2024 DMEC Annual Conference


Successfully managing compliant absence and disability programs not only requires a nuanced understanding of local, state, and federal requirements, but a strong focus on integration, employee experience, productivity, and cost management.

The 2024 DMEC Annual Conference, Aug. 5-8, 2024, in Nashville, TN, will offer a one-of-a-kind deep dive into solutions and best practices for the challenges that leave and disability professionals face each day.

Agenda Highlights

We kick off this year’s conference with our Preconference Workshop: ADA Compliance Mini Boot Camp, featuring Rachel Shaw. This workshop guarantees you’re equipped with the latest insights and strategies in ADA disability compliance. Providing you with invaluable tools and techniques to identify and address common pain points in your disability program, while also providing resources and knowledge to elevate your program to new heights.

Secure your spot by registering for this optional preconference workshop, available at an additional $299 for registered conference attendees. Act fast, as participation is limited to just 100 attendees. Don’t let this invaluable training opportunity pass you by—register today! Online registration is now open and closes on Thursday, July 25 or when workshop is sold out.


Join us for an enriching experience where industry experts will delve into crucial topics shaping the landscape of employee benefits and leave management. This year’s sessions will explore ADA/FMLA court cases, telework accommodations, AI’s role in analytics, the future of Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML), and much more!


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.

Sunday, Aug. 4

1:00-5:00 pm – Preconference Workshop: ADA Compliance: Mini Boot Camp (optional; additional registration fee)

DMEC is excited to partner with Shaw HR Consulting to offer an exclusive workshop, ADA Compliance: Mini Boot Camp, as a preconference offering in conjunction with the 2024 DMEC Annual Conference. Don’t miss out on your opportunity to attend this coveted training!

During this four-hour training session, Rachel will bring the best of her Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) disability compliance tools and strategies to share with DMEC attendees. This training will help you recognize and plug any holes and correct common pain points in your disability program before teaching you how to take that program to the next level.

At the end of this half-day session, you may leave with a tired brain, but you will also leave armed with tools, samples, templates, and knowledge that you can immediately apply to the new realities that have made this work more important than ever, but also harder to do well and efficiently.

Rachel Shaw, MBA, President, Shaw HR Consulting

Monday, Aug. 5

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

Attending the DMEC annual conference for the first time? Join us for a light breakfast and an overview of what to expect at this year’s conference.

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

Kevin Curry, Board Chair, DMEC
Bryon Bass, Chief Executive Officer, DMEC

9:30-10:30 am – Opening Keynote Session: Little Moments

Life can change in a moment, a reality that Amberley Snyder knows well. An award-winning rodeo rider and motivational speaker, Snyder will share how she turned a personal tragedy into a triumph. Her story emphasizes the value of celebrating all of the small (and the big) wins in life, and the importance of acknowledging what she calls life’s little moments. Snyder, whose life story inspired the Netflix movie “Walk. Ride. Rodeo,” has become a social media influencer, and she is in a unique position to help employers ensure an empathetic approach to supporting employees with disabilities. By metaphorically “walking a mile” in their boots, attendees will gain deeper insight into their employee’s challenges and needs.

Amberley Snyder

10:30-11:00 am – Coffee & Conversation Break
11:00 am-12:00 pm – The Cost of Compliance: ADA/FMLA Court Cases and Jury Verdicts

Hundreds of court decisions interpreting employer obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are decided each year, including frequent large jury verdicts and settlements of ADA and FMLA claims. This session will share important lessons learned from recent lawsuits and the do’s and don’ts of ADA/FMLA compliance challenges. You’ll have the chance to participate via interactive polling to predict the jury outcomes and learn what makes courts and juries sympathetic to employers and what does not. You’ll also learn tips to avoid liability and improve your policies, practices, and processes for handling FMLA requests and ADA accommodation issues.

Abigail O’Connell, JD, Senior Counsel, Sun Life
Marjory Robertson, JD, AVP, and Senior Counsel, Sun Life

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

1A. Evaluating Telework as a Reasonable Accommodation
For employers, remote work as an accommodation due to a medical condition continues to be one that is regularly requested. What do employers do when employees provide a medical note indicating they need to work from home? And how do employers manage employee requests to work from home when they are asking for a short-term versus long-term accommodation? This session will teach you how to gather the data to evaluate reasonableness and will review key points to customize your disability program. You’ll leave this session with template letters and forms to ensure you not only do good and compliant work, but have a process to document it as well.

Alison Dobner, Managing Consultant, Disability Compliance & Human Resources, Shaw HR Consulting

1B. Absence and Well-Being: Challenges and Opportunities
Before the pandemic, a mental health crisis was brewing in the U.S., with one in five individuals exhibiting diagnosable conditions. Overall leave of absence requests have spiked nearly 150% over the past five years, while leaves related to mental health are up an extraordinary 250% during that same period. Now more than ever, employees need the right level of support at the right time and in the right way. In this session, presenters will analyze recent absence trends related to behavioral health and use real-life scenarios to discuss the challenges related to administering these leaves, providing practical strategies and innovative care solutions that can address a broad range of mental health, physical health, and well-being issues. These tools serve as preventive resources to reduce overall leave for employers, as well as a care resource for employees on leave to accelerate recovery and help them get back to work more quickly.

Beth Brown, MSW, INHC, Director, Health & Well-Being, ComPsych
Sara Galle, MA, Vice President, Absence Account Services, ComPsych

1C. Retention Revolution: The Inclusive Benefits Blueprint for Keeping Top Talent
To build tomorrow’s future with top talent, employers must think differently about their leave and benefits programs. It’s no longer acceptable to offer employees only disability and maybe a parental leave. They expect their employer to offer programs that support their unique needs. To be successful, employers must understand what matters to a variety of demographics and consider expanding the definition of family and paternity, and other issues. In this interactive session, you’ll hear about the must-have and up-and-coming programs employees are looking for when considering a new employer and the benefits that will make them stay with their current employer.

Rachael H. Choate, BA, CLMS, Product Manager, FINEOS
Christy Traupe, SVP, Claims and Absence, FINEOS

1D. ZIP Codes Matter: Implications for Rural Employee Health and Well-Being
While 15% of the U.S. population lives in rural areas, the impact of health disparities and access to care for rural residents is concerning. An individual’s ZIP code is a stronger predictor of overall health than other factors, including biology or genetics. In fact, 60% of a person’s health is determined solely by ZIP code. During the COVID-19 pandemic, rural areas saw population increases, which included individuals who could now work remotely from anywhere. Rural residents encounter challenges with accessing specialists and obtaining preventive screenings, and often have more risk factors for certain health conditions. For example, rural areas have 20% fewer primary care providers, and 65% of rural counties do not have a psychiatrist. Suicide rates in rural areas are 64% to 68% higher than in urban areas. For employers, understanding the challenges that rural employees face is critical in ensuring a healthy and productive workforce.

Wendy Coduti, PhD, Regional Director, Health and Productivity Analytics and Consulting Practice, Prudential
Allyson Kambach, MA, FLMI, CLMS, Vice President, Absence Product Lead, Prudential
Julia Salnikova, MBA, Vice President, Holistic Wellness Solutions, Prudential

1E. PFML Playbook
The next two years could be a bumpy ride over the paid family and medical leave (PFML) landscape. Join us to learn about what is coming, what employers need to do to be prepared, and what they need to do to be ready for PFML benefits coming in 2025 and 2026. You’ll leave this session ready to tackle the multistate PFML mountains, armed with action items and information to consider as you make your decisions on whether to choose the state plan or a private plan and how to integrate new PFML programs into your current suite of leave of absence and disability programs.

Christina Korona, JD, Legal, Director Absence | Compliance, Alight
Sheri Pullen, Senior Compliance Director, Alight

2:30-3:00 pm – Coffee & Conversation Break
3:00-4:30 pm – Workshops

2A. A Working Session on Streamlined Absence and Benefits
Human resources and benefits specialists know firsthand the challenges of coordinating an entire leave and benefits package that could include disability, Family and Medical Leave Act, paid family and medical leave, supplemental health, workers’ compensation, and company-sponsored time off. As benefits continue to evolve and become more intertwined, it’s more important than ever to understand the overlap, provide employees with an easy-to-use experience, and ensure employers have streamlined administration. Join this workshop to look at real-life absence and benefits scenarios and workshop them with your peers.

Sharon Andrus, AVP, Paid Family and Medical Leave Product, The Hartford
Paul Dube’, Director, Disability Product, The Hartford
John Robinson, CPCU, VBS, National Absence Practice Lead, The Hartford
Allison Scaia, MBA, Vice President, Head of Health Services, The Hartford

2B. A Step-by-Step Guide to Refining Your ADA Strategy
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the focus of this working group: best practices, what’s working and what’s not for employer participants, and common gaps. This session will provide a brief overview of the ADA process followed by a discussion of five distinct topics: intake, accommodations, interactive process, communications, and system of record. You’ll receive an example guide to complete step by step with other workshop attendees. Pitfalls and best practices based on experience will be covered, and you’ll leave with concrete takeaways to implement and refine the ADA strategy in your workplace.

Laura McCormick, CLMS, Director, Employee Health & Leave Programs, Baystate Health
Teri Weber, SVP, Spring Consulting Group, an Alera Group Company

2C. Mental Health and ADA Accommodations
This hands-on forum will encourage conversation to better understand the importance of and need for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) interactive process; analyze ADA and/or Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) accommodation requests; properly respond to employee accommodation requests; gain insights on coaching supervisors for better employee relation outcomes; strengthen awareness of mental health issues in the workplace; and create the right workplace climate for addressing mental health conditions. Attendees will work through a complex ADA scenario involving mental health issues and, if time allows, a second PWFA and ADA scenario involving mental health issues.

Paula Allen, DCS, Global Leader, Research and Client Insights, TELUS Health
Ann Kuzee, JD, Senior Legal Counsel, TELUS Health

2D. Navigating the Complexities of Mental Health Claim Management
Today’s workshop is designed to provide participants with a comprehensive understanding of the legal, ethical, and practical considerations involved in managing mental health leave and disability claims. During the workshop, participants will engage in scenario-based roundtable discussions and practical exercises to enhance their understanding and develop strategies for managing mental health leave and disability claims.

Jim Jantz, JD, Director of Compliance, Marsh McLennan Agency- Absence, Disability and Life
Phil Lacy, Health & Productivity Practice Leader, Marsh McLennan Agency- Absence, Disability and Life

2E. Using the State PFML Administration? Here’s What Employers Need to Know.
Leave and absence can be among the most complex issues for employers to solve, and the landscape of paid family and medical leave (PFML) is rapidly changing and maturing. Numerous states have some type of mandatory paid statutory leave laws, meaning that employers in the state must comply with the PFML statute using either the state (public) plan or a private plan. Employers using a private plan are able to leverage their insurance carrier for information and assistance, but employers looking to have the state administer PFML benefits do not have that convenience. In this interactive workshop, presenters will provide a high-level review of what employers need to know when a PFML law is passed and they decide to use the state plan, specifically addressing pain points and addressing questions from the audience.

Jennifer Pepin, JD, MEd, Product Strategy Lead, Aflac
Andrea Smith, Product Strategy Lead, Aflac

4:30-5:00 pm – Break
5:00-7:00 pm – DMEC Opening Welcome Reception

Kick off your 2024 DMEC Annual Conference experience by connecting 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.

Sponsored by DMEC National Sponsors

Tuesday, Aug. 6

7:00-8:00 am – Breakfast with Exhibitors
8:00-8:15 am – DMEC Announcements and Awards
8:15-9:15 am – The Transformation: How AI is Enhancing Analytics and Optimizing Decision-Making

Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to streamline the claims process, reduce costs, and enhance customer satisfaction, making it an important tool for businesses looking to stay competitive. But before implementing an AI solution, employers must be aware of potential ethical concerns and learn how to use this technology in a fair and unbiased manner that builds stakeholder trust and accountability. In this presentation, you’ll learn how AI algorithms can be used to enhance analytics, automate business processes, and optimize decision-making. Understanding practical parameters around AI’s emerging capabilities and intended applications can help employers harness such advancements to benefit and elevate their programs. By pairing traditional AI solutions (such as predictive modeling and image recognition) with generative AI solutions (such as chatbots or virtual assistants), you can rapidly improve your business and enhance customer experience by reducing claims processing time and providing quick and efficient support to claimants.

Keynote Speakers:
Leah Cooper, Global Chief Digital Officer, Sedgwick
Adam Fisher, Chief Data Officer, Sedgwick
Charlie Woosley IV, Vice President, Data Analytics, Sedgwick

9:15-10:00 am – Coffee & Conversation Break with Exhibitors
10:00-11:00 am – Walk, Crawl, Run: The PWFA Turns One

The PWFA (Pregnancy Workers Fairness Act), which became effective June 27, 2023, requires employers across the country to comply with new accommodation obligations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Join us to discuss what your human resources team and managers need to know about their obligations under this law while also complying with the over 30 state and local pregnancy accommodation laws. You’ll leave with resources that explain how to update your reasonable accommodation policies and communications for PWFA compliance.

Joseph Lynett, JD, Principal, Jackson Lewis PC
Katharine Weber, JD, Principal, Jackson Lewis PC

11:00 am-12:00 pm – You Can Have Paid Leave AND a Productive Workforce. Here is the Secret Sauce.

In a post-pandemic world, attracting and keeping talent AND increasing productivity are fundamental to the survival of businesses. For companies to thrive, overall employee wellness must take on new meaning as increased access to paid leave, whether through employer-funded programs or mandatory paid leave programs, needs to be balanced with caring for workers who cover team members when they are taking time away. Aflac and Prudential surveyed employees and employers to understand the impact to workers’ physical and mental health and overall well-being when tasked with covering a co-worker’s absence. You’ll learn what your company can do proactively to balance time away and productivity. You’ll also hear about global experiences and how other countries manage extended time away.

Bryon Bass, Chief Executive Officer, DMEC
Jenny Merrithew, MBA, Vice President, Product and Service Excellence, Aflac
Kristin Tugman, PhD, CRC, LPC, Vice President, Health Productivity and Holistic Wellness, Prudential

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

3A. PFML: The Afterparty
With four states gearing up to go live with mandated paid family and medical leave (PFML) programs in 2026, the odds are that your organization is actively facing the impacts of PFML laws. Learn from those who have come before you! During this session, you’ll hear from two employers whose organizations were recently highly impacted by PFML programs in Oregon and Colorado. Learn how these organizations approached key decisions such as choosing whether to enter the state-run program or elect a private plan, integrating their current pay policies, and changing their absence management and payroll practices and systems to position the companies for success. Panelists will answer your questions about successes, misses, and key learnings from their approaches to PFML integration to help your organization strategize on statutory PFML preparedness.

Kate Bisping, PHR, SHRM-CP, CCP, Director, Human Resources, University of Colorado Medicine
Rich D’Albert, Account Manager, Total Absence Management, The Partners Group
Kristi Durr, Human Resources Operations Manager, St. Charles Health System
Brycie Wasson, CPDM, Total Absence Management Consultant, The Partners Group

3B. The Business Impact of Leave: Leveraging Your Program to Drive Results
A recent survey looked at how leave programs impact numerous areas across a business. The availability of leave benefits, along with the quality of the leave program, impacted everything from recruitment to retention, productivity, morale, and more. In this session, you’ll examine the report findings and then take a deep dive into how to leverage and improve your leave program to drive overall business goals.

Christopher D. Schott, President, Tandem Leave Solutions
Seth Turner, Chief Strategy Officer, AbsenceSoft

3C. Mind, Body, Wallet: A Holistic Approach to Integrated Wellness
Nearly half of workers say that well-being benefits make employers more attractive, and more than 80% of employers believe that well-being has grown in importance over the past 12 months alone. More specifically, mental health, caregiving and family care, and physical wellness are key wellness benefits that employees are increasingly demanding from employers. Wellness benefits have been shown to improve employee productivity, reduce absenteeism, and increase employee retention. Offering these wellness benefits in a cohesive experience will lead to higher levels of wellness program use and ongoing employee engagement. To highlight the value of the integrated experience across core products and wellness solutions, you’ll follow experiential journeys across a high-volume short-term disability and paid family and medical leave experience (maternity/parental) and long-term disability experience (cancer). Industry experts will discuss how a holistic integrated experience for wellness offerings leads to better engagement and outcomes for employees.

John-Ryan Blanchette, MBA, Head of Wellness Strategy & Offerings, Guardian Life
Scott Daniels, JD, General Manager Leave Navigator, Wellthy
Kristy Helkenn, CLMS, DIA, DHP, HIA, Senior Regional Absence Practice Leader, Guardian Life
Raghav Murali-Ganesh, MD, CEO and Founder, Osara Health

Gene Lanzoni, Second Vice President, Enterprise Content Marketing, Guardian Life Insurance

3D. Threat Assessments in the Workplace: ADA, FMLA, Workplace Violence, and Everything Else
This scenario-based presentation will provide practical tips, legal requirements, and frequently asked questions about health and safety in the workplace. Learn how to address issues with employees who may be a threat to themselves or others. The scenarios will include behavior, mental health, drug testing, Americans with Disabilities Act, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and other threat issues.

David Mohl, JD, Principal, Jackson Lewis PC
Tasos Paindiris, JD, Principal, Jackson Lewis PC

3E. The Future of AI in Leave and Disability Management
Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing various industries, and leave and disability management is no exception. In this session, panelists will explore the potential of AI to transform the way organizations handle leave and disability management processes. The benefits, challenges, and ethical considerations associated with the use of AI in this domain will also be discussed. Gain insights from leaders of three leave and disability administrators about the future of AI in leave and disability management and how it can enhance efficiency, accuracy, and employee experience.

Scott Boutin, Chief Claims Officer, Reliance Matrix
Dustin Kingsbury, Vice President, Claims, The Hartford
Matt Morris, Vice President, FMLASource, ComPsych Corporation
Mia Polintan, Vice President, Leave & Absence Product Leave Solutions, Alight Solutions

Tim O’Connor, Consultant, Absence, Disability & Life Practice, Marsh McLennan Agency

2:30-3:15 pm – Dessert with Exhibitors

Sponsored by TRISTAR

3:15-4:15 pm – Roundtable Discussions

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

3:15-4:15 pm – Bonus Education: 4A. Using Benchmarking to Refresh Your Program

Employers are increasingly wondering if their absence management programs are aligned with best practices, competitor offerings, and company culture and objectives, all of which shift over time. Benchmarking can be used as a guidepost for a program review or overhaul and can be leveraged from multiple angles, including overarching strategy, recruitment, retention, and industry best practices. This session will outline how DMEC’s benchmarking tool, DMEC AbsenceExemplar™, can be used as a foundation for conducting a program audit, including all aspects of an absence and disability program such as paid family and medical leave, paid sick leave, paid parental leave, workers’ compensation, and paid time off. Explore an employer case study that illustrates tangible takeaways to implement based on the data.

Karen English, SVP, Spring Consulting Group, an Alera Group Company
Lauren Schipper, MS, MLS, Senior Manager, Absence Management and Compliance, Patagonia

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

5A. Legislative Shifts: The Changing Landscape of PFL
2023 marked a new wave of paid leave legislation as Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, Texas, and other states passed laws creating a new line of insurance under which licensed insurers may develop and issue polices related to paid family and medical leave. What does this new type of legislation mean for the mandatory paid family and medical leave landscape? How can employers benefit from these new laws? This session will break down these laws and tackle the many questions raised by the shifting legislation.

Meredith Baker, MPA, Group Claims Team Leader, Leave Administration, Mutual of Omaha
Sarah Hipp, CLMS, Paid Family & Medical Leave Compliance Manager, Workplace Solutions, Mutual of Omaha

5B. Benefits Breakthrough: Unleashing the Power of Voluntary Products for a Seamless Enrollment of All Benefits and Enhanced Employee Engagement
Elevate your benefits strategy with a session that unlocks the true potential of voluntary benefits. Discover how benefit offerings can revolutionize open enrollment and new-hire onboarding, and boost employee engagement by empowering informed healthcare and plan selections. Dive deep into the crucial role of broker consultants and the game-changing impact of strategic investments in resources. Learn how this translates to seamless benefit communication, robust support, and expert counseling through enrollment assistance. Uncover the unique revenue flow through brokers that empowers employers with essential tools for effective communication during critical periods. Gain insights into educating employees about their benefit choices, enhancing the open enrollment experience, and driving meaningful employee engagement. Don’t miss this opportunity to supercharge your benefits program and take it to new heights! Join us for an enlightening session that will transform the way you approach your benefits strategy.

DeShawna Manley, MBA, Director, National Benefits, PwC
Mike Wallace, MBA, CLTC, AVP, Client Manager, Life & Health and Property & Casualty Licenses, AON

5C. The (Sometimes) Forgotten Element of the Accommodations Process
Employers hear more and more about the process of disability accommodations: how to initiate and track requests, facilitate the interactive discussion, assess the essential functions, evaluate the reasonableness of a request, and other tasks. One area that doesn’t receive much attention is the job search/reassignment component. In this session, you’ll learn when the process may take place, who may drive the process, who may be involved or consulted, and what prevalent practices may be implemented. Recent case law that influences how an employer may approach job search/reassignment will also be discussed.

Melanie Payton, CLMS, AVP, Absence Consulting and Audit Practice, Strategic Non-Medical Solutions
Chrissy Theiss, JD, SHRM-SCP, Senior Compliance Consultant, Strategic Non-Medical Solutions

5D. The Seven Deadly Sins of Networking!
When you think of networking, do you automatically think of superficial schmoozing mastered by extroverted sales types who work their agenda to their own benefit? Perhaps you believe networking is a necessary evil to get ahead in your career? Is it possible that networking can be more than a painful exercise in forcing yourself out of your comfort zone for business gain? The evidence for learning how to build and nurture personal and professional networks is compelling. Approximately 70% of people find new job opportunities through networking (vs. responding to job ads). People who have strong social networks live longer and networking expands our horizons to new hobbies, beliefs, friendships, and unforeseen directions.

In this session, you will gain insights, strategies, and tools to ensure the process is easy and effortless. You will leave understanding the “why” behind the importance of continuing to grow your networks and will learn the secrets to moving from “Mediocrity to Mastery” in your networking skills!

Dr. Kathleen Ronald, h.c, Owner, Speaktacular!

4:30-5:30 pm – Quick-Dive Sessions

4:30-4:55 pm – 5E. Encouraging Employees to Stay at Work or Return to Work
When an employee has difficulty working due to a medical condition, too many employers jump to providing the employee with a leave of absence without further analysis. But employers should look at each situation and determine the best option based upon the employee’s needs, medical condition, and applicable law. This session will look at ways employers may take a proactive approach and encourage employees to stay at work or return to work rather than taking multiple or lengthy leaves of absence without violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). (Presenters will identify, in interactive scenarios, alternative options such as variable schedules and light duty, and explore ways employers may discuss these alternative options with the employee. The most recent guidance from the Department of Labor (DOL) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), as well as any relevant case law, will also be discussed.

Shelby Felton, Esq, Director & Product Compliance Counsel, Reliance Matrix
Lana L. Rupprecht, JD, AVP & Senior Product Compliance Counsel, Reliance Matrix

5:05-5:30 pm – 5F. Age WISE: Aging in the Workplace: Impact and Solutions for Employers
This session offers a practical exploration of how the aging process uniquely influences disability management and how work-life factors profoundly influence health in midlife and beyond. Issues specific to women will be examined along with the unique challenges they face in their health and work during the aging process. This session will provide insights into these important connections along with practical strategies to immediately apply age-friendly practices that will improve disability management outcomes in the workplace. You’ll leave better informed and equipped to navigate the complexities of disability management in an aging workforce.

Kate Milne, MS, MHS, CSEP-CEP, Healthy Aging Specialist, Cardea Health Consulting

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

Mingle and relax with attendees and exhibitors after a full day of sessions. Enjoy complimentary drinks and light snacks during happy hour.

Sponsored by Shaw HR Consulting

Wednesday, Aug. 7

7:00-8:00 am – Breakfast with Exhibitors
8:00-8:15 am – DMEC Announcements and Awards
8:15-9:15 am – The Importance of a Guided Claim Experience

With an increasingly complex absence landscape, employers and employees are looking to disability and absence administrators to provide more guidance when time away from work is needed, from pre-absence planning and the claim filing process to ongoing management and return to work support. In addition, employers and employees need specific guidance on various types of leave, from maternity leave to surgical leave, and the ever-changing regulatory landscape. By providing tools and technology to enhance the claim experience and more guidance while on leave, disability and absence administrators can help to remove some of the burdens from human resources teams. This session will address the importance of the guided claims experience by presenting perspectives from customers, brokers and vendors.

Steph Dreyer, MBA, Co-Chair, National Commission on Lymphatic Diseases
Anthony Favry, Vice President, Disability and Absence Product Owner, MetLife

9:15-10:15 am – The ADA: What If They Did It Differently?

If you loved the “choose your own adventure” stories, this interactive session is for you! Several recent Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) court decisions will be reviewed in which an employer’s attempts to support an employee fell short. You’ll be asked to identify what the employer should have done differently and through a bit of revisionist history, determine what impact your steps could have had on the case.

Linda Croushore, CRC, LPC, CLMS, AVP, Absence Management, Workpartners
Jeff Nowak, Esq, Shareholder, Littler

10:15-11:00 am – Coffee & Conversation Break with Exhibitors
11:00 am-12:00 pm – Concurrent Sessions

6A. Big Brother is Watching! Federal Agencies Agree to Collaborate.
On Sept. 14, 2023, the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to enhance enforcement of leave laws within their purview and coordination. Learn how this interplay between the two agencies impacts employers from a litigation, leave administration, and benefits standpoint. Panelists will discuss the current state for managing leaves under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA)  in light of the MOU, including a discussion of DOL and EEOC trends and enforcement priorities, as well as proactive tips employers can use to mitigate risk when managing employee leaves and accommodations.

Dana McDonald, JD, Sr. Director, Head of Employment – Legal, Under Armour
David Mohl, JD, Principal, Jackson Lewis PC

Lana L. Rupprecht, JD, AVP & Senior Product Compliance Counsel, Reliance Matrix

6B. The Right and Wrong Ways to Think About Parental Leave in 2024
The U.S. is the only industrialized country without federally mandated paid family leave. And while some states have passed legislation in the last few years, it’s still largely up to companies to create and implement policies that support their employees. This session will address the benefits other countries have realized, including increased mental health for parents and overall infant health. The positive and negative impacts that paid parental leave policies have on employees and businesses will also be discussed along with the top factors to consider when building a parental leave policy and how companies should ensure these policies are implemented successfully. A success story will highlight the return on investment and employee satisfaction of one company that implemented a better parental leave policy for its employees.

Darren Keener, CSPO, CSM, Sr. Principal, Business Solutions Consultant, Majesco
Allison Whalen, MBA, Founder and CEO, Parentaly

6C. The Cost of Caregiving on Your Workforce
Care for a family member is among the most prevalent job-protected leave reasons under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Beyond taking leave, the impact of caregiving on the workforce can be measured through lost productivity and mental stress. Caregivers often carry significant responsibility while attempting to maintain their work demands. Employers have begun to prioritize caregiving support through point solutions and behavioral health benefits to support workers. But how can employers leverage integrated solutions for their broader population, not only those on leave, to improve overall well-being and workforce productivity? Learn about real-time and intuitive solutions integrated through technology that will support employees in the challenging times of caregiving.

Michelle Jackson, AVP, Total Leave Solution, Unum
Marcy Ledford, MS, CRC, CEAS, Health and Productivity Director, Unum
Amanda Neely, PHR, SHRM-CP, National Sales Leader – Digital Solutions, Unum

6D. The Missing Majority: Addressing Mental Health Comorbidities for Individuals at Work and on Disability Leave
Employee mental health is a leading concern for employers. While employers communicate wellness benefits, many employees still limit care to physical conditions. This can be problematic for individuals unknowingly at risk of comorbid anxiety or depression accompanying physical concerns. Without addressing mental health, these employees may miss more work and feel unsatisfied with employer care offerings. When whole-person care is available, individuals can treat their primary condition while addressing secondary conditions like anxiety and depression for greater return-to-health and productivity success. In this session, panelists will share case studies of how whole-person care has positively impacted health and disability outcomes. You’ll learn ways to bring mental wellness to more employees who need it, how anxiety and depression scores are evaluated, how to track return on investment, and how disability partners are doing more to meet your organization’s health and productivity goals.

Tracy Hamill, MD, AVP, Medical Director, Sun Life
Christine Mason, PhD, Associate Director of Mental Health, Goodpath
Sheila Sokolski, AVP, Life, Absence and Disability Product and Marketing, Sun Life
Sheila Weiss, RN, AVP, Group Claims and Clinical Services, Sun Life

11:00 am-12:00 pm – Quick-Dive Sessions

11:00-11:25 am – 6E. Making Medical Inquiries and Assessing Your Employee’s Fitness for Duty
You are increasingly facing situations where you’re concerned about an employee’s mental health or physical ability to perform to perform the job. Stress and anxiety, erratic behavior, an aging workforce, and the prevalence of substance abuse all raise fitness for duty issues in today’s workplace. Naturally, you want to take every reasonable step to ensure your employees can safely perform their job before allowing them to work.

What kind of questions can you legally ask about their medical condition? And can you require that they undergo a medical examination?

In this session, Jeff will tackle the most common, yet difficult, fitness for duty scenarios that employers face and provide practical suggestions on how you can address these situations.

Jeff Nowak, Esq, Shareholder, Littler

11:35 am-12:00 pm – 6F. Is COVID-19 Over or Just Hiding in Your STD Claims?
This session will provide an overview of the impact of COVID-19 and influenza on paid and unpaid absences. An algorithm was used to identify employees with COVID and influenza based on a combination of medical, prescription, and disability claims. Results indicated COVID-related short-term disability (STD) claims increased 4.4-fold in 2020 and 2.4-fold from 2020 through 2022. Presenters will share the results of an analysis of the cohorts identified by this algorithm of family medical leaves, sick leave, STD and long-term disability, and workers’ compensation claims from 2018 through 2022. They will also provide insight into how to leverage integrated data and analytics to comprehensively identify employee-patients with these conditions and understand the impact on the self-insured employer.

Alek A. Drnach, MS, Expert Integrated Data Analyst, Workpartners
Jennifer Judy, MS, PhD, Senior Director, Vaccines Real-World Evidence Scientist, Pfizer Inc.
Alon Yehoshua, PharmD, MS, Director, HTA Value & Evidence, mRNA Vaccine, Pfizer Inc.

Linda Croushore, MEd, CRC, LPC, CLMS, AVP, Absence Management Workpartners

12:00-1:30 pm – Lunch with Exhibitors
12:50-1:20 pm – Bonus Education: Lunch & Learn: The PWFA & ADA Q&A

Bring your lunch and your questions and join us for an engaging and interactive Lunch & Learn session focused on the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). This vital legislation ensures that pregnant employees receive fair treatment and reasonable accommodations in the workplace. We’ll also be covering ADA FAQ’s that are top of mind for HR!

Angel Bennett, AVP, Paid Leave & ADA, Unum

1:30-2:30 pm – Concurrent Sessions

7A. Colorado and Connecticut PFML: What’s Worked, What Hasn’t, What’s Next
In Connecticut, paid family and medical leave (PFML) contributions began in 2021 and benefits in 2022. In Colorado, contributions started in 2023 and benefits in 2024. This session will begin with a brief statistical introduction and comparison of Connecticut’s and Colorado’s benefits programs (e.g., the number and types of claims filed, benefits paid, leave lengths, approvals and denials, and number of private plans). The discussion will also examine the demographics of claimants and assess whether these plans are reaching marginalized employee groups. Additional topics will include the experience of both programs with affinity claims; leave stacking; fraudulent claims; private plan reporting, renewals, audits, and carrier changes; the legislative and regulatory landscape; and what’s next on the horizon.

Michael Cisar, Esq, General Counsel, CT Paid Leave Authority
Shelby Felton, Esq, Director & Product Compliance Counsel, Reliance Matrix
Rebecca Ford, Esq, Director of Statutory Paid Leave Products, Reliance Matrix
David Gallivan, Compliance and Appeals Branch Manager, Colorado Family and Medical Leave Insurance

7B. Building Better Leave Policies with Your Diverse Workforce in Mind
Today’s employers need strategies for empathetically building leave policies with their diverse workforce in mind. This session will discuss multiple factors that interact with these leave policies and why employers should be concerned with having comprehensive leave policies. This presentation aims to help you remain competitive in the workplace by understanding growing trends, building a successful leave policy that fits more employees’ needs, and providing an exceptional leave experience to limit your employees’ time away from work.

Jenni Bedell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, HR Consulting Practice Leader, OneDigital
Selena Smith, CLMS, Team Lead, LOA Services, OneDigital

7C. Returning Human to Human Resources: How the Changing Absence Landscape Impacts Compliance, Accommodations, Company Leaves, and DEI for HR Professionals
Human resources (HR) professionals are faced with increasing regulatory obligations and rising pressure to build a culture of care within their organizations. Employees are demanding more programs dedicated to work-life balance; diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI); corporate responsibility; and benefits that meet employees where they are. With a workforce more diverse than ever, how do HR professionals balance compliance with laws and regulatory agencies and the needs of employee accommodations and leaves while promoting a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture? Learn how a global software company navigates myriad laws and regulations to achieve its cultural goals while maintaining a clear focus on supporting its customers’ claims and absence technology solutions. You’ll leave with a heightened understanding of how to strike a balance between compliance, employee well-being, and the promotion of a diverse and inclusive organizational culture.

Joanne McMullan, MSc, Chief People Officer, Global HR Management, FINEOS
Lori Welty, Esq, SVP, Product Compliance, FINEOS

Allison Morgan, Solution and Strategy Leader, FINEOS

7D. Building a Culture of Care: Enhancing Bereavement Policies for Employee Resilience
Long before the pandemic, grief was estimated to cost employers up to $75 billion every year in lost productivity. Yet most employers provide only two to four days of bereavement leave, depending on whether the deceased is a child, spouse, parent, or extended family member. Some policies may not include losses such as a miscarriage, the death of a close friend, and those that are “like family.” More recent research has found 50% of employees think their companies should make enhancements to their bereavement policy, and only 34% of grieving employees say they felt supported by their organization. The impact of bereavement policies and the culture of support is often misunderstood and sometimes minimized. Learn practical steps that organizations can take to help managers and workers support grieving colleagues and transform a company’s culture of care.

Melissa Behne, AIC, AIS, AINS, CPDM, CLMS, Corporate Vice President, Absence Strategy, New York Life Group Benefit Solutions
Maria Collins, Vice President, New York Life Foundation

7E. Measuring the Success of Employee Mental Health Programs Through a Leave Lens
More often than not, employee mental health benefits and psychologically healthy workplace programs are disconnected from employer leave and occupational health programming. This can leave many holes between spend and impact, and show disconnects between what an organization and its employees (and managers!) define as “successful” workforce mental health practices. This presentation will highlight the do’s and don’ts of leave and nonleave employee mental health programming, including program evaluation, psychologically health workplace versus workforce efforts, and strategies for managing successful leave management programming.

Nicole Z. Stelter, PhD, LMFT, Director, Behavioral Health, Strategy & Solutions, Blue Shield of California

2:30-3:15 pm – Dessert with Exhibitors

Sponsored by TRISTAR

3:15-4:15 pm – Roundtable Discussions

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

3:15-4:15 pm – Bonus Education: 8A. Women at Work: Actionable Strategies to Support Workplace Well-Being

Although women make up about 57% of the U.S. workforce, they also spend nearly twice as much time as men caring for children or other household responsibilities. In addition, there are unique health and life-cycle realities impacting women’s overall well-being. What impact are these influences having on your organization and what should you do about it? Join this session to understand the various factors impacting female employees. Presenters will share insights and practical tips to create more holistic support around women’s health and well-being for this critical and large segment of the workforce.

Barbara Aloni, CDMS, Director, Workplace Possibilities, The Standard
Debra Villar, MS, LMHC, Manager, Disability Management Resources for Medical and Return to Work, The Standard

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

9A. Parsing Paid Leave: Understanding Sick vs. Family Leave Laws
The paid leave landscape in America continues to evolve with each passing year. In both the mandatory paid sick leave (PSL) and paid family and medical leave (PFML) spaces, there are nuances in terms of the type of laws that exist and the requirements those laws impose on employers. Despite the many distinctions of PSL and PFML laws, they are commonly conflated by both employers and workers as interchangeable. However, a close look at the two sets of laws reveals that this is anything but the case. Compliance experts are here to help with practical tips for employers of all sizes and industries on how to understand where PSL and PFML do and don’t overlap, and some of the thorniest issues facing employers when navigating these unique laws. Presenters will leverage jurisdictions that have both PSL and PFML mandates to explore the substantive and practical nuances of these mandates.

Marlin Duro-Martinez, Senior Associate, Labor and Employment, Seyfarth Shaw
Joshua Seidman, Partner, Labor and Employment Law, Seyfarth Shaw
Renate Walker, JD, MBA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Senior Associate, Labor and Employment Law, Seyfarth Shaw

9B. Maximizing Data to Improve the Human Side of Parental Leave
Disability managers are uniquely positioned to shape organizational practices and identify creative solutions in the parental leave space. In this interactive session, presenters will share insights to help you understand how to leverage internal and external data to influence positive change within your organization. Learn how to identify gaps and strengths in your organization’s current parental leave policies, manager support, and employee experience practices. Using example scenarios, you’ll work to identify actionable areas for improvement. Presenters will arm you with data-driven solutions to improve your organization’s leave process. Learn about enhanced manager coaching models, employee touchpoints, offboarding and onboarding checklists, and more.

Amy Pytlovany, PhD, Director of Research & Assessments, Center for Parental Leave Leadership, Center for Parental Leave Leadership
Amy Simmons, Absence Management Consultant, The Standard
Tiffany Wentworth, CLMS, Absence Management Consultant, The Standard

9C. The Exhausted Professional’s Guide to Consistency Among All Leave Types
Today’s disability management professional is tasked with more duties than ever, and these duties are rarely limited to managing disability. Combine this condition with understaffed production demands, lingering COVID-19 impacts on attendance, and a general mood of “nobody wants to work” and it’s easy to understand why disability professionals are exhausted. They rarely have internal colleagues, yet they must maintain consistency and, ultimately, compliance. This workshop will analyze real-life scenarios and discuss best practices and realistic tips for ensuring consistency between occupational and nonoccupational leave. You’ll explore ways to prevent situations where employees are just “out” — not on any covered leave. You’ll also learn strategies for setting parameters before employees go out and ensuring your organization is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act in ongoing communications with these employees. The mood will be fun and light for this serious and important topic.

Tommie Brode, JD, President, Venice Solutions Group LLC

9D. Confessions of a Disability and Leave Administrator
Join us as we compare leave administration today versus the 1990s and 2000s. You’ll gain a better understanding of the challenges that exist with administering disability and leave in 2024. Discuss the keys to successfully outsourcing administration for either the first time or after moving to a new provider. Leave this session empowered to be a better partner with your existing administrator to improve the overall employee experience within your leave programs.

Scott Daniels, JD, General Manager Leave Navigator, Wellthy
Dana Hilts, MBA, CLMS, Vice President, Disability and Leave Operations, Broadspire
Jeff Nowak, Esq, Shareholder, Littler

Nadeema Dil, MBA, CLMS, RVP, Client Services, Broadspire

7:00-10:00 pm – DMEC Nashville at Night!

There’s no better way to let loose and relax after several busy days of new ideas than to join your fellow conference attendees at our popular Wednesday night event. Grab your cowboy hat, strap on your boots, shine your belt buckle, and get ready to party, sing, dance, and laugh the night away in the Neon Neighborhood. “Slip on Up to the Oasis” with DMEC!

Sponsored by MetLife

Thursday, Aug. 8

7:00-8:30 am – Breakfast
8:15-8:30 am – DMEC Announcements
8:30-9:30 am – We Goofed. Now What? An Accommodations Tale.

Accommodations are rarely easy. Evolving legal requirements and novel requests keep human resources pros on their toes. What happens if an employer fails to satisfy its obligations related to an accommodation request or does not recognize an employee’s need for an accommodation under either the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act? What options does the employer have under each statute? This presentation will present a variety of scenarios and ask you to vote on the employer’s next steps. Presenters will then walk through the applicable compliance requirements and offer tips on how to proceed in the circumstances. Leave with strategies that will help you stay compliant while managing the sometimes freewheeling world of accommodations.

Lynne A. Sousa, JD, Senior Leave Management Legal and Compliance Counsel, Voya Financial
Susan Woods, JD, Senior Counsel, FullscopeRMS

9:30-10:30 am – Bouncing Back in Business: Nurturing a Workforce That Withstands and Thrives

Following the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, resilience stands out as a vital trait for both employees and organizations in today’s challenging work landscape. This presentation focuses on the link between resilience and mental and physical health, and on how resilience can be developed and enhanced. Participants will gain insight into the direct impact of resilience on work productivity and on what defines a resilient individual. The presentation will offer practical, actionable strategies to cultivate personal resilience and tools to fortify the resilience of employee teams. Finally, presenters will go beyond the focus of mental health in the workplace, which is almost always a focus on the absence of mental illness. They will review positive psychology practices to enhance mental–emotional “flourishing” in employees and leaders because mentally healthy employees are productive employees.

Tammy L. Bradly, MS, CRC, CCM, CPDM, Sr. Director, Clinical Product Marketing, ENLYTE
Michael Lacroix, PhD, Licensed Psychologist, Medical Director, The Hartford

10:30-10:45 am – Coffee & Conversation Break
10:45-11:45 am – The Time for Change is Here: Meeting the Needs of All of Your Employees by Focusing on Ability

Our labor market is changing. By 2030, all baby boomers will be over 65, and the average age of the American worker will be over 42. In the competition for top talent in today’s labor market, about three out of four job applicants and current employees say an inclusive environment is important in deciding where to work. Retaining workers has never been more important. How can employers promote productive employees who are fully engaged in a workplace culture that celebrates their differences and supports their needs? Part of that diversity equation includes employees of different abilities. This session will provide insights into workplace programs that support and celebrate diversity. Differently abled individuals will offer insights into their life at work and in athletics.

Richard Dyer, Former Best Buy Front Line Manager, Move United Warfighter
Alicia Heine, Assistant Director, Product Development, The Hartford
John Robinson, CPCU, VBS, National Absence Practice Lead, The Hartford

11:45 am-12:00 pm – Closing Remarks & Grand Prize Giveaway