Tag Archives: family medical leave act

Prevent Child Drownings

SRP among Top Adoption-Friendly Workplaces

Salt River Project was ranked among the top adoption-friendly workplaces among a group of 100 energy and utility companies on the 2013 Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces List, released today by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

In the 2013 survey, SRP was ranked No. 5 in the nation in the Energy and Utilities category.  This is the fourth time SRP has been recognized among the top five companies in its industry in the seven years that the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has issued its list of adoption-friendly companies.

Employees who participate in the SRP adoption benefit program can receive payments, per child, of as much as $4,000 for a regular adoption and as much as $6,000 for a special needs adoption.  Employees receive the payments in their paycheck when the adoption is complete and final.

Under the employee program, the adopted child is eligible to be added to the SRP group insurance plan once he or she is legally placed in the home.  Also, employees may be eligible for up to 12 weeks of leave as defined under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Every year, the Dave Thomas Foundation announces America’s top 100 adoption-friendly employers, the top 10 by size, and the leaders in each industry from its annual survey of U.S. employers. Rankings are determined by an analysis of a company’s adoption benefits, including the maximum amount of financial reimbursement and paid leave for families who adopt. The top 100 are featured in the September issue of Employee Benefit News, a SourceMedia publication that is the leading source of information for benefits decision makers.

The list recognizes organizations of every size and industry that offer adoption benefits. Employers who applied for the list offer an average of $7,000 and four weeks of paid leave. Financial reimbursement varies from $500 to $25,300, and one to 18 weeks of paid leave. Unpaid leave for adoption, beyond what is required by the Family and Medical Leave Act, ranges from one week to three years.

The Wendy’s Company is No. 1 on this year’s list, with a combination of up to $25,300 in adoption assistance and up to six weeks of paid adoption leave. To view the full list, visit www.adoptionfriendlyworkplace.org. (The Foundation is not an affiliate of The Wendy’s Company.)

There are more than 100,000 children in the U.S. foster care system waiting to be adopted. Every year, more than 26,000 children in foster care turn 18 and age out of the system without families. The annual Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces list helps increase foster care adoption awareness while celebrating businesses that support adoptive families.

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is a national nonprofit public charity dedicated exclusively to finding permanent homes for the more than 134,000 children waiting in North America’s foster care systems. Created by Wendy’s® founder Dave Thomas who was adopted, the Foundation implements evidence-based, results-driven national service programs, foster care adoption awareness campaigns and advocacy initiatives. To learn more, visit www.davethomasfoundation.org      or call 1-800-ASK-DTFA.

SRP is the largest provider of water and power to the greater Phoenix metropolitan area.


Going To Pot – The Impact of Arizona’s New Medical Marijuana Law

Ready or not, medical marijuana will impact Arizona workplaces

While much remains uncertain regarding the implementation of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, there is no doubt that employers in the state need to be ready to deal with dramatic changes when the law becomes effective in April.

In an election squeaker last November, Arizona became the 15th state in the nation to allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Voters approved the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, also known as Proposition 203, by a mere 4,341 votes out of the nearly 1.7 million cast.

The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) is still in the midst of issuing regulations governing such diverse topics as the inventory control and security systems required of marijuana dispensaries and how many toilet facilities each must have. And by early April, ADHS will begin taking applications from qualifying patients and their caregivers. Soon thereafter, those patients and caregivers will enjoy protected status in Arizona workplaces.
Thus, by this spring, Arizona employers need to have reviewed their drug-testing and employment discrimination policies to ensure they comply with the new law.

The Law

Generally, the law permits medical marijuana cardholders, which include qualifying patients, designated caregivers and nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary agents, to possess, transport and, in some situations, cultivate an allowable amount of marijuana for medical use.

Significantly for employers, the law prohibits discrimination against all medical marijuana cardholders, including qualifying patients.

The law provides that employers may not discriminate against a person in hiring, termination or by imposing any term or condition of employment or otherwise penalizing a person because of that person’s status as a medical marijuana cardholder, unless a failure to do so would cause an employer to lose a monetary or licensing related benefit under federal law or regulations. As noted above, medical marijuana cardholders may include not only patients, but also designated caregivers and nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary agents. As a result, the law creates a new category of individuals protected from discrimination.

The law also prohibits discrimination against a registered qualifying patient based on that person’s positive test for marijuana, unless the patient was impaired by marijuana on the employer’s premises or during the hours of employment. While the law does not require an employer to permit an employee to ingest marijuana at work or to work while under the influence of marijuana, it also states that a registered qualifying patient is not considered to be under the influence of marijuana solely because that person tests positive for marijuana metabolites in an amount that is insufficient to cause impairment.

Qualifying Patients

A qualifying patient is a person who has been diagnosed by a physician as having a debilitating medical condition that results in certain symptoms such as wasting syndrome, severe and chronic pain, severe nausea, or severe and persistent muscle spasms.

For a qualifying patient to receive a registry identification card, the patient must submit written certification from his or her physician stating that, in the physician’s professional opinion, the patient is likely to receive therapeutic or palliative benefit from the medical use of marijuana.

ADHS will establish a process for issuing photo ID cards for qualified patients, designated caregivers, and authorized agents of dispensaries. The law requires ADHS to act on applications for ID cards within 10 days and to issue photo ID cards within five days after approval. Thus, employers can expect workers to begin receiving medical marijuana ID cards by mid-April, and they should be prepared to comply with the law by that date at the latest.

Zero-tolerance and pre-employment drug-testing policies likely will present the most challenges under the new law in light of the prohibition of discrimination against qualifying patients based on the presence of marijuana metabolites insufficient to cause impairment. Because there is no accepted testing standard for determining impairment due to marijuana use, this determination will by necessity be subjective.

Also, because a debilitating medical condition under the state law is likely to be a serious health condition under the federal Family Medical Leave Act, employers may have to deal with requests for leave to consume medical marijuana. Employers should consult with legal counsel to ensure their policies serve their business needs, and comply with the new law’s provisions.

[stextbox id=”grey”]Dinita L. James is a partner at Ford & Harrison, www.fordharrison.com. She specializes in employment law.[/stextbox]


Caring For A Relative Injured During Active Military Service Now Permitted Under FMLA

Most Arizona employers associate the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) with employee time off to care for an ailing parent or spouse or to tend to a newborn baby or newly adopted child.

Since early this year, the list of reasons for granting extended employee leaves has become longer, and in some cases, so has the permitted time off.

As of Jan. 28, when President Bush signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 into law, the FMLA extends coverage to employees who are caring for a spouse, child, parent or “next of kin” injured while on active military duty. It also covers unpaid leave “for any qualifying exigency” arising from a spouse, a child or parent of the eligible employee being on active duty (or being notified of an impending call or order to active duty) in the armed forces.

It is well documented that military members who are injured in battle are surviving in record numbers, leaving active duty and requiring short- and long-term care to convalesce. This law recognizes this new fact of life for military families.

Companies with 50 or more employees must now grant up to six months of leave in a 12-month period to an eligible employee who is caring for a wounded service member, and 12-weeks leave to an employee helping a relative with a pressing need related to getting his or her affairs in order in preparation for military service.

The two provisions for military families represent the first expansion of the FMLA in the nearly 15 years since it was enacted. The expansion is expected to have significant impact on companies covered by the FMLA as long as overseas deployment of troops — and resulting casualties — continues.

The law is causing confusion in the business world, especially with regard to the definition of an “exigency.” We believe the intent behind this provision is to offer assistance to families who must now prepare for, and deal with, the service member’s deployment. That could include time off for an employee helping to arrange for childcare, attending pre-deployment briefings, handling legal, economic or financial-planning issues, paying bills, or providing emotional support.

Another area of confusion surrounds certification. What information can an employer properly require, for example, regarding the service member’s active duty status and the employee’s “next of kin” status?

The U.S. Department of Labor has promised to issue regulations to clarify the confusion, but they are not expected before this fall. Until then, employers are required to provide leave to employees caring for wounded relatives and are not required but are being encouraged to provide leave for qualifying exigencies.

We advise employers to amend their FMLA policies and practices immediately to reflect these significant changes in the qualifying reasons and duration of protected leave. In addition, as we await final DOL regulations, employers must proceed with caution in addressing an employee’s request for military-related leave.

Employers with questions about employee-leave rights should consider contacting experienced employment law counsel.

Mark Ogden is the managing shareholder of the Phoenix office of Littler Mendelson, the nation’s largest employment and labor law firm representing management. He can be reached at 602-474-3600 or jmogden@littler.com