March 1, 2015

DOL Extends FMLA Rights to Same-Sex Marriages

On Feb, 23, 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a final rule extending FMLA rights to eligible workers in same-sex marriages. The rule goes into effect on March 27 so you have less than a month to be up to speed.

One important issue is that rights are extended to eligible workers regardless of whether the state in which they are employed recognizes same-sex marital status. In the press release (linked above), the DOL says:

"Today’s rule change updates the FMLA regulatory definition of “spouse” so that an eligible employee in a legal same-sex marriage will be able to take FMLA leave for his or her spouse regardless of the state in which the employee resides. Previously, the regulatory definition of “spouse” did not include same-sex spouses if an employee resided in a state that did not recognize the employee’s same-sex marriage. Under the new rule, eligibility for federal FMLA protections is based on the law of the place where the marriage was entered into. This “place of celebration” provision allows all legally married couples, whether opposite-sex or same-sex, to have consistent federal family leave rights regardless of whether the state in which they currently reside recognizes such marriages."

Also see: (DOL) Fact Sheet: Final Rule to Amend the Definition of Spouse in the FMLA Regulations

Whenever FMLA changes occur, we frequently turn to Jeff Nowak's FMLA Insights blog. Nowak is an attorney, co-chair of the labor and employment practice at Franczek Radelet. His blog is a must-read on all FMLA matters.

Here's his post on the recent ruling: DOL Issues Final Rule Extending FMLA Leave Rights to Same-Sex Couples: Here's Everything Employers Need to Know

He discusses:

  • What the ruling covers
  • What it means for employers (amend policies, train managers)
  • Who this applies to (marriages, not civil unions)
  • The issue of documentation
  • The issue of caring for a child to whom they stand in loco parentis

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ESI-Logo.jpg When complex employee issues arise, ESI EAP offers member employers direct access to Certified Senior Professionals in Human Resources (SPHR) and senior clinical counselors. If you need an Employee Assistance Program give us a call: 800-535-4841.

February 28, 2015

National Nutrition Month & Other March Wellness Themes

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National Nutrition Month
National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education and information campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). The campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. The theme for 2015 is "Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle." Consuming fewer calories, making informed food choices and getting daily exercise are key to maintaining a healthy weight, reducing the riks of chronic disease and promoting overall health. See Eat Right for excellent tips, recipes and expert information for people of all ages.

Problem Gambling Awareness Month (PGAM)
The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), the non-profit advocate for programs to help problem gamblers and their families, created and sponsors this grassroots campaign. Six to eight million Americans meet criteria for gambling addiction, and many more are affected by an individual’s gambling problem. Signs of problem gambling include becoming restless or irritable when trying to stop or cut down on gambling; lying about gambling to loved ones; and developing financial problems due to gambling. Gambling disorders are associated with a wide range of problems, including depression, domestic violence, bankruptcy, substance abuse and suicide. Find FAQs on Problem Gambling as well as a broad array of useful tools and resources.

National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
Among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Every year, about 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 people die from it. The risk of getting colorectal cancer increases with age. More than 90% of cases occur in people who are 50 years old or older. Colorectal cancer screening saves lives, but many people are not being screened according to national guidelines. Learn about screening options and learn more at the CDC's Screen for Life campaign.

Narch 24 - American Diabetes Association Alert Day - Take the Type 2 Diabetes Risk Test - it's free, it only takes 60 seconds and it could save your life. Here are some ways to lower your risk.

Other Observances

National Kidney Month

Red Cross Month

1-7 - National Severe Weather Preparedness Week

2-6 - National School Breakfast Week

​2-8 - ​National Sleep Awareness Week

15-21 - National Poison Prevention Week

16-22 - Brain Awareness Week

24 - World TB Day

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ESI EAP offers 24-7 access to counselors and a wide variety of support resources for employees and family members who are facing difficult health challenges. We also offer wellness benefits and health risk assessments, including discounts for weight loss programs, exercise and nutrition programs, and stop smoking programs. If you want to learn more about how ESI can provide more employee EAP benefits and more employer services, call us at 800-535-4841.

February 22, 2015

The importance of emotional hygiene

Psychologist Guy Winch says that we all need to learn to practice emotional first aid. In a recent TED talk, he notes that we are quick to go to the doctor when we experience pain or flu symptoms, but when we experience some emotional pain such as guilt, loss or loneliness, we aren't as quick to seek the help of a health professional. He asks why our physical health is so much more important to us than our psychological health. He discusses many of the emotional pains that harm us -- poor perceptions of self, loneliness, failure, rejection, fixations on the negative -- and makes a compelling case for why we should practice emotional hygiene, taking care of our emotions and our minds, with the same diligence we take care of our bodies.


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esi.JPGESI EAP offers help and tools for employees who experience stress, grief, failure and other psychological pains. Learn how ESI Employee Assistance Program can help address your employees' emotional well being - from counseling and help for everyday work-life matters to comprehensive assistance for a wide array of potentially disruptive issues and problems. To learn more about how ESI EAP can help, give us a call: 800-535-4841.

February 20, 2015

Workplace Wellness Tools from the CDC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a great employer wellness resource via its Healthy Workforce site, We're excerpting some key segments of an infographic but it's worth a visit, because it contains more information as well as resources and links to useful tool kits, promotional materials and more.

Here are a few key CDC workplace wellness websites.
Workplace Health Promotion

Work@Health Program

Effective Workplace programs

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ESI EAP offers 24-7 access to counselors and a wide variety of support resources for employees and family members who are facing difficult health challenges. We also offer wellness benefits and health risk assessments, including discounts for weight loss programs, exercise and nutrition programs, and stop smoking programs. If you want to learn more about how ESI can provide more employee EAP benefits and more employer services, call us at 800-535-4841.

February 15, 2015

News roundup: Workforce cost, women leaders, executive compensation & more

The Total Cost of Your Workforce
Stacia Garr, Bersin by Deloitte: "Headcount figures are important, no doubt, but this data alone only tells part of the story. Executives and line managers want to know how much they are spending on talent, and how different decisions will impact these costs. HR, in partnership with Finance, needs to take the initiative to calculate and report these costs."

The Art of Not Working at Work
Roland Paulsen, The Atlantic: "Two years ago a civil servant in the German town of Menden wrote a farewell message to his colleagues on the day of his retirement stating that he had not done anything for 14 years. “Since 1998,” he wrote, “I was present but not really there. So I’m going to be well prepared for retirement—Adieu.” The e-mail was leaked to Germany's Westfalen-Post and quickly became world news. The public work ethic had been wounded and in the days that followed the mayor of Menden lamented the incident, saying he “felt a good dose of rage.”

Signs You’re Being Passive-Aggressive
Muriel Maignan Wilkins, Harvard Business Review: "And while it’s easy to recognize a passive aggressive co-worker — the colleague who is agreeable to your face but badmouths the idea behind your back or the sarcastic direct report whose constant retort is “but it was just a joke” — recognizing one’s own passive-aggressive behaviors at work can be quite difficult."

Fostering women leaders: A fitness test for your top team
Lareina Yee, McKinsey Quarterly: "I’ve distilled some forward-leaning practices into five questions that can serve as a fitness test for your top team. In my experience, an organization that is making progress on such issues tends to explore them in concert. At the very least, these questions can help generate the kinds of challenging conversations that executive teams around the world should be having. The stakes are too high not to have them."

Most Companies Miss Easiest Ways to Boost Workplace Cybersecurity
Hilary Tuttle, Risk Management Monitor: "Despite increasing attention to cybersecurity and a seemingly constant stream of high-profile data breaches, the primary security method used in businesses worldwide remains the simple password. According to a recent study, the average person now has 19 passwords to remember, so it is not surprising that the vast majority of passwords are, from a security perspective, irrefutably bad, including sequential numbers, dictionary words or a pet’s name."

Happy and productive workers
Wally Bock, Three Star Leadership Blog: "Are happy workers productive workers? The academics have rolled out their heavy artillery on both sides of that one. A lot of companies have bought the idea that if they make their workers happy, they’ll become more productive.
Usually, when they do that they load up on the hygiene factors. They look at salary and benefits and ping pong tables and perks. But the reality is that hygiene factors don’t make people happy. People get used to that new salary pretty quick. After they spend the bonus, they still have to go back to work.
If you’re thinking about productivity, that’s where you have to look. You have to look at what it’s like to go to work."

Mortality risk 'two times higher' in people with mental disorders
"A new study published in JAMA Psychiatry finds that the risk of mortality among people with mental health disorders is more than two times higher than that of individuals without such conditions and the general population."

Executive Compensation 101: What to Consider
Bridget Miller, HR Daily Advisor: "Creating an appropriate executive compensation package is vital to getting and keeping the best-suited executives for your organization. As with any role in the business, the compensation package should be tailored not only to the skills required but also to organizational needs. It should also factor in market-driven criteria such as competitive pay scales."

Pros & Cons of Unlimited Vacation Time for Employees
Brian Anelante, Undercover Recruiter: "Companies around the world including Virgin Group, Netflix, Groupon, Glassdoor, HubSpot & many others offer their employees unlimited vacation time. If this vacation policy goes as expected, Virgin Group’s Richard Branson plans to recommend it to his company’s subsidiaries as well as companies all around the world."

Smoking's Death Toll May Be Higher Than Anyone Knew
Richard Harris, NPR: "The U.S. surgeon general lists 21 deadly diseases that are caused by smoking. Now, a study in this week's New England Journal of Medicine points to more than a dozen other diseases that apparently add to the tobacco death toll. To arrive at this conclusion, scientists from the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute and several universities tracked nearly a million people for a decade and recorded their causes of death."

Brief takes


February 8, 2015

Anthem Data Breach: How to protect yourself

If you are one of the up to 80 million subscribers of Anthem and its affiliated organizations, some of your vital data may be at risk. While you'll be notified by US mail if you are among that number, there are some immediate steps you should take to protect yourself if you think you may be affected. We'll discuss what happened, why it's important, what actions you should take and we'll provide some key resources for more information.

What happened
Anthem suffered a major hacking attack that exposed vital data for up to 80 million current and former customers and employees. The data included names, addresses, Social Security numbers, birthdays, email and employment information. Anthem said that it does not believe medical or healthcare information was compromised. Impacted plans include: Anthem Blue Cross, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Amerigroup, Caremore, Unicare.

Learn more at www.AnthemFacts.com or call the Anthem toll-free number which was set up to respond to questions 1-877-263-7995.

What Anthem is doing
Anthem will contact current and former members in writing via U.S. postal service mail to offer details about the breach, whether you've been affected and how to enroll in free credit monitoring and ID protection services. Reports say these services will be provided for a year.

Why it matters
It seems like there is a security leak every week, so why is this one different? If this were a credit card, you could cancel the card or change passwords -- but if your Social Security number is exposed, you can't change that. Plus, because it is exposed with other key data, you would be ripe for identity fraud. Hackers could use your data to steal your identity, to lock you out of accounts or to open new lines of credit. Unfortunately, this is not a problem that will be quickly resolved -- hackers could hang on to data and use it in future years. Some security experts say this vulnerability creates a lifelong problem.

What you should do now
Do not panic, but if you think you may be exposed, take action to protect yourself right now - it may be a week or two before you hear from Anthem. Here are some steps that security experts recommend.

Be hyper vigilant about scams
There are already reports of bogus phone calls and phony emails trying trick you into giving up more data. Scams might pretend to be Anthem offering free credit monitoring or they may claim to be a credit protection service. Anthem said it will contact its customers only via mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. Calls and emails may look and sound realistic but Anthem says:

  • DO NOT click on any links in email
  • DO NOT reply to the email or reach out to the senders in any way.
  • DO NOT supply any information on the website that may open, If you have clicked on a link in email.
  • DO NOT open any attachments that arrive with email.

File for annual free credit reports
You are eligible to get a free report from each of the three major credit bureaus - Experian, Transunion and Equifax - every12 months. Be sure to use the only FTC authorized site www.annualcreditreport.com to request your reports. When you get reports look for unauthorized or unexplained activity. Here is what to look for on your reports.

Place a fraud alert on your credit reports
Use one of the three credit reporting companies to put a fraud alert on your credit report. The FTC says that if you request a fraud alert from one, "They must tell the other 2 companies. An initial fraud alert can make it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name. The alert lasts 90 days but you can renew it." Mark your calendar to renew in 90 days. Here is more info on How to place a fraud alert

Monitor your financial accounts
Check your bank accounts, 401k and brokerage accounts, credit and debit card accounts regularly. Watch for suspicious activity such as transactions you don't recognize and report it immediately. See: How to spot fraud.

File your taxes early.
Many experts suggest that you file taxes early. The Connecticut Commissioner of Insurance says that the personally identifiable information “is exactly what tax fraud thieves use to make false refund claims that appear to be legitimate.” But again - watch out for the very common tax scams that promise to help you get your refund sooner.

Change passwords to key accounts.
Change your password for your Anthem account. it's also a good time to change the password for key financial accounts - which you should change periodically anyway. Use a different password for every important account. Learn how to make and test secure passwords. You might consider the added security of a password manager and 2-factor authentication.

Make copies of your medical records
Anthem says there is no evidence that financial or medical information was compromised, but some security experts suggest that "just in case," consumers may want to get or create a copy of their medical file so they have an accurate version of their history.

Consider Identity Theft insurance or protection
Your current homeowners or other insurance policies may protect you against some fraud. Learn more about identity theft insurance and what it does and doesn't cover.

If you believe you are the victim of identity theft
File and obtain a police report from your local police department and report fraud to the FTC. Having an Identity Theft Report may limit your liability for fraudulent accounts created in your name.

If you have reason to think you have been compromised, you can initiate a credit freeze to lock down your credit. The FTC says: "Also known as a security freeze, this tool lets you restrict access to your credit report, which in turn makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. That’s because most creditors need to see your credit report before they approve a new account. If they can’t see your file, they may not extend the credit." However, while credit is frozen, it might affect your needs too so be sure to read Credit Freeze FAQs .

More tips from security experts
Anthem hack: Seven ways to protect yourself right now

Anthem breach: 5 defensive tips to take now

Phishers Pounce on Anthem Breach

Key Resources
www.AnthemFacts.com

Anthem question line: 1-877-263-7995.

Annual Free Credit Reports

FTC - Identity Theft - immediate steps to repair identity theft and credit

FTC - Signs of Identity Theft

Who's my State Attorney General

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ESI-Logo.jpg ESI employee members and their families can log in to the Member site to access Cyber Safety Resources for more tools and information on cyber security, phishing, passwords and more.

Employers: If you don't have an EAP or would like to check out alternatives, Employee Assistance Program give us a call: 800-535-4841.

February 1, 2015

Are you a leader or a manager?

In business, the line between leadership and management sometimes gets blurred. This powerful video by Scott Williams helps to clarify the difference. It's less than 6 minutes, time we think will be well spent to start your week.

Scott Williams is a speaker, strategist, consultant and a respected thought leader who blogs at BigIsTheNewSmall.com. Learn more about his thoughts on leadership in his post 11 Key Attributes Of Great Leadership.

Thanks to Jüri Kaljundi for the pointer. We learned about this clip from a post on the very interesting Weekdone blog. Jüri Kaljundi is the CEO & co-founder, Weekdone, a weekly reporting tool for teams and companies.

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ESI-Logo.jpg When complex employee issues arise, ESI EAP offers member employers direct access to Certified Senior Professionals in Human Resources (SPHR) and senior clinical counselors. If you need an Employee Assistance Program give us a call: 800-535-4841.

January 31, 2015

Wellness tools & resources for February 2015

February is American Heart Month, important because cardiovascular disease (CVD)—including heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure—is the number 1 killer of women and men in the United States. It is a leading cause of disability, preventing Americans from working and enjoying family activities. CVD costs the United States over $300 billion each year, including the cost of health care services, medications, and lost productivity.

A number of risk factors for CVD can be controlled, including:

  • Diet
  • Physical activity
  • Tobacco use
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes

In addition to having an annual checkup and taking any prescribed medications, here are steps that the CDC advises for maintaining heart health, along with some tools to help.

Here are some other helpful heart resources:

Other Health Observances in the month of February

National Cancer Prevention Month

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

National Children's Dental Health Month

National Cancer Prevention Month

February 1–7 African Heritage & Health Week

February 1-7 - Burn Awareness Week

February 14 - February 14 National Donor Day

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ESI EAP offers 24-7 access to counselors and a wide variety of support resources for employees and family members who are facing difficult health challenges. We also offer wellness benefits and health risk assessments, including discounts for weight loss programs, exercise and nutrition programs, and stop smoking programs. If you want to learn more about how ESI can provide more employee EAP benefits and more employer services, call us at 800-535-4841.

January 25, 2015

News roundup: Sick leave, Wellness, Compliance & more

Who Has Paid Sick Leave, Who Doesn’t, and What’s Changing
Gretchen Gavett, Harvard Business Review blog:
"It’s in this climate that Obama is proposing up to seven earned paid sick days for all Americans, citing Connecticut’s 2011 law as precedence. While many expected that law to lead to costly abuse — with employees calling in sick whenever they felt like taking time off — according to data from the Center for Economic Policy and Research, those shenanigans never materialized. In addition, only a third of eligible employees even used the benefit, and they used fewer days on average than they were allotted."

Related: Valerie Jarrett on LinkedIn: Why We Think Paid Leave Is a Worker's Right, Not a Privilege

Why Employees Participate—or Don't—in Wellness Programs
Findings from the 2013 EBRI/Greenwald & Associates Consumer Engagement in Health Care Survey, published in a December 2013 EBRI Issue Brief, highlight factors influencing participation in workplace wellness programs, including health-risk assessments, health-promotion initiatives and biometric screenings.

How Would You Define HR in 2015?
Robin Schooling, HR Cloud Blog:
"We do, however, have opportunities to redefine the role of HR in our organizations as we move to a more strategic focus on talent management and organizational capability while also controlling the cost (and time!) spent on transactional work. And part of that is the ‘culture’ thing. It’s important enough that Merriam-Webster even named ‘culture’ as the 2014 word of the year."

The Challenge of Dealing with Difficult People and Difficult Conversations
David Lee, TLNT blog:
"When I shift from feeling afraid of the potential conflict to accepting the role of leader, role model, and facilitator, I let go of my desire to “win” or get back at them. When I’m able to do that, my focus shifts to asking what actions on my part will most likely foster a productive conversation. It shifts from my personal agenda to asking, “What actions on my part are for the greater good?”"

Artificial intelligence meets the C-suite
Technology is getting smarter, faster. Are you? Experts including the authors of The Second Machine Age, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, examine the impact that “thinking” machines may have on top-management roles.

What We Can Learn from the Biggest Corporate Hacks
Eric Ravenscraft, Lifehacker:
"Companies often seem like they're monolithic titans that can't be touched. Underneath all the branding, though, they're made up of people. People who can make mistakes, overlook something, or even get lazy. Whether you're one of the people who works for a big company, or just an average Jane looking to protect her chat logs, we can all learn a thing or two from these slip-ups."

Compliance Corner

Brief takes


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Looking for the most comprehensive and effective wellness program for your employees? ESI TotalCare Wellness pairs Behavioral Health Clinicians with certified Wellness Coaches to provide employees and their families with the help, motivation, tools and support to make changes and improve their lives. Call 800-535-4841 for more information.

January 24, 2015

The Daily Routine of Geniuses

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Sarah Green writes about the commonalities of how geniuses structure their days and routines for work in The Daily Routines of Geniuses for the Harvard Business Review blog. Her article is based on author Mason Currey's popular book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, which examines the work lives of 161 painters, writers, and composers, philosophers, scientists, and other exceptional thinkers.

She notes:

"And although the book itself is a delightful hodgepodge of trivia, not a how-to manual, I began to notice several common elements in the lives of the healthier geniuses (the ones who relied more on discipline than on, say, booze and Benzedrine) that allowed them to pursue the luxury of a productivity-enhancing routine."

Peppered with examples from the likes of Jane Austen, William Faulkner, Mark Twain, Graham Greene, N.C. Wyeth, Charles Dickens and Beethoven, she summarizes these as:

  • A workspace with minimal distractions
  • A daily walk
  • Accountability metrics
  • A clear dividing line between important work and busywork
  • A habit of stopping when they’re on a roll, not when they’re stuck
  • A supportive partner
  • Limited social lives

You can also read a series of articles by Mason Currey at Slate. While a few of these articles focus on vices that fueled the greats (alcohol and amphetemines) and others focused on quirks (Truman Capote and Marcel Proust wrote in bed, Somerset Maugham preferred the bath ), we point you to the more instructive entry on early rising: Is waking up early the secret to artistic success?:

"In researching Daily Rituals, I came across story after story of creative artists who did their most important work—and sometimes their only work—just as the sun was rising. (Of the 161 figures in the book, about a third got up at 7 a.m. or earlier.) If I were going to extrapolate one lesson from the book, it would be this: Get up early and go straight to work, making a cup of coffee if you like but not doing much else before sitting down, and take advantage of that time before the myriad demands of daily life have a chance to take hold."

Use the drop down box to review the entire series.

For snapshot views, there are also many well-designed infographic style summaries of the book:

A cool infographic from Info We Trust, the source of the illustration in this post. You can view this in poster form - click to enlarge.

The Daily Schedules of Creative Geniuses (Interactive Graphic)

Sleeping habits of geniuses

For more inspiration from the notable, see our prior post on How successful people start their days. It discusses the morning rituals of successful executives and entrepreneurs and how they invest in their top-priority activities for the day.

esi.JPG Want to ensure a winning team in your organization? In addition to help for your employees, ESI EAP offers a full suite of tools for supervisors and managers, including our ESI Management Academy. Trainings cover compliance issues, management skills and more. If you want to learn more about how ESI can provide more employee EAP benefits and more employer services, call us at 800-535-4841.

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