FMLA 101 – Leaves of Absence

November 16, 2017 | Leave a Comment

FMLA 101 Leaves of Absence

If an employee is absent, whether for days or months, they have one question in mind: “How will I get paid for this?”

As the length or frequency of an employee’s absence increases, an employer may ask: “Am I required to continue holding this employee’s job – or is it time to hire a replacement?”

With six types of leave available to employees, there is not a simple answer to either question. The best solution depends on several variables, including the reason for the employee’s absences and the government- or state-mandated regulations facing the employer.

Any time an employee is absent, the time off will fall into one (or more) of the following categories:

  1. Family and Medical Leave Act
  2. Workers’ Compensation
  3. Short- and Long-Term Disability Insurance
  4. Paid Time Off (including both vacations and sick-time)
  5. Leave of Absence Policy
  6. ADA/ADAAA “reasonable accommodations”

The Family and Medical Leave Act

The only type of leave that protects an employee’s job and benefits is FMLA. FMLA will protect an employee’s job, status, and benefits for 12 weeks (and up to 26 weeks in certain circumstances).

But not every employer and not every employee is eligible for FMLA benefits. Companies with more than 50 employees are typically required to provide FMLA annually to employees who have worked at the company for a year or more and worked a minimum of 1,250 hours preceding leave.

The “FMLA umbrella” can be used for any serious medical condition or for the care of a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition.

Employers should note what qualifies for an employee to use FMLA, because employers are required to give employees all the information they need to complete FMLA paperwork when needed.

A serious health condition that qualifies for FMLA includes: pregnancy and prenatal visits, birth of a child, overnight hospital stays, any continuing treatment that requires a follow-up visit (could include bronchitis and pneumonia), any condition that is periodically treated but doctor visits are not necessary for each absence (includes asthma and migraines), any condition that may not get better with treatment (includes depression and chronic pain), and any condition that could worsen if not treated (including chemotherapy).

While FMLA is the only category of time off that will protect the employee’s job, it’s important to note that it will not provide payment to the employee.

Workers’ compensation, paid time off, and short- and long-term disability insurance will provide payment to the employee, but they generally offer no protection as far as the employee’s employment or continuation of benefits during an extended leave of absence.

For more information on FMLA and how the six types of leave overlap, click here to watch a webinar provided by Cornerstone’s Director of HR Bethany Holliday, PHR, SHRM-CP.

Posted in Blog, FMLA, Human Resources | Tagged  , , , ,

2018 Shared Responsibility Affordability Percentage

November 06, 2017 | Leave a Comment

2018 Shared Responsibility Affordability Percentage

The Affordable Care Act requires applicable large employers (those who employ at least 50 full-time employees) to offer affordable, minimum health coverage to all full-time employees and their dependents. This ACA mandate is known as employer shared responsibility or “pay or play”.

The IRS announced the shared responsibility affordability percentage will decrease for plan years beginning in 2018. Employer-sponsored coverage will be considered affordable if the employee’s required contribution (for the least-expensive, self-only coverage option) does not exceed 9.56% of the employee’s annual household income.

This is down from 9.69% in 2017. This decrease, announced in May, is the first time the percentage has not increased in the past few years. Because the affordability rate is lower in 2018 than 2017, employers may need to lower employee contributions for the new plan year. An applicable large employer will face a penalty if a full-time employee receives a subsidy through the healthcare exchange.

For more information on shared responsibility rules, please click here.

Posted in Benefits, Blog, Legislative Alerts | Tagged  ,

Upcoming Webinars

November 03, 2017 | Leave a Comment

Upcoming Webinars

Join us for our last webinars of 2017.

Tuesday, Nov. 14, 10-11 am: FMLA, LOA, & ADA – How Leaves of Absence Overlap

Experiencing personal health problems ranks near the top of the list of life’s stressors. During difficult times, the Family Medical Leave Act often creates confusion and questions for employers and employees.

Join HR Director Bethany Holliday, PHR, SHRM-CP, as she discusses FMLA and other government-mandated leaves. In this webinar, Bethany will also clarify the differences between FMLA and company leave of absence policies, including the rights and responsibilities of the company and the employee in both cases.

She will also discuss how a leave of absence may be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act and the importance of having a formal leave of absence policy if your organization is not subject to FMLA guidelines.

Click Here to Register


Tuesday, Dec. 12, 10-11 am: Workplace Violence – Risk Management Strategies

It’s a topic that seems to be in the news almost daily – workplace violence. Prevention and preparedness has never been more important. Since 2000, there have been more active shooter incidents in businesses than any other place in the U.S. The potential that an act of violence could devastate your business is real.

Workplace violence can happen anywhere, to anyone, at any time. Does your organization have a plan to manage this important workplace safety and health issue?

Ellisville Chief of Police Steven Lewis is hosting our upcoming webinar to discuss how to prepare for an act of violence in the workplace and the risk management strategies your business can put in place to prevent violence from occurring.

Chief Lewis is a seasoned veteran of law enforcement with over three decades of law enforcement and security experience. Click here to read his full bio.

Click Here to Register

Posted in Blog, Commercial, FMLA, Human Resources, Risk management, Safety | Tagged  , , , , ,

Employee Benefit Plan Limits Increasing for 2018

November 01, 2017 | Leave a Comment

Employee Benefit Plan Limits Increase 2018

The Internal Revenue Service has increased the annual dollar limits for various welfare and retirement plan limits for 2018, including HDHPs, HSAs, FSAs, and 401(k) plans.

These changes may affect employer benefit plan designs. Employers should ensure their plan administration will be consistent with the new limits and communicate the new limits to employees during open enrollment periods.

Click here for more information on the upcoming increases. Please contact us with any questions by emailing your Cornerstone Consultant or

Posted in Benefits, Blog, Legislative Alerts

Webinar: How to Start an Engaging Wellness Program

October 19, 2017 | Leave a Comment

Webinar: How to Start An Engaging Wellness Program

Successful workplace wellness programs focus on behavior change and provide employees with the tools they need to move toward and maintain healthy behaviors. Every company has different needs and different starting points. But creating a wellness program from scratch doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

In our upcoming webinar, Cornerstone’s Director of Wellness Leah Hammel will introduce a variety of wellness solutions for employers in every category. She will also discuss the top three elements every wellness program needs to succeed.

Whether you’re interested in learning more about jump-starting a wellness program or looking for tips on how to increase engagement in your current wellness initiative, this webinar will discuss ways you can provide employees with healthier choices.

Join the discussion on Oct. 31, 2017, from 10-10:30 am. Click here to register.

Posted in Blog, Wellness | Tagged  ,

White House Ends ACA Subsidies

October 13, 2017 | Leave a Comment

White House Announces ACA Subsidies Will End 10-13-17

The White House announced on Oct. 12 that it will end reimbursements for low-income individuals who purchase insurance through the Exchanges. The cuts are effective immediately.

This decision will likely affect the open enrollment period beginning Nov. 1. Some states have indicated their intention to sue the federal government to force these subsidies to be paid. However, until a federal court intervenes or Congress enacts an appropriation for these payments, it is possible that these cost-sharing reductions will no longer be paid.

For more information on the announcement that the White House will end ACA subsidies, please click here.

Posted in Blog, Health Care Reform Info, Legislative Alerts | Tagged  , ,

New Executive Order Designed to Change ACA Rules

October 13, 2017 | Leave a Comment

New Executive Order Designed to Change ACA Rules

On Oct. 12, President Donald Trump signed an executive order intended to change current ACA rules and reform the U.S. health care system by expanding choices and increasing competition. While it does not implement any immediate change, the order provides guidance for federal agencies to issue new regulations.

It will take time to see the full impact of the executive order, and it is unlikely any significant change will be seen before the Nov. 1 open enrollment period. All employers should continue to prepare for upcoming ACA requirements and deadlines.

The order is expected to relax regulations on association health plans, allowing individuals and small businesses to purchase health insurance policies across state lines and avoid certain ACA requirements.

For more information on the executive order and association health plans, click here.

Posted in Benefits, Blog, Health Care Reform Info | Tagged  , , ,

Jump Start Your Wellness Program

October 12, 2017 | Leave a Comment

Jump Start Your Wellness Progra

A thoughtfully implemented wellness program can have outstanding effects on office culture, health-related costs for employers, and ultimately the well-being of employees.

But buying a Fit Bit for every employee in your company and ordering healthy snacks for the break room once a week can add up quickly. To increase your office health and morale, you need to choose a well-rounded program that reaches every employee in your company (but that doesn’t mean it needs to be expensive).

Identify your needs and resources

Achieving a positive return on investment begins by pinpointing the wellness initiatives that will have the most impact on your employees. Use a survey to assess their current health concerns and fitness levels, as well as their goals and interests. A biometric screening will complement your survey, giving you detailed information about the aggregate health of your team.

Then, determine the resources you will allot to managing and improving your program over the next year. For wellness programs to succeed, they need the backing of the leadership team and a dedicated group of individuals who will manage the effort.

Plan your program

The team of volunteers who will run your wellness program will need to use the survey data to determine the areas of focus. These could include disease prevention, fitness, smoking cessation, nutrition education, weight loss, stress management, or behavior change.

Choosing 4-6 areas of focus at the beginning of an annual program will help the committee create a calendar.

If a high percentage of employees surveyed mentioned that stress limits their productivity at work or at home, then the wellness committee may want to select stress management as an area of focus for the quarter or the year.

Next, for each area of focus, the wellness committee will plan 2-3 events that will engage the largest number of employees depending on their interest level and time available. This may include challenges, professionally guided seminars, or community activities.

Example of a 3-month area of focus

Here is a sample of what a quarter focusing on stress management may look like:

  • Month 1: Invite a guest speaker from a local health care provider to come in to speak about stress management techniques. A lunch and learn session for each area of focus will allow employees who do not have enough interest to make changes outside of work to become more educated on the topic.
  • Month 2: Create a stress-free zone in your office space. Encourage employees to use the space for 10-minutes per day to de-stress. Sending out emails that discuss the effects of stress and 10-minute relaxation techniques will help employees to feel comfortable making the small daily change.
  • Month 3: Offer an incentive to those who participate in a stress-management schedule. Each employee will meditate for 10-minutes three times a week for the month and keep track of their progress. Once the month is complete, individuals who completed each meditation session are entered into a raffle to win a free yoga membership and yoga mat.

These examples are low-cost and can have a high impact on the stress levels of your team. If you’d like to get started, Cornerstone’s Wellness Director Leah Hammel will be a great resource. To find her contact information and more information on the wellness program, click here.

Posted in Blog, Wellness | Tagged  

Cyber Attacks – Are You Prepared?

October 05, 2017 | Leave a Comment

Cyber Attacks Are You Prepared

The New York Times just reported that the Equifax breach was caused by the negligence of one employee. Despite the security measures the consumer credit reporting agency had taken to protect the sensitive data of its more than 800 million customers, it took only one person to make a single devastating mistake that would jeopardize the company’s entire operation.

We read and hear about the Equifax, Yahoo, and Target cyber scandals because these companies are so prevalent in our society. However, the number of cyber-attacks continues to increase year-to-year and is not dependent upon company size or location. These attacks can happen to businesses of any size, and 60% of the firms that incur a breach will go out of business in 12 months.

So how can you prevent a security breach? The following risk management techniques can help mitigate your risks of being a cyber-attack victim.

  • Keep software up-to-date and continually educate your employees on how to use it correctly.
  • Implement a policy and procedure that encrypts or restricts the storage of sensitive data on mobile devices such as smart phones and laptop computers.
  • Use a firewall for your internet connection.
  • Limit employee access to sensitive data.
  • Require all staff to regularly change passwords.
  • Never click on links, pop-ups, or open attachments in an email, unless you can confirm that it was sent from a trusted source.
  • Purchase insurance to protect your business in the event one of your employees makes a mistake.

It’s up to every member of your team to help prevent cybercrime. Click here for a complete guide to begin developing your cybersecurity strategy.


Posted in Blog, Cyber Liability, Risk management | Tagged  , , , ,

Employee Discipline and Terminations: Termination Process

September 28, 2017 | Leave a Comment


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Terminations are unpleasant, but avoiding them can lead to bigger issues in your workplace, including lower morale and efficiency.

Base the termination process on objective and well-documented facts and details, including statements from any individuals involved.

To limit the risk of litigation following a termination, follow the disciplinary process. The decision to terminate an employee should not be done on impulse and should be weighed against the severity of the issue and the number of written warnings given prior to the offense.

If the problem behavior meets the requirements outlined in the employee handbook and company policies, use the following steps to limit your risk and ensure the least amount of disruption to operations.

To prepare for the termination meeting:

  • Gather copies of important documents or information that the employee may need, including information on COBRA and severance packages
  • Assess any security issues that may arise during the meeting or as the employee is leaving
  • Make a list of any company equipment, technology, or proprietary information that the employee must return before exiting the building

Keep these points in mind during the meeting:

  • Meet in a neutral location and try to conduct the meeting at the beginning or end of the day when there are fewer employees around. This helps provide a less embarrassing situation for the employee who is being terminated
  • Treat the individual with dignity and respect
  • Allow the employee to express concern about the decision, but do not be swayed
  • Be prepared to answer questions about the employee’s final paycheck, unused vacation time, benefits, etc. In some states, a final paycheck must be provided to the employee at the time of termination
  • Do not promise the individual another job opportunity within the organization or otherwise
  • While a witness is not always necessary, often you may feel more confident or secure having another supervisor or HR representative present

After the meeting is finished, do the following:

  • Collect all company property, including keys to the building, laptops, cell phones and company credit cards.
  • Don’t embarrass the employee by having them escorted out by security (unless the reason for termination was due to a violent offense or there is a true safety concern)

When all is said and done, even when you think you’ve done everything to mitigate the risks, employee claims can still happen. Lawsuits are expensive and time-consuming, and they do happen.

Employment practices liability (EPL) insurance can be your next line of defense. EPL insurance protects your company from costs associated with employee lawsuits. Contact your Cornerstone Consultant for more information on preventing losses due to employee claims.

This is the final edition of a series of blog posts on Employee Discipline and Terminations to help employers navigate the implications of employee discipline and terminations, including mitigating the risks of employee claims. Click here to view the first article in the series, Company Policies and the Employee Handbook. 

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