2023 DMEC FMLA/ADA Employer
Compliance Conference

Agenda

Absence and disability professionals are tasked with building compliant FMLA, ADA, and paid leave programs. Each day, complex questions arise that require thoughtful solutions to support employees and mitigate risk for the organization.

The 2023 DMEC FMLA/ADA Employer Compliance Conference, March 27-30, 2023, in Orlando, FL, will answer these questions — giving you the opportunity to untangle the complexities of compliance.

Agenda Highlights
28 Education Sessions & Panel Discussions

This year’s sessions include updates from the Department of Labor, paid family and medical leave considerations and compliance, hybrid workplace and mental health accommodation scenarios, lessons learned from FMLA and ADA cases, and much more!

20+ Hours of Networking & Roundtable Discussions

We know that some of the best solutions come during conversations that happen around the breakfast or lunch table, in the Solutions Marketplace, and during roundtable discussions. We’re offering extended networking time during the conference to give you the opportunity to engage and connect with your peers.

Monday, March 27

8:00-9:00 am – First-Time Attendee Orientation

First-time attendees can join us for a chance to network with other attendees and get an overview of what to expect at this year’s conference.

9:15-9:30 am – Welcome & Opening Remarks

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

9:30-10:30 am – Leave Trends: Potential Expansion at Every Level

The leave landscape is changing as proposed and new leave laws continue to multiple and new trends emerge. In this session, we will review expansion of covered leave reasons including bereavement, pregnancy loss, and safe leave; explore the latest in proposed new paid family and medical leave programs, and predictions of which states are most likely to see the passage of a new program; and delve into new and emerging duration trends including extensions of time specific to pregnancy-related conditions, and how each state differs in their interpretation. We will also present the latest trends and employer considerations in light of these developments.

Presenters:
Abigail O’Connell, JD, Senior Counsel, Sun Life
Lori Welty, JD, Senior Product Compliance Attorney, FINEOS

10:30-11:00 am – Coffee & Conversation Break
11:00 am-12:00 pm – Help! Which State PFML Is My Employee Covered Under?

As more states pass paid family and medical leave laws and the prevalence of remote work increases, it is progressively becoming more complex for employers to determine which state laws cover their employees. Is eligibility based on where an employee lives or where the company is located? What happens if the employee works in two states or if the company moves to all remote work?

Employees are paying attention to the paid family and medical leave benefits they may be entitled to receive, and there can be penalties for the employer if they are not in compliance with providing their employees the right coverage. In this session, we will provide practical guidance and tips for employers that may be struggling with navigating this complicated topic.

Presenters:
Breanna Scott, CLMS, POPMA, SA, CSPO, CVP, Paid Statutory Leave, Group Benefit Solutions, New York Life Group Benefit Solutions
Jeremiah Shropshire, Benefits Leave Manager, JELD-WEN, Inc
Allison Wheeler, Assistant General Counsel, New York Life Group Benefit Solutions

12:00-1:30 pm – Lunch on Your Own
1:30-2:30 pm – Paid Family Leave: The Heavyweight Bout!

Get ready to jump into the ring during this interactive presentation on the toughest compliance challenges around paid family leave (PFL). In this session, we will present perplexing paid family leave scenarios, and you’ll get to decide if the employer handled the situation correctly. Using real-life examples from employers and cases in the news, we’ll challenge you to show off your fancy footwork and make the right calls. You’ll discover what situations have tripped up other employers in the past and learn how to come through PFL cases unscathed!

Presenters:
Katarina Niparko, Esq, CLMS, Compliance Counsel, ReedGroup
Carla O’Sullivan, Sr Compliance Manager, ReedGroup

2:30-3:00 pm – Coffee & Conversation Break
3:00-4:00 pm – Statutory Paid Leave Benefit Coordination

As more states pass and implement paid family and medical leave laws, employers — especially multi-state employers — need to consider whether their insurance plans and company paid leave benefits may be affected. Often, there are multiple points of divergence in how paid leave programs are designed which creates a complex challenge for employers, their disability insurance carriers, and their third-party leave administrators as they coordinate state paid leave programs and employer benefits.

In this session, we’ll explore private versus public plans, including pros and cons, funding, and employer requirements. We’ll also discuss how state paid leave programs are designed so that employers can effectively engage with their employees, HR partners, and carriers/third-party administrators to structure their disability and leave policies and other benefits to ensure all comply with current and future paid statutory leaves and are aligned with company goals.

Presenters:
Jennifer Pepin, JD, MEd, CLMS, Product Strategy Lead, Aflac
Kristyn Skibisk, Underwriting Director, Aflac
Martha-Ellen Sutton, Director Claims Operations, Aflac

4:00-5:00 pm – Layers of Leave

In this session, we will explore the complexities of employee leave programs, walk through various leave scenarios, and help attendees understand how each layer of leave affects an overall leave picture, including how leaves can be affected by timing, reasons, and the coordination of company, state, and federal leaves; the value each leave and disability program offers both individually and in combination with others; best practices for key roles involved in the leave experience; and finally, the ways in which benefit programs can support a company’s overall strategy to attract and retain top talent.

Presenter:
Joanne Rosa, VP, National Accounts & Absence Consultant Practice, Lincoln Financial Group

5:00-7:00 pm – Opening Welcome Reception

Kick off your 2023 DMEC Compliance Conference experience with a chance to connect with old friends and fellow attendees at the opening welcome reception. Everyone is invited to join the festivities for a special evening of great food and fun.

Tuesday, March 28

7:00-8:00 am – Breakfast with Exhibitors
8:00-8:30 am – Update From the DOL: A Peek Behind the Curtain

Join the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) FMLA Division Director Helen M. Applewhaite on the Family and Medical Leave Act’s 30th anniversary for a look at what’s in the works behind the scenes at the department. You’ll get an overview of anniversary activities and what might be on the horizon as we examine the goals and initiatives the department is taking on, and how they might impact employers.

Presenter:
Helen M. Applewhaite, Director, FMLA Division, U.S. Department of Labor

8:30-9:15 am – Keynote: Fearlessly Authentic – The Story of Self

When we show up as our authentic selves in all spaces, we can spark change through emotional intelligence, self-empowerment, and compassion. In this inspiring talk, Director of Social Impact North America for adidas and founder of IAMHERETO Jamira Burley will empower you to be the expert of your own experiences. She will provide a roadmap to show you how to use your courageous vulnerability to influence people.

Presenter:
Jamira Burley, Director of Social Impact, North America, Adidas & Founder of IAMHERETO

9:15-10:00 am – Coffee & Conversation Break with Exhibitors
10:00-11:00 am – The New Face of the Workplace – Gig Workers, Remote Workers, and More

The nature of the employment relationship and how employees work has changed dramatically in the last few years. This has created new intricacies and issues for leave professionals as they work to compliantly manage their absence management programs. In this session, we will explore the changing world of work, discuss how federal law impacts leave administration for these workers, and identify the significant challenges created by state leave laws.

Presenters:
Sheri Giger, MS, JD, Principal, Jackson Lewis PC
David Mohl, JD, Principal, Jackson Lewis PC

11:00 am-12:00 pm – FMLA & ADA: Year in Review

Whether it is return to the office, hybrid work arrangements, or a continuation of work from home, change and challenge continues to be the “name of the game” for absence and disability management professionals. In this session, we’ll discuss recent decisions from courts interpreting the ADA and the FMLA, as well as legislative and agency developments that impact our workplaces. We’ll explore how these developments may offer new ideas to address some of the most difficult leave and accommodation situations in 2023 and beyond.

Presenters:
Jaclyn L. Kugell, Esq, Partner, Morgan, Brown and Joy, LLP
Andrea Evans Zoia, Esq, Partner, Morgan, Brown and Joy, LLP

12:00-1:30 pm – Lunch with Exhibitors
1:30-2:30 pm – Concurrent Sessions

Social Determinants of Health: ADA Interactive Process Impacts and Improvements
Despite legal requirements intended to promote employment and health equity, challenges still exist for many individuals with disabilities due to various life factors that impact their well-being. According to the CDC, these factors — or social determinants of health (SDOH) — are conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health and quality of life risks and outcomes. Understanding how these factors impact employer obligations under the ADA will remain important for all organizations.

In this session, we will discuss the impacts of SDOH in the workplace with particular focus on employees seeking or requiring reasonable workplace accommodations. We’ll also share strategies employers can take to address SDOH-related challenges to improve the interactive process.

Presenters:
Barb Aloni, Director, Workplace Possibilities, The Standard
Annie Eynard, Manager, Workplace Possibilities, The Standard

Zillow’s Journey to Achieve a Successful and Compliant Leave of Absence Program
Millions of people rely on Zillow to help them in their home journey. With more than 6,000 employees spanning the U.S., Zillow’s benefits and leave team has a mission to design benefit programs that create a sense of belonging and to care for their community through every chapter of life’s journey. This includes supporting employees with leaves, disabilities, and accommodations.

When Zillow’s previous vendor struggled to meet expectations, there was a direct impact on the ability to maintain compliance, an acceptable employee experience, and ultimately, leave program success. In this session, we’ll share steps that were taken to determine when to make a vendor change and how to achieve a successful, compliant, and employee-focused leave program. We’ll share key learnings from implementation of the new absence model and Zillow’s present-day program.

Presenters:
Linda Croushore, Assistant Vice President, Absence, Workpartners
Holly Moyer, First Vice President, Absence Management, Alliant Insurance Services
Dianne Wahlrab, Manager, Leave of Absence, Zillow Group

Workplace Accommodations for Mental Health During the Pandemic and Beyond
The pandemic created rapid changes in routine, the need to adapt quickly, social isolation, fear associated with returning to the workplace, the continued need for telework, and more. These changes have exacerbated symptoms for some employees with existing mental health conditions and triggered an increase in anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders such as opioid addiction. In this session, we’ll discuss accommodating employees with mental health conditions in the workplace using real-life situations. We’ll explore some of the most pressing issues that have been created by the pandemic and discuss ways to address these issues as well as provide relevant ADA rules and best practices.

Presenter:
Melanie A. Whetzel, Principal Consultant and Cognitive/Neurological Team Lead, Job Accommodation Network (JAN)

2:30-3:15 pm – Dessert Break with Exhibitors
3:15-4:15 pm – Roundtable Discussions

Join your peers and industry experts for small-group discussions on hot topics in the industry. Share challenges, opportunities, and best practices from your organization. Discussion topics will be released prior to the start of the conference.

4:15-4:30 pm – Break
4:30-5:30 pm – Concurrent Sessions

Communication Is Key to an Effective ADA Interactive Process
Most employers understand that they must engage in the interactive process, but there are consistent misses related to when and how they communicate with employees during the process. Communication impacts how long it takes to work through the interactive process, the employee experience throughout the process, and the overall efficacy of the implemented accommodations. Poor communications can frustrate HR, supervisors, and employees and lead to poor decisions that could impact compliance. In this session, we’ll discuss how to create effective, targeted communications to improve the success of your ADA processes.

Presenters:
Tammi Beason, Supervisor, Leave & HR Operations, Northside Hospital
Ryan Bruce, MEd, CRC, SPHR, Healthy Working Life Program Director, New York Life Group Benefits Solution
Allison Wheeler, Assistant General Counsel, New York Life Group Benefits Solution

Digital Accessibility: ADA Requirements and the Explosion of Lawsuits
Post-COVID companies have rapidly embraced digital platforms to communicate with customers, job applicants, and employees. These digital platforms include consumer websites, mobile apps, cloud-based software for human capital management, software employees use to perform essential job functions, and artificial intelligence (AI) tools used during the recruiting and application process. While the convenience and cost-effectiveness of these electronic platforms is apparent and even essential to the way a company does business, how disabled individuals can use these digital platforms poses vexing and frequently unanticipated legal issues under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and analogous state and local laws requiring companies to make their digital properties accessible and useable to disabled individuals.

In this session, we will address the current legal landscape of consumer website accessibility issues, the legal risks under the ADA for an employer’s use of AI as identified by the EEOC, and the unique problems that arise when exploring accommodations for the use of software the employer does not own or control.

Presenters:
Joseph L. Lynett, Esq, Principal, Jackson Lewis PC
Jennifer Rusie, Office Litigation Manager, Jackson Lewis PC

Supporting Caregivers in the Workplace
With so many different laws and benefits now covering maternity, parental, and caregiving leaves, employers are challenged to meet their obligations to protect pregnant, nursing, and working caregivers. In this session, we will explore various state paid and unpaid leave laws, pregnancy accommodation laws, nursing mother laws, and other legislation that may impact disability benefits or leave for mothers. We will also review applicable EEOC and DOL guidance, recent court cases and outcomes, and share practical guidance on strategies and policies that will assist you with regulatory compliance and employee retention.

Presenter:
Donna Fisher, MRC, Director – Disability, Absence Management, and ADA Solutions, MetLife
Tony Dulgerian, Esq, Senior Counsel, Legal Affairs, MetLife

5:30-6:30 pm – Happy Hour with Exhibitors

Come mingle and relax with attendees and exhibitors after a full day of sessions. Enjoy complimentary drinks and nibbles during happy hour.

Wednesday, March 29

7:00-8:00 am – Breakfast
8:00-8:15 am – DMEC Announcements & Awards
8:15-9:15 am – DEI’s Impact on Leave

Rightfully so, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have become increasingly important concepts to improve and support company culture, but how can they impact leave? In this session, we’ll examine what DEI means and how embracing the principles of DEI strengthens compliance and eases administration of your company’s leave and accommodation programs for all employees.

Presenters:
Bridget Caswell, JD, Director, National Technical Compliance—Absence Management, Sedgwick
Adam Morell, JD, Assistant Vice President, Product Compliance, Sedgwick

9:15-10:00 am – Coffee & Conversation Break with Exhibitors
10:00-11:00 am – Compliance Scorecard: How Do You Measure Up?

Good intentions — we all know where they can lead sometimes. And while you may have the best intentions to adhere to leave laws, staying compliant in today’s regulatory landscape grows more complex each year. In this session, we will help you re-examine your compliance “fitness”. We’ll provide you with a scorecard, and you’ll be able to grade your programs in key compliance areas and identify gaps. We’ll also share best practices for meeting compliance challenges.

Presenters:
Sharon Andrus, Director of Claims Strategy and Practices, The Hartford
David S. Mohl, JD, Principal, Jackson Lewis PC

11:00 am-12:00 pm – When Government Regulators Come Calling: How to Respond to and Survive Audits and Investigations

In February 2022, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced it would ramp up FMLA audits as well as wage and hour audits on employers. In this session, we will take a dive deep into understanding how to prepare for and manage government audits and investigations — with unique insights from a former DOL auditor. We will examine the different patchwork of rules across locations and jurisdictions as well as the residual effects of COVID-19 legislation. We’ll also discuss the current labor and employment landscape, the most pressing challenges for employers, and how to avoid future audits and investigations.

Presenter:
Katrice Miller, Director, HR Accessibility & Business Excellence Engagement, Microsoft

12:00-1:30 pm – Lunch with Exhibitors
1:30-2:30 pm – Concurrent Sessions

Limiting Lawsuits from Employment Decisions
Eligible employees are entitled to FMLA and other job-protected leaves regardless of job performance. That means that some (or perhaps many) of your workers who take leave may be on performance improvement plans or on the verge of termination. When they return to work, how do you continue to coach those employees or impose discipline (or even termination) without facing a discrimination, interference, or retaliation claim? In this interactive session, we will explore practical tips for managing your “difficult” employees including using company policies to your advantage, treating similar employees similarly, appropriately timing disciplinary/termination decisions, educating decision makers, and documenting communications and decisions.

Presenter:
Susan Woods, Counsel, FullscopeRMS

Serious Health Condition or Serious Vacation? The FMLA In a Virtual Workplace
Your remote employee is out for her serious health condition, or is she? When you call, you hear background noise inconsistent with her leave (festive music, cheering, etc.). Another remote worker on intermittent leave for a serious health condition frequently misses calls and deadlines but blames it on a sudden flare-up of his medical condition.

How do you handle these situations? Catching FMLA abuse and managing intermittent leaves is always challenging, but it is more difficult with virtual workforces. In this session, we will identify issues employers face when trying to track and monitor FMLA abuse, managing intermittent leave, and supporting the “honest belief” defense in a virtual work environment in light of regulations, case law, and DOL guidance.

Presenters:

Nell Walker, Vice President, Deputy General Counsel & Chief Compliance Officer, Matrix Absence Management
Lana L. Rupprecht, JD, Director, Product Compliance, Matrix Absence Management

Mental Health at Work: Employee Rights and Employer Responsibilities
Employees’ mental health is a key concern for organizations, and many employers struggle with their role, what is permissible, and how to create a mentally healthy workplace. Similarly, employees do not always feel comfortable discussing their mental health and may not be aware of tools and resources available to them. In this session, we will explore employees’ rights and discuss employer best practices for fostering an inclusive, equitable, and mental-health friendly workplace.

Presenters:
Kristin Tugman, PhD, MS, CRC, LPC, Vice President Health and Productivity Analytics and Consulting Practice, Prudential
Martha Wyman, LCPC, CRC, CDMS, Manager, Disability Claims, Prudential

2:30-3:15 pm – Dessert Break with Exhibitors
3:15-4:15 pm – Roundtable Discussions

Join your peers and industry experts for small-group discussions on hot topics in the industry. Share challenges, opportunities, and best practices from your organization. Discussion topics will be released prior to the start of the conference.

4:15-4:30 pm – Break
4:30-5:30 pm – Concurrent Sessions

Lessons Learned from the Top Ten FMLA Cases of the Past Ten Years
As employers tackle their compliance obligations under the Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA), they need to be aware not only of the provisions and regulations of the statute, but also the scope and impact of court decisions and jury verdicts involving actual disputes around FMLA rights between employers and employees. In this session, we will review the top ten cases over the last ten years that have had a lasting impact on employer obligations. We will review the facts, discuss relevant court rulings and jury findings, and provide common sense compliance advice relating to each case. We’ll entertain and educate as we demystify FMLA compliance.

Presenters:
Abigail O’Connell, Senior Counsel, Sun Life
Marjory Robertson, AVP & Senior Counsel, Sun Life

Tools & Techniques for Effective Absence Management
With federal and state regulations governing the Family and Medical Leave Act, paid family leave, and paid family and medical leave, absence management professionals frequently proceed cautiously because of litigation fears. And rightly so. In 2021, the DOL investigated 928 complaints involving the FMLA, including discrimination, termination, and refusal to grant leave. 43% of these cases — affecting 429 employees — were found to be valid violations, with the DOL granting over $1.4 million in back wages.

Given these statistics, employers tend to be generous around leave approvals. However, this generosity can lead to excessive absence, lost productivity, or employees receiving different treatment. Using recent court case examples, we will discuss tools and techniques, such as recertification and the honest suspicion rule, that are available to employers to assist with effective absence management.

Presenters:
Angie Brown, CPDM, Sales Director & Absence Practice Leader, Majesco
Lynne Sousa, JD, Senior Absence Management and Compliance Counsel, Majesco

Navigating Ancillary Paid Leave Options to Support Employee Well-being
While paid family and medical leave (PFML) remains in the state regulatory spotlight, much of the workforce is not covered by these laws or has leave needs outside of what is available. At the height of COVID-19, the American Journal of Emergency Medicine reported a 25%-33% increase in reported domestic violence cases. According to WHO, mental health issues rose 25% in 2020. These issues did not disappear even though pandemic impacts have lessened.

In this session, we will focus on ancillary types of paid leave that employers can offer as support tools for employees, as well as how to facilitate easier navigation for an employee assessing their options. We will discuss leave related to domestic violence, bereavement, mental health, and more that can bolster existing, more traditional offerings. We will drill down into compliance considerations and highlight specific employer programs to bring concepts to life and share results.

Presenter:
Karen English, CPCU, ARM, Senior Vice President, Spring Consulting Group

Thursday, March 30

7:00-8:00 am – Breakfast
8:00-9:00 am – Leveraging Technology to Optimize ADA Compliance and Efficiency

ADA obligations are confusing and burdensome — posing a significant risk to employers. Many employers fail to recognize situations where they need to engage in the interactive process to determine if they have an obligation to accommodate an employee, and many are handling ADA requests on the side and potentially failing to evaluate the ADA accurately. ADA programs that follow or integrate with other leave events are particularly complicated.

In this session, we will review ADA obligations and best practices, including the role state law plays in evaluating accommodation requests. We will also explore ways in which technology can assist an employer in appropriately identifying, evaluating, and assessing ADA accommodation requests, while also creating and maintaining compliant and appropriate recordkeeping processes.

Presenters:
Michelle C. Jackson, MSW, AVP, Unum Solutions, Unum
Ellen McCann, JD, AVP, Unum Solutions, Unum

9:00-10:00 am – The Dobbs Decision: What it Means for Employers

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization reversed 50 years of precedence, and questions are pouring in about what it means at the practical level. Now employers face a multitude of health benefits issues that are — or are not! — impacted by the decision. Is an abortion or the necessary time off protected by the FMLA, the ADA, or similar state laws? Can an employer provide benefits coverage, or deny such coverage, for the travel time associated with the procedure? What options does an employer have for providing or denying coverage under group health plans, flexible spending accounts, health reimbursement accounts, and other programs? And how do these issues under Dobbs compare to other women’s healthcare and benefits issues, such as coverage for other reproductive rights or cancer? In this session, we’ll share the issues employers must be aware of to understand the possible impact of the Dobbs opinion, and we will explore how employers can be thoughtful about their healthcare benefits packages overall, aware of the impact of decisions on their benefits plans, and how to avoid unintended consequences by being proactive.

Presenters:
Marti Cardi, Esq, Vice President, Product Compliance, Matrix Absence Management
Joy M. Napier-Joyce, Esq, Principal, Jackson Lewis PC

10:00-10:15 am – Coffee & Conversation Break
10:15-11:15 am – The Absence Connection: Where Behavioral Health Meets FMLA

Research shows that employers don’t feel comfortable navigating employees’ behavioral health challenges, however, the Department of Labor has published updated information to remind employers about the importance of including behavioral health conditions as protected leave under FMLA.

In this session, we will review the current landscape of behavioral health in the workplace and the key compliance considerations for these conditions under the FMLA. Presenters will also discuss the impact of behavioral health conditions on employee absence, productivity, and engagement, as well as provide practical tips and effective solutions for supporting employees with behavioral health conditions.

Presenters:
Lincoln Dirks, National Practice Leader- Absence Management, The Standard
Dan Jolivet, PhD, Workplace Possibilities Practice Consultant, The Standard

11:15 am-12:15 pm – Ask the Experts

Our closing “Ask the Experts” session allows conference attendees to submit their most challenging questions to our panel of distinguished FMLA/ADA legal experts. You provide the uncensored questions, and they provide the unfiltered answers. This interactive discussion between attendees and panelists allows audience members to have their “real-world” questions answered by the specialists. Come prepared with your toughest questions and the most perplexing challenges faced by your company. And best of all, there will be no billable hours or consulting fees incurred!

Panelists:
Ashlee Brennan, JD, Vice President, Product Compliance, AbsenceSoft
Ellen McCann, JD, AVP, Unum Solutions, Unum
Lori Welty, JD, Senior Product Compliance Attorney, FINEOS

Moderator:
Kristin Jones, CLMS, PHR, SHRM-CP, Director, Education Programs, DMEC

12:15-12:30 pm – Closing Remarks & Grand Prize Giveaway