6 Frequently Asked Questions about Absence Management

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6 Frequently Asked Questions about Absence Management

Absence management comes in many different shapes and sizes. Oftentimes issues arise in the workplace regarding absence management or FMLA and the intricate compliance laws and requirements may make handling the issue more complicated than expected. ERC’s Help Desk compiled a list of frequently asked questions we receive from our local members and with the help of CareWorks, here’s the answers to those questions:
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4 Steps to Managing Absenteeism in Your Organization

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4 Steps to Managing Absenteeism in Your Organization

Life is full of surprises, ones that sometimes lead to employees calling off work unexpectedly. Whether it is a last-minute cancellation by a childcare provider, a case of food poisoning, or another more “creative” reason, absenteeism is a pervasive and costly issues faced by organizations across the board. The four steps outlined below can serve as a basic guide on improving your absence management practices this year.
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MCO Open Enrollment is Open through May 27

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MCO Open Enrollment

Every two years the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) provides employers an opportunity to evaluate the performance of their current Managed Care Organization (MCO). MCOs are responsible for the medical management of workplace injury claims, including initial injury reporting, assisting with medical treatment, paying medical bills and helping achieve successful return to work outcomes.
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5 Common FMLA Challenges and 8 Suggestions for Solutions

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5 Common FMLA Challenges and 8 Suggestions for Solutions

In the last decade, organizations report increasing difficulties in certain facets of FMLA administration (DOL). 2015's ERC FMLA Practices Survey reports only 15% of local organizations are “very satisfied” with their FMLA administration efforts. Read on to learn which 5 challenges Northeast Ohio employers are citing most frequently, and what solutions you can implement in your own organization to resolve these challenges.


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Workers’ Compensation Claims: Strategies for Optimal Outcomes

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Workers’ Compensation Claims: Strategies for Optimal Outcomes

By utilizing workers’ compensation best practices employers can achieve a higher level of control over their workplace injuries, which can result in reduced severity and claim costs and better outcomes.

Early Reporting & Transitional Work

Early claim reporting is a crucial first step in controlling costs.  Numerous national studies have shown the longer it takes for a claim to reported, the costlier the claim.  That’s why it’s important to work with an Ohio Managed Care Organization (MCO) that has efficient options for reporting new workers’ compensation claims.  These can include fax, telephone, online or email reporting.
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ERC Endorses CareWorks as Preferred MCO

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ERC is proud to endorse CareWorks as the preferred workers’ compensation Managed Care Organization (MCO) for members.

“CareWorks’ customer service philosophy, effective return to work strategies and quality medical management efforts can provide significant benefits to employers. CareWorks can also deliver substantial medical savings through provider network discounts. These discounts can help employers reduce claim costs and help control future premiums,” comments Pat Perry, President of ERC.

To register for a free event from CareWorks about what your MCO should do for your business, click here.

Military FMLA: Wading through the Confusion

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Verifying Next of Kin

According to the Department of Labor:

"Next of kin of a covered servicemember" means the nearest blood relative other than the covered servicemember's spouse, parent, son, or daughter, in the following order of priority: Blood relatives who have been granted legal custody of the covered servicemember by court decree or statutory provisions, brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and first cousins, unless the covered servicemember has specifically designated in writing another blood relative as his or her nearest blood relative for purposes of military caregiver leave under the FMLA.

When no such designation is made, and there are multiple family members with the same level of relationship to the covered servicemember, all such family members shall be considered the covered servicemember's next of kin and may take FMLA leave to provide care to the covered servicemember, either consecutively or simultaneously. When such designation has been made, the designated individual shall be deemed to be the covered servicemember's only next of kin.

How is an employer supposed to know if a next of kin has been designated?

Verifying next of kin can isn’t as easy as it sounds. Here are some guidelines which will help employers in this situation when next of kin needs to be determined:

  • The Emergency Contact Form (DD0093) would rank employee’s relatives. This will help determine Next of Kin. For example, if the servicemember didn't have brothers/sisters, child, spouse, or parent, then maybe they would list their cousin or uncle as an emergency contact and beneficiary.
  • To obtain the DD0093, the employer can contact:
    • Army orders verification should be sent to hrc.foia@conus.army.mil
    • For all other branches of the armed forces: To identify a contact person, an employer should look at the military order and conduct an Internet Search to locate of the unit/battalion the servicemember is assigned. There is no general location/number employers can use to verify the validity of the orders. Employers are going to have to do some research to find the appropriate officer in charge of the unit/battalion.

This link has contact information for all the branches of the armed forces. Each branch can provide verification of active duty dates of service. The verification of orders is given by the unit officer in charge of the service member.

Military orders for Marines, Air Force, and Navy will detail what unit or battalion the servicemember is assigned.

The links below can be used to locate contact information for the unit the servicemember is assigned. The employer should contact the officer in charge of the unit to verify the orders.

The Air Force doesn't have a main location on the web which has all the units and contact information. An employer’s best option is to conduct an Internet Search of the unit indicated on the orders to locate a contact person.

Questions please contact:
Holly Moyer, M.Ed., CRC
Sr. Absence Management Consultant
(440) 937-9507
Holly.moyer@careworks.com

Proposed Changes to FMLA

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In 2012, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced proposed changes to Military FMLA and changes which would affect Airline Flight Crew Employees.   Secretary Solis discussed the amendments at Joining Forces for Caregivers, an event held Monday January 30th, 2012 in Washington, D.C.  

“Keeping the basic promise of America alive means ensuring that workers, from our servicemen and servicewomen who keep us safe at home to the flight crews who keep us safe in the skies, have the resources, support and opportunities they need and have rightfully earned,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis in a press release. “The proposed revisions… are an important step toward keeping that promise.”

Changes to Military FMLA

Changes proposed would permit an employee to take leave during or following an immediate family member’s deployment for matters related to the person’s service (e.g., military briefings, financial or legal arrangements).  The 26-workweek option would be extended to care for family members who are veterans with an illness or injury that occurred in the line of duty, including conditions that have arisen only after the veteran had left the service.   The five days a family member can spend with a military member while on rest or recuperation is likely going to increase up to 15 days.   The FMLA coverage, which only covered the National Guard for qualification of exigency leave in 2012, would also extend to family members serving in the armed forces.

Airline Flight Crew Changes

Due to the way crew members currently work, the hours are difficult to track.   The proposed changes are intended to create a more accurate and simple way to account for the hours.   The proposed revision for airline flight crew employees would add a special hours of service eligibility requirement and specific alterations for calculating the amount of FMLA leave.

For more information, contact Scott Vaka at CareWorks USA at 614-760-3536 or scott.vaka@careworks.com.

Court: Employers Have Right to Enforce Leave Policies

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Nearly half of all HR professionals say they’ve approved FMLA leave requests even though they believed the requests weren’t legitimate, according to a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey.

If you think employees are violating your policies, what can you do? One court ruled in May 2011 that you can fire such an employee - but first make sure you have the right policies in place.

The corporate office for the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the country’s largest telecom union, distributes a policy manual to employees that includes a sickness and absenteeism policy. CWA requires employees who accept wage replacement benefits while on medical leave to remain in the immediate vicinity of their homes.

In the case Pellegrino v. CWA, Denise Pellegrino spent two weeks at home, post-operatively and was on concurrent FMLA and paid sick leave - that was before she left home to go to Cancun, Mexico. According to CWA's sick leave policy, employees on leave may not leave their local area without written permission from the company unless seeking medical treatment or conducting "ordinary or necessary activities directly related to personal or family needs."

When CWA officials learned about Pellegrino's trip, they terminated her. She sued, claiming the termination interfered with her right to FMLA leave.

Although the court agreed Pellegrino's leave was protected, it found CWA had a right to enforce its leave policies.

CareWorksUSAsuggests the following to employers:

  • Have a clear sickness and absenteeism policy. CWA would not have been able to terminate this employee without a clearly written policy.
  • Distribute the policy to each employee. In this case, the court noted the employee in this case had received the policy.
  • Consistently enforce the policy. Consistently enforce the policy across your workforce.

(Pellegrino v. CWA, W.D. Pa., 5/19/11)

For more information, contact: 

Scott Vaka
Phone: 614-760-3536
Email: scott.vaka@careworks.com
Website: www.careworksabsence.com

Is Your FMLA Program putting you at Risk?

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Employers are increasingly faced with significant challenges in effectively managing FML and state leave related absences. Inappropriate administration and mismanagement of absences can cost an employer millions of dollars in revenue, production and legal fees. Today’s employees are becoming more knowledgeable on the use of FML and state leave benefits. As their knowledge and use of these benefits increase, so too will your associated administrative and personnel costs. To combat increasing costs associated with employee absences, it is both financially and administratively critical to have a solid, well governed absence management program in place.

FMLA Non-Compliance Costs of 2011

  • According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the average cost to defend a FMLA lawsuit is $78,000 , regardless of the outcome.
  • Employees who successfully sued for wrongful termination based on FMLA Absence received on average between $87,500 - $450,000 in damages (Source: EEOC.)
  • According to the U.S. Department of Labor, managers and supervisors can be sued directly and held personally liable for paying damages (Shultz v. Advocate Health & Hospitals Corp.)

Are you in Violation?

Among the most frequent FMLA violations is the failure on the part of the employer to notify the employee of his or her FMLA rights.  Failure to notify the employee that the leave counted toward the employee’s 12-week entitlement is the second most common violation.   Violations like these can be cost employers significant dollars in litigation alone. Other common violations include:

  • Taking disciplinary action against an employee for using FMLA
  • Failure to grant leave to provide physical care or psychological comfort to a seriously ill parent or child
  • Failure to reinstate employees to the same or an equivalent position, including same shift
  • Terminating an employee during or at the conclusion of FMLA leave
  • Failure to grant FMLA leave because of misunderstanding of what qualifies as a serious health condition
  • Failure to request medical certification in writing and not giving an employee at least 15 days to obtain medical certification

(Source: United States Department of Labor)

Contact CareWorks USA at myfmla@careworks.com for assistance with FMLA or visit http://www.careworksabsence.com/.