performing hybrid schedules that will have new diagnoses and disabilities stemming from the long-term effects of COVID-19. The latest research shows that not only has there been a rise in behavioral health conditions over the last two years, but that a new, potentially disabling condition is emerging. “Long COVID” involves people who have not fully recovered from COVID-19, weeks or months after first experiencing symptoms. While there’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution to address these issues, effective strategies used for decades to improve chronic conditions offer hope that many of these symptoms are treatable.

In this session, we’ll share common diagnoses and conditions seen as a result of the pandemic, the latest medical trends and theories, and strategies to help employers better identify and support employees who may be struggling.

Charles Glassman, MD, Associate Medical Director, Medical and RTW Services, The Standard
Dan Jolivet, PhD, Workplace Possibilities Practice Consultant, The Standard

4:10-5:00 pm – Virtual Opening Welcome Reception

Kick start your conference experience with a chance to connect virtually with old friends and fellow attendees at the opening welcome reception.

Thursday, Aug. 5 | 11:00 am-4:30 pm ET

Workforce Well-being

11:00-11:15 am – Opening Announcements

Kristin Jones, CLMS, PHR, SHRM-CP, Senior Education Manager, DMEC

11:15 am-12:15 pm – Beyond EAPs – Mental Health Solutions from A to Z

In 2020, employers saw a significant increase in the demand for mental health services as workers faced unprecedented challenges. After a year of pandemic stressors, there is a looming crisis impacting the mental health and resilience of everyone. Employers are searching for innovative ways to provide support to their employees. As we move towards reopening and return to work for many, addressing the worsening mental health crisis will be critical.

In this session, we will explore key findings from a recent survey showing how U.S. employers are reacting to complexities around the rising mental health challenges in the workplace. Discover how employers can support employees through all stages of mental health and learn about the latest virtual programs and resources companies are using to support their employees and drive engagement and adoption.

Swapnil Prabha, VP Services, Unum
Michelle Jackson, VP Sales Enablement, Unum

12:15-12:25 pm – Break
12:25-1:25 pm – Supporting Multi-generational, Post-pandemic Mental Health Needs at Work

A multi-generational approach to the impact of mental health on work recognizes and addresses distinctive needs and expectations of employees — from Baby Boomers to Gen Z. In this session, we will explore the benefits of offering multi-generational services that focus on positive mental health, resiliency, and accommodation for all employees. We will also delve into the utilization of technology to assess and promote mental well-being and discuss stay-at-work programs that minimize lost time.

Mona Fitzer, LPCC, Regional Director HPAC, Prudential Group Insurance
Amy Gonzalez, MS, CRC, Vocational Rehabilitation, Special Expert Resource, Prudential Group Insurance
Ken Hallden, LTD, Vice President, Disability Claims, Prudential Group Insurance
Elana Mendelssohn-Gara, PsyD, Vice President & Medical Director, Prudential Group Insurance

Rachel Wesley, Med, CRC, LPC, CEAS, Director Clinical & Vocational Services, Prudential Group Insurance

1:25-2:00 pm – Break
2:00-3:00 pm – Crisis Fatigue: Maintaining the Mental Health of Caregivers

Nearly eighteen months after America shifted into the first COVID-19 lockdown, employers continue to address and mitigate the effects on their workforce. While a cautious return to the workplace is ongoing, so too are the lessons learned from months of isolation, loss, and grief. Particularly apparent is the toll the pandemic has taken on employees burdened with added caregiver duties and potential effects on their children and families.

Does returning to the workplace mean a return to all things normal or should employers expect that some employees will need ongoing support? In this session, we will provide insights into what we have learned about the human condition over these many months and share strategies for effective stress management and thoughtful intervention as we continue to work our way out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Christine M. Crawford, MD, MPH, Associate Medical Officer, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
Adam Seidner, MD, Chief Medical Officer, The Hartford
Adele Spallone, VP, Clinical Operations, The Hartford

3:00-3:30 pm – Virtual Exhibit Hall Visits

The 2021 DMEC Virtual Annual Conference features sponsors and exhibitors with a wide range of solutions for your organization. Visit conference sponsor and exhibitor profiles for an opportunity to browse available products, services, and resources, chat with their representatives, and discuss your specific needs.

3:30-4:30 pm – Ask the Experts: Workplace Mental Health

It’s been nearly a year and half since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, and over that time it has become painstakingly clear that the mental health of employees and employers alike is more important than ever. During our always popular “Ask the Experts” session, you can submit your most challenging questions regarding your organization’s mental health programs. Our panel of distinguished absence and leave management experts will provide unfiltered answers during this interactive discussion. Come prepared with your toughest questions and leave with a roadmap for better supporting your employees and their mental health. Best of all, there will be no consulting fees incurred!

Bryon Bass, CLMS, SVP, Workforce Absence, Sedgwick
Adele Spallone, VP, Clinical Operations, The Hartford
Katharine C. Weber, JD, Principal, Jackson Lewis PC

Kristin Jones, CLMS, PHR, SHRM-CP, Senior Education Manager, DMEC

Wednesday, Aug. 11 | 11:00 am-4:40 pm ET

Employee Experience
11:00-11:30 am – Coffee & Conversation

What better way to energize a day than with a perfectly brewed cup of coffee? Café Demitasse founder, Bobby Roshan, along with the café’s pug mascot, named Minka, will highlight the process of seed-to-cup brewing before demonstrating how to brew the perfect cup of coffee using a French press. Attendees will be given an opportunity to chat and discuss what they’ve learned following the demonstration.

Minka, Mascot, Café Demitasse
Bobby Roshan, Founder, Café Demitasse

11:30-11:40 am – Break

11:40-11:55 am – Opening Announcements

Kristin Jones, CLMS, PHR, SHRM-CP, Senior Education Manager, DMEC

11:55 am-12:55 pm – Redesigning Your Workplace to Create a Caring Culture

Everyone has been affected by the pandemic — either directly or through friends and family. These experiences have pushed employees to change their perceptions about what really matters. They are placing more value on protection, safety, and preparedness, and making their own well-being a priority.

To respond to these changed perceptions, employers need to re-imagine the workplace experience — from where and how to work to how to support their employees and make them feel secure. As employers respond and redesign their own programs, it’s important to understand that one program or solution may not fit all employees’ needs. In this session, we’ll share insights into how other organizations have flexed their programs and best practices that they have learned in creating a caring culture that supports employees both at their physical workplace and while working remotely.

Kristine Karnath, US Director of Benefits, Moog Inc
Missy Plohr-Memming, Senior Vice President, National Account Sales, Group Benefits, MetLife

12:55-1:20 pm – Break
1:20-2:20 pm – Building Better Futures, Together

Everyday financial, social, and environmental stresses can take a toll on your employees’ health — keeping them from achieving their full potential in life and at work. A recent study by New York Life Insurance Co. found that many Americans did not feel financially prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, Millennials are experiencing the financial “crunch” in a different way than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. Many Millennials came into financial independence during, or closely following the 2008 economic recession, impacting their financial foundation. Now, they are navigating student loan payments and record levels of medical debt, while trying to contemplate long-term financial needs like buying a house or saving for a child’s education expenses — all while wages have remained generally stagnant.

For many employees, the question may be how to address employee needs “right now” without failing to think about “down the road.” In this session, we will dive into actionable solutions you can take to provide peace of mind and financial protection for a better future.

Meg Shea, VP Strategy, New York Life Group Benefit Solutions

2:20-2:30 pm – Break
2:30-3:30 pm – Examining the Employee Leave of Absence Experience in Today’s Digital Age

The term “user experience” is a buzzword in today’s digital age, but what does it really mean? Are companies truly addressing the user experience or is it simply a catchy term they like to throw around? What can employers do to improve their own users’ experience with a self-service leave portal?

Over the past year, Majesco has conducted hundreds of interviews with users, companies, and designers to better understand the expected experience when using a self-service portal. In this session, we’ll share our findings from this research, examine how leading companies have addressed the user experience, and discuss the impact elevating the leave of absence experience can have on the workforce.

Angie Brown, CPDM, Absence Practice Leader, Majesco
Gina Rovello, Business Analyst, ESIS

3:30-3:40 pm – Break
3:40-4:40 pm – How an Exceptional Employee Experience Can Improve Your Leave Programs

Taking a leave of absence can be a stressful and complicated time for employees. Many employers are focusing on how to enhance that employee experience to help employees navigate this challenging time in their lives, improve employee (and manager) satisfaction, and increase employee retention. During this session, we will discuss the components of an exceptional employee leave experience and how to develop a process to best support their leave experience. Learn how to evaluate and implement technology solutions to effectively measure the quality of your employees’ leave experiences.

Gretchen Hockman, Manager, Leave of Absence, Select Medical
Yvonne May, VP, Human Resources, Alorica
Kim Thomsen, RN, LOA & ADA Supervisor, Denver Health Medical Center

Seth Turner, Chief Strategy Officer, AbsenceSoft

Wednesday, Aug. 18 | 11:00 am-4:55 pm ET

Data & Technology

11:00-11:15 am – Opening Announcements

Kristin Jones, CLMS, PHR, SHRM-CP, Senior Education Manager, DMEC

11:15 am-12:15 pm – The Analytics of Absence: What Is Your Data Really Telling You?

When you review your absence claims, your first priority should always be accessing your data. However, the next step is a bigger leap. Transforming your data into actionable results can enable your organization to do more than just tell a story — it can help shape your strategic actions for supporting your employees and managers.

In this session, we will share insight from case studies highlighting different ways to approach utilizing absence management data. We will discuss the importance of effective reporting, dive into the complexities of analytics, and explore the potential impact of data-driven leave management strategies.

Kara Coutu, Senior Lead, Consultative Analytics, Broadspire
Lindsay Lueken, Vice President – Disability & Leave Operations, Broadspire

12:15-12:25 pm – Break
12:25-1:25 pm – Data Analytics: Extracting Relevant Employer Insights from Standard Vendor Reports

Now more than ever, employers need to have the ability to understand what’s happening with their absence and disability programs — whether that is delivering timely reporting, recognizing trends, or making data-driven decisions on workforce management. To make confident decisions, it is essential for business leaders to have actionable data that is customized to their business, industry, and workforce. In this session, we will discuss how you can strengthen and customize your organization’s lost time data dashboards, which will allow you to easily spot patterns and trends and make informed decisions quickly.

Patty Borst, National Practice Leader, Total Absence Management, The Partners Group
Kristi Durr, Human Resources Operational Manager, St. Charles Health System
Case Escher, Managing Director Partner, Interas, The Partners Group

1:25-2:00 pm – Break
2:00-2:45 pm – Hot-Topic Roundtable Discussions

Join your peers for small-group discussions on hot topics in the industry. Share challenges, opportunities, and best practices from your organization.

2:45-3:45 pm – Leveraging Integrated Data to Optimize Your Absence Management Program

During this engaging session, we will provide you with a provocative look at the comprehensive cost of health within an organization, and why, if you’re not utilizing integrated data from across your company’s benefit programs, you’re not optimizing the mitigation of absence, risk, and ultimately expense within your employee population.

We will walk you through the stark differences between an analytics program within a siloed absence structure versus one that aggregates information across the organization — including benefit data, job factors, health risks, job performance, business characteristics, and community metrics — to illuminate otherwise undetectable issues within an employee population as well as unique opportunities for engaging those employees.

Andrew Yohe, Chief Operating Officer, WorkPartners
Linda Croushore, MEd, CRC, LPC, Sr Director of Disability Services, UPMC
Jennie Wheeler, MBA, Sr Director Integrated Analytics, WorkPartners

3:45-3:55 pm – Break
3:55-4:55 pm – Absence Management in the 21st Century: Using Data to Drive Workforce Management Strategy

With rising labor costs and expanding paid leave legislation across the country, employers are dealing with higher daily absence rates than ever before. Workforce management and productivity have become critical business issues. In this session, we will explore the current absence management landscape and discuss Trion’s 2021 Leaves of Absence survey data — which represents employer sponsored leave of absence plans for over three million U.S. workers across 15 different industries. We’ll also discuss how General Dynamics, a global aerospace and defense company, is using new technology that allows its absence data to become a leading indicator for its workforce management strategy.

Harry Norman, Business Development, Trion
Gregory B. Norton, National Practice Leader, Trion
Bob Restivo, Global Director of Benefits Strategy, General Dynamics
Paula Riepl, Senior Consultant / Account Executive, Trion

Wednesday, Aug. 25 | 11:00 am-5:00 pm ET

Leave & Accommodations
11:00 am-12:00 pm – Law & Order: DMEC Edition

This “mock trial” session will take into consideration 2020’s best FMLA, ADA, ERISA, and employment cases — allowing you to participate in a real-life jury trial experience. You will explore discovery, testimony, jury deliberation, verdict, and continued implementation of the outcomes for the employer. Arguments will be presented from the employee, employer, and claims administrator for a holistic viewpoint. In addition, attendees will have the opportunity to work through and complete the ADA interactive process as an employer, employee, and third-party administrator.

Ashlee Brennan, Esq, Senior Compliance Counsel, ReedGroup
Katarina Niparko, Esq, Compliance Counsel, ReedGroup
Carla O’Sullivan, Senior Compliance Manager, ReedGroup
Sheri Pullen, Senior Compliance Manager, ReedGroup

12:00-12:30 pm – Chocolate & Conversation

Join DMEC & Glenn Petriello, a Chocolate Sommelier, to increase your chocolate knowledge and participate in an interactive chocolate tasting*. You’ll walk away with new friends and a deeper appreciation of how craft chocolate is made.

Glenn Petriello, Chocolate Sommelier, Chocotastery

*A chocolate tasting kit will be provided in welcome boxes (guaranteed for first 200 registrants).

12:30-1:00 pm – Break
1:00-2:00 pm – It’s an ADA World: Are You Receiving Your “Fair Share” of Accommodation Requests?

It might seem odd, but only receiving a few ADA accommodation requests is not something for an employer to brag about. Rather, it could be a warning sign of trouble ahead. While the total number of charges filed with the EEOC has declined in recent years, ADA violations have steadily increased in number, percentage of charges filed, and damages paid by employers. In this session, we will share current benchmarking data on accommodation requests, such as the demographics of employees requesting accommodations; the typical incidence rate; the duration and types of accommodations being sought and granted; and different trends across industries. We will also discuss practical (and compliant!) ideas for identifying and handling ADA accommodation requests efficiently and fairly.

Marti Cardi, JD, Vice President, Product Compliance
Suzanne Wilson, MBA, Vice President, Reporting & Analytics

2:00-2:10 pm – Break
2:10-3:10 pm – Leave Equity: Why it Matters and How to Achieve It

The complex patchwork of federal, state, and local leave laws is not only challenging to keep up with, but it is also resulting in some unintended consequences for employers and employees alike. One of them is leave inequity — when employee location dictates disparities in coverage, benefits, and costs. In this session, we will discuss why, more than ever, this matters to employers today, and how it can be overcome by applying a consistent methodology to leave plans, policies, and processes.

Karen English, CPCU, ARM, Senior Vice President, Spring Consulting Group
Susan Uhl-Miller, Associate Vice President Talent Management, Northeastern University
Teri Weber, PMP, ACI, Senior Vice President, Spring Consulting Group

3:10-3:20 pm – Break
3:20-4:20 pm – Pandemic 2020: An Accommodation Story

Oschner Health, one of the largest healthcare systems in Louisiana, saw a huge surge in accommodation requests when the pandemic hit. Some employees needed schedule accommodations due to caregiver commitments, while others who were at greater risk for COVID-19 needed to be switched to other workstations or rotations. In this session, we will share the unique nature of accommodation requests received by Oschner Health throughout 2020 and discuss how they addressed requests and challenges through innovative strategies.

Carrie Bibens, Director, Clinical Vocational and Accommodation Services, Sun Life US
Nancy Folse, Manager, Leave and Disability Benefits, Oschner Health
Casey Hatten, Vocational Rehabilitation Consultant, Sun Life US
Arieuna Hawkins, Employee Leave Administrator, Ochsner Health

Kristin Esposito, Associate Director, Vocational and Accommodation Services, Sun Life US

4:20-4:30 pm – Break
4:30-5:00 pm – Closing Keynote: Fire Up So You Don’t Burnout: How to Prevent, Break Through, and Extinguish Burnout

Burnout is like a wildfire — spreading quickly and affecting everything in its path. Monster.com recently reported that burnout has increased by 30% in the last few months, and it’s not slowing down any time soon. With 79% of the workforce burned out and even more stressed out, it’s the perfect time to extinguish this epidemic. With juggling more things and in different ways, burnout and stress are at an all-time high — reducing performance, health, and morale. In this powerful presentation, Jessica gets you fired up by sharing how to prevent and extinguish burnout, pinpointing your contributing factors to feeling overwhelmed, and showing you how to handle stress to improve focus, performance, and team dynamics.

Jessica Rector, Burnout and Mind Wellness Expert

5:00 pm – Closing Remarks & Grand Prize Giveaway