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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Reed Group Invites Business Executives to Take ADA Accommodation Practices Survey

Survey results will provide valuable insights into administration of leave of absence as an ADA accommodation 

Reed Group announced today the release of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Accommodation Practices Survey in partnership with Spring Consulting Group.

The ADA Accommodation Practices Survey is the first annual survey designed to compile decisive information about employers’ practices related to the administration of ADA accommodations, focusing particularly on leave of absence as an accommodation. The survey will explore the challenges employers encounter while administering ADA and ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA), the relationship of ADA leave to other leaves of absence and administrative best practices.

“This survey is timely because employers are struggling to make sense of the complexities of ADA leave with very little guidance from the EEOC,” said Kevin Curry, Senior Vice President and National Practice Leader of Reed Group. “From this survey about the ADA, we’ll identify common practices, tools and challenges that will inform new best practice solutions.”

The survey will be open to all business executives beginning April 18. All survey respondents will receive a summary of the results after the survey is closed. To participate in the survey, please visit:

http://survey.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_bpcnNN3rQ7wrGjb

DOL Official Identifies Common but Easy-to-Fix FMLA Violations

By Kevin Curry, SVP and National Practice Leader, Reed Group Ltd.

Employers take note:  The head of FMLA enforcement for the Department of Labor warned Tuesday that if you have not yet updated your FMLA notices and certification forms to reflect the revised FMLA regulations effective on March 8, you are OUT OF COMPLIANCE right now.   And, any violation of the requirements of the FMLA, including the notice provisions, can serve as the basis for an FMLA interference claim.

Diane Dawson (Branch Chief, FMLA and Other Labor Standards) spoke this week at the annual ADA/FMLA Compliance Conference hosted by Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC).  Diane explained DOL processes, motivations, and triggers for investigations of employer FMLA practices.  This was a rare opportunity for attendees to hear directly from the source why and how the DOL conducts FMLA investigations.  Marti Cardi, Reed Group Chief Compliance Officer, co-presented with Ms. Dawson to provide advice to employers on how to prepare for and handle that DOL knock on the door.  You can access a copy of the presentation here.

The annual ADA/FMLA Compliance Conference hosted by Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC) was held this year in Portland, Oregon, on April 15-17.  The conference offered over 20 sessions in all, including topics such as the insource/outsource decision, mental health absence issues, privacy and confidentiality issues leave cases, state leave laws, obesity and the ADA, and much more.  Other conference highlights are described below.

FMLA Nuts and Bolts.  Diane Dawson and Jeff Nowak, author of the FMLA Insights blog, presented a briefing on the FMLA.  Even those familiar with the FMLA gained valuable “insights” (sorry, Jeff) into how the DOL and an FMLA expert view the basics.  Jeff’s post regarding the conference is available on his website.  Jeff also presented another session at the conference on obtaining and reviewing medical documentation for ADA and FMLA requests.

ADA Primer.  Linda Carter Batista, Principal Consultant for the, Job Accommodation Network presented an entertaining ADA session.  She illustrated some of her lessons by comparing ADA accommodation requests to her guests’ special food requests at a neighborhood barbeque (“Don’t serve meat?  It’s not a barbeque anymore!”).

Marti Cardi also offered a popular session on the topic of leave of absence as an ADA accommodation.  Her presentation handout can be downloaded here, and Reed Group’s white paper on the topic is available on the Reed Group website.

DMEC’s next national meeting is the 18th Annual Conference in Atlanta on August 18-21.  Check it out and register online at the DMEC website here.

Reed Group Acquires ACOEM’s Occupational Medicine Practice Guidelines, Expanding Options for Physicians and Employers

Improved access, integration of evidence-based academic research and return-to-work and absence management strategies among key benefits of new strategic partnership

 Reed Group, the recognized leader in managing employee absence, and the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM), the nation’s largest association of occupational medicine physicians, announced today that Reed Group has acquired ACOEM’s Occupational Medicine Practice Guidelines.

Under the new agreement, Reed Group will publish and distribute ACOEM’s Practice Guidelines, while ACOEM will continue to provide all of the guidelines’ scientific research, content development and methodology. The acquisition will widen the distribution base for the Practice Guidelines, increasing their availability to new audiences while providing access to valuable resources that will benefit current guideline users.

A key benefit of the new partnership is the integration of Reed Group’s extensive return-to-work and absence-management strategies and resources for employers with ACOEM’s guidelines – a critically important component in the creation of healthier and more productive workplaces.

Totaling more than 2,500 evidence-based recommendations and 15,000 medical literature references, the Practice Guidelines are the industry standard for the effective treatment of occupational injuries and illnesses. Based on unambiguous, meticulous research, the Practice Guidelines are used by a wide range of customers treating workers in the insurance, medical and occupational health industries.

By integrating treatment guidelines into Reed Group’s extensive disability duration, return-to-work, and absence management guidelines, the partnership will bring enhanced value to Reed Group’s customers (insurance companies, state governments, third-party administrators, employers and physicians). The ACOEM content will be available through Reed Group’s online content platform, allowing customers access to treatment guidelines alongside its other MDGuidelines™ products.

“Reed Group is committed to being the fabric of the absence management industry,” said David Roberts, CEO of Reed Group. “We can offer customers content, software, service or a combination of these products to reduce employee absence and increase workforce productivity. ACOEM’s evidence-based Practice Guidelines are a perfect complement to our existing products and services. The announcement today demonstrates Reed Group’s continued commitment to adding products that help our customers manage all aspects of employee absence.”

“The occupational medicine community has long depended on ACOEM’s dedication to providing relevant, authoritative, evidence-based practice guidelines,” said Barry S. Eisenberg, Executive Director of ACOEM. “Partnering with Reed Group supports and extends the reach of this activity. Our extensive guidelines development process – based on quality scientific evidence, editorial independence and rigorous peer review – will continue, as will our commitment to the development of new guidelines as occupational medicine evolves and changes.”

The new publishing model will strengthen Reed Group’s MDGuidelines™, a web-based toolkit for absence management and return-to-work recommendations.  ACOEM’s physician members will have the option to purchase MDGuidelines™ as a resource for understanding and implementing return-to-work and absence management strategies.

“Reed Group and ACOEM share the same mission: to build healthier employees and workplaces through more effective treatment of work-related injury and illness,” Roberts said. “Reed Group will continue to invest to offer our customers the broadest set of products and services improving employee return-to-work outcomes.”

For purchasing information about the Practice Guidelines, please visit www.acoem.org/practiceguidelines.aspx. For information on Reed Group’s other guidelines products, please visit at http://www.mdguidelines.com. For information about other Reed Group software and service products, please visit www.reedgroup.com.

Paid Sick Leave Trending from Coast to Coast – Portland Joins the Wave

By: Martha J. Cardi, Esq. and Megan G. Holstein, Esq.

Employers should be ready for the big trend in leave of absence legislation: paid sick leave.

According to the White House, approximately 40 percent of private-sector employees work at a company that does not offer sick pay for their own illness or injury.  Low- and middle-income workers are much less likely to be offered paid sick leave than highly paid workers.  Last fall, the Administration announced its support for the Healthy Families Act.  This legislation would allow millions of working Americans to earn up to 7 days per year of paid sick time, which they could use to care for themselves or for a sick family member.  See the Obama Administration Initiatives Fact Sheet .

One state, Connecticut, has already enacted legislation that requires employers to offer paid sick leave to cover employees’ absences due to illness or injury and preventative care.   Since January 2013, 14 additional states have proposed paid sick leave laws, and there are currently two proposed federal paid sick leave laws.

Municipalities are in the act also.  In the past few years, San Francisco, Washington D.C., and Seattle have enacted such laws. New York City is on the verge of passing a sick leave law.  In some instances, however, a city’s move to enact sick leave laws has not been successful: Milwaukee passed such a law but the state legislature preempted it with a state law prohibiting local governments from imposing employee leave requirements that are more strict than the state law.  Philadelphia also passed a paid sick leave law but the Mayor is expected to veto it.

Many laws require paid sick leave AND paid safe leave.Many of the new or proposed federal, state, and municipal laws provide paid leave for more than just employee or family illnesses.  The current trend includes leave for preventive medical care and wellness checkups.  In addition, many of the laws also provide time off if the employee or a family member is a victim of such crimes as domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or harassment.  These laws are often referred to as “sick and safe leave.”

Portland’s new ordinance discussed below is an example of a paid sick and safe leave, although its title is simply “Portland Sick Time.”

Portland. The most recent city to enact a paid sick leave law is Portland, Oregon.  The new ordinance, effective January 1, 2014, will require employers to provide paid sick and safe leave, called Portland Sick Time (PST), to employees who perform work in Portland.    Below is a summary of Portland’s ordinance:

Covered Employers:

All employers with employees located in Portland must comply with the new law, even if the employer is not located in Portland.  If the employer has even a single eligible employee who performs work in the city, the employer must offer PST to that employee.

Eligible employees:

An employee is eligible if the employee works more than 240 hours per year in the city of Portland. This includes time spent by a person who travels to Portland to work, works in a Portland office or facility, or stops in the city during the course of the employee’s work.

Amount of sick time:

Employers must provide 1 hour of PST for every 30 hours of work within Portland.  If the employer has five or fewer employees at any location then the PST can be unpaid.  If the employer has 6 or more employees at any location, then PST must be paid leave.

An employee begins PST accrual 90 days after the commencement of employment.  Employees can use up to 40 hours of PST per year and in increments as small as one hour at a time.

Employees can carry PST over from year to year, but employers can cap PST accrual at 40 hours per year.

Reasons for Portland Sick Time

Employees can use PST for any of the following reasons:

  • Treatment of an employee’s or a family member’s mental or physical illnesses, injuries, health conditions, or preventative care.  This includes pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum care, and preventative medical care.
  • Leave allowed under the Oregon Victims of Certain Crimes Leave Act, covering activities related to domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or harassment;
  • Because the employer’s business or the employee’s child’s school or child care facility closes for a public health emergency;
  • A family member is determined to be a risk to the health of others and needs assistance;  or
  • The employer is required by state law to exclude the employee from the workplace for health reasons.

Interaction with Employer policy

If an employer policy or collective bargaining agreement already provides time off such as paid sick time that is equivalent to PST, then the employer does not need to provide additional PST.

Verifying the need for PST

An employer can require verification of the employee’s use of PST in order to investigate a pattern of usage of unscheduled time off. If an employee is absent for more than 3 consecutive days on PST, the employer can also require verification that the absence was used for one of the PST approved reasons.

Don’t ignore the trend!

Employers should stay alert in the places they do business and be prepared to offer paid sick leave to their workforce.  It is difficult to adhere to a patchwork of state and municipal requirements (and soon, maybe federal). To date, however, most paid sick leave laws offer a safe harbor exception to employers who already offer paid sick time to employees that cover absences for the same reasons and in at least the same amount as the law or ordinance.  In addition, paid sick leave will overlap with other state and federal-mandated unpaid leave of absence laws, such as the federal FMLA.

The wave of paid sick leave is coming to a municipality near you!  Whether you are on the East Coast, West Coast, or in the heartland, employers who do not already do so are encouraged to offer a paid sick leave benefit.  Soon sick and safe leave will likely be required by major cities in which you do business.  Get ahead of the wave and ease into this benefit at your company’s own pace.

For more information please call 866-218-4650.  Click here to access a free 14-day trial of Leave of Absence Advisor™, including the Pending Legislation feature.

COMING SOON: The ADA Accommodation Practices Survey

We are happy to announce that beginning next Thursday, April 18th, Reed Group will be partnering with Spring Consulting on an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Accommodation Practices Survey.

This is the first annual survey of employer practices related to the ADA and is designed to focus on ADA accommodation, particularly leave of absence as an accommodation. It is unique in that it explores the challenges of administering the ADA and ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA), the relationship of ADA leave to other leaves of absence and administrative best practices.

The survey will be open to all business executives. All survey respondents will receive a valuable summary of the results.

Please bookmark this post and come back on Thursday, April 18th to take the survey; your responses are important. If you have any questions about the survey, please contact Gary Gustafson.

Reed Group Releases Updates to MDGuidelines™

Expanded functionality for American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) subscribers for treatment and for utilization review, new links to State Treatment Guidelines for all users

Reed Group, publisher of the industry’s leading return-to-work (RTW) reference toolset, MDGuidelines™, announced today the release of two ICD-9-CM to CPT code crosswalks. These are available for those who access either the ACOEM 3rd edition treatment guidelines or the California treatment guidelines (MTUS). Each crosswalk allows users to quickly determine the relevant treatments and treatment recommendations for specific diagnoses. This ability is a great aid for utilization review, along with other disability management tasks.

Previous to this release, MDGuidelines™, which provides single portal access to return-to-work, treatment, and utilization review information, has been annually increasing the number of state guidelines that it hosts, providing search and other navigation for this information. Both the New York and the Louisiana guidelines are part of this portal, and each has its own ICD-CPT crosswalk. To round out the suite of tools, MDGuidelines is now providing similar crosswalks to the ACOEM and state of California guidelines.

The ACOEM and state-specific treatment guidelines contain medication and opioid recommendations with supporting evidence, which are valuable tools to aid in combatting the nation’s opioid epidemic.  ACOEM is soon to release a formulary tool which ties NDC drug codes to the guidelines.

In addition to new crosswalks, MDGuidelines™ provides access to 17 different state treatment guidelines. MDGuidelines™ continues to endeavor to be the single portal for access to treatment and disability duration guidelines, providing efficiency and accuracy to all stakeholder populations.

For more information or access to these features, call Reed Group at 1.800.442.4519 or visit us at www.mdguidelines.com. To learn about other Reed Group products and services please visit www.reedgroup.com.

GAY UNIONS: EFFECTS ON LEAVE OF ABSENCE RIGHTS

By: Martha J. Cardi, Esq. and Megan G. Holstein, Esq.

Last week, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on two cases concerning gay rights.  These cases provide an opportune time to consider gay couples’ rights and employers’ obligations under various leave of absence laws.

The first case, heard by the Court on March 26, concerns the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage.  The second case, heard on March 27, is a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA defines marriage as the union of a man and woman and therefore prohibits federal law, including the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA), from recognizing and providing benefits to same-sex spouses.

How might these cases affect leave of absence rights and obligations?   Under the FMLA, a spouse is defined as a husband or a wife as defined or recognized under state law.  Employees are entitled to take up to 12 weeks of leave per year for various reasons, including caring for a spouse with a serious health condition.  However, because DOMA prohibits recognition of same-sex marriages for federal benefits, same-sex spouses cannot take leave to care for each other even if state law recognizes their relationship. Thus currently, the FMLA only provides leave rights to opposite-sex spouses.

If the Supreme Court rules that DOMA is unconstitutional, same-sex couples married under the law of a state will be “spouses” as defined by the FMLA and will be entitled to take leave when the other has a serious health condition.

Many state laws already provide leave rights to same-sex couples.  In some cases this is explicitly stated in the leave law itself (such as Oregon’s Family Leave Act, which allows registered domestic partners to have the same leave rights as heterosexual married couples).  In other states, such as California, the leave law does not provide such rights directly.  Instead, some states have passed a domestic partnership or civil union law that confers the same rights on such couples under state law as are enjoyed by heterosexual married couples, including leave rights conferred upon “spouses” or husbands and wives.

Despite legislation like DOMA and Proposition 8, more and more states are moving toward recognizing same sex relationships such as civil unions, domestic partnerships, and marriage.  On March 21, Colorado’s governor signed a bill allowing same sex relationships to be formalized as civil unions, effective May 1 of this year.  In addition to Colorado, 5 other states recognize civil unions (Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Rhode Island), 7 states and Washington D.C. have domestic partnership laws (California, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin), and 9 states recognize same sex marriage (Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington).

In contrast, some states are putting forth initiatives to prevent the state from passing laws that recognize the legal relationship between same-sex couples, such as California’s Proposition 8.  However, the Supreme Court’s ruling on these cases will impact whether such initiatives prohibiting same-sex marriages will succeed.  Additionally, the Supreme Court’s decisions will impact whether employers must provide FMLA and state leave law leaves of absence for same-sex couples.

Reed Group is following these cases as well as all states’ initiatives to recognize or prohibit the recognition of same-sex relationships and their impact on the field of leave of absence.  Stay tuned for more developments!

For more information please call 866-218-4650.  Click here to access a free 14-day trial of Leave of Absence Advisor™, including the Pending Legislation feature.