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Employer Liability for Employee Injuries In the Company's Gym

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn August 21, 2012In: Cases of Note, Policies, Wellness, Health, and Safety

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Health-and-wellness benefits are all the rage. Some employers offer their employees a discount on gym memberships. Some offer a monthly stipend to be used towards the fees at a health-club. And some have an on-site fitness center.

Employers who are considering building an on-site fitness center for employees commonly want to know how they can protect themselves against a personal-injury lawsuit. For example, an employee drops a dumbbell on his foot and breaks a toe. (Don't laugh, people, broken toes are brutal!)

What's to stop the employee from suing his employer for his injury? Assuming that lifting weights is not part of the employee's job, it would not have been an injury incurred in the "course and scope" of his employment and, therefore, would not be covered by workers' comp. And you, dear employer, own the equipment, including the dumbbell, so you'd surely be the first defendant to be named.

To avoid the "no-good-deed-goes-unpunished" phenomenon, employers will ask whether they can require employees to sign a waiver or release as a condition of using the fitness center. Until a few years ago, the answer was, "not really." Of course, you could require that they sign a waiver but it would not be effective if you ever needed to use it because the law prohibited waivers of claims for future injury.

In 2008, in Slowe v. Pike Creek Court Club, the Delaware Superior Court held that such claims could be released but only if "the language makes it crystal clear and unequivocal that the parties specifically contemplated such a release." In Slowe, the court held that the waiver at issue did not meet this "crystal-clear-and-unequivocal" standard and, consequently, the waiver was not effective, but left open the possibility that a "properly-worded release might effect a waiver of premises liability."

In July, the court had the opportunity to address the issue again and, this time, found the waiver to be enforceable. In Hong v. Hockessin Athletic Club, the plaintiff, a member of the athletic club, signed a comprehensive waiver of liability and release in connection with her membership agreement. The waiver expressly stated that she and all others on her membership assumed the risk of "any injury or damage incurred while engaging in any physical exercise or activity or use of any club facility on the premises," including the use of "any equipment in the facility." The court held that this was sufficient to constitute a waiver in "crystal clear and unequivocal" terms and dismissed the suit.

There are no guarantees in life or in the law and this situation is no exception. Although this case offers employers some very good news when it comes to avoiding liability for on-site injury of employees and visitors, it is, of course, not a guarantee. Nevertheless, in light of this case, there seems to be no reason not to require a waiver for your on-site fitness center.

Hong v. Hockessin Athletic Club, No. N12C-05-004-PLA (Del. Super. July 18, 2012).

The Importance of Office Space

Posted by Adria B. MartinelliOn August 13, 2010In: Just for Fun, Policies, Wellness, Health, and Safety

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How important is office space to employees?  Very important, apparently, according to this article discussing a "summer office swap" conducted at a Boston-area advertising agency.  During the summer months at this forward-thinking firm, nearly every employee switches office space based on a lottery system.

There were a small number of managers with offices, and regardless of how high their pick was, they could not keep an office. However, who did get the office appeared to depend on an elaborate bartering system, which resulted in more lowly office types offering services such as babysitting, car washing, and coffee retrieval in exchange for a seat in a coveted manager office.clip_image002

The article is a good reminder of how important office space is to employees. More than a few employment discrimination lawsuits have been based, in part, on the office (or cubicle) an employee is assigned to.

In 2003, there was a Delaware case involving a plaintiff who filed a federal lawsuit which entailed, among other things, his objection to an office space “auction” at University of Delaware – where the best offices would go to the highest bidder and the money raised would go into a fund for use of the Department.

More recently, I had a case where among a plaintiff’s evidence of “retaliation,” were claims that she was given a “dirty, dusty cubical walls filled with dust mites.” And of course, who can forget the movie Office Space, and Milton, whose most prized possession was his Swingline stapler, and whose cubicle was continually moved until he was eventually wound up in a dimly lit basement among the boxes.

The legal profession is one of the last standouts where a good portion of the employees – lawyers and paralegals – typically have real offices with doors: associates have window offices, partners have bigger window offices, and paralegals have interior window-less offices. I know this is unusual for most of corporate America. But as the Boston Globe article illustrated, even among cubicles there is a hierarchy: those closest to the window, most shielded from foot traffic, etc.

Employers should keep in mind the importance of office space to employees, and what a difference small changes can make. In this era of layoffs and belt-tightening, there may be simple and relatively inexpensive ways to reward your employees and keep them happy: think about small ways their work environment can be improved. Many (indeed most) employers are not cut out for the “summer office swap” conducted by the Boston firm – if this was ever attempted in a law firm, I’m quite certain it would result in a revolt that would make the Pakistani lawyers revolt look tame. Nevertheless, consider what might work for your workplace: access to natural light, modest levels of privacy, can go a long way to build employee loyalty.

Employee Theft Is More Common than You May Realize

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn July 17, 2009In: Policies, Wellness, Health, and Safety

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Nearly 60% of terminated or  laid off employees steal proprietary company data when leaving, says a new study released by the Ponemon Institute, an Arizona-based research company.  Most employees take hard copies or paper documents but they also admit to downloading and saving data and sending information as attachments to personal emails.

The study does not indicate whether this trend is on the rise but I'd venture to guess that it is, based only on my clients' experiences.  It's become very common for an employer to discover that an exiting employee emailed himself sensitive information prior to his exit.  The study reports that approximately 25% of the employees who admitted to taking data admitted that they were able to access the company's network even after they'd left.  This is obviously the first step when preparing to terminate an employee--remove their access to all confidential data, whether in electronic or paper form. theft

It's best to have IT turn off electronic access prior to the termination meeting.  And, at the same time, have them scan his emails to determine whether the employee has sent any emails in the last couple of weeks to his personal account, such as a G-Mail, Yahoo!, or AOL account.  And determine whether these emails contained any attachments.  If so, you should determine just what it is exactly that the employee forwarded in those emails before the termination meeting.

If the termination is a particularly contentious one (i.e., this is a "problem" employee), you should also consider whether you want to preserve all of the individual's incoming and outgoing emails if you don't have a system in place to do that automatically.  Users of the full version (i.e., not Reader) of Acrobat 9 can do this in a flash by converting all emails to a single PDF document.  Or you can forward all of the emails to an HR or other secure email account.  Should the employee later file a claim, his emails could very well be the key to your defense so don't risk losing them.

The founder of the Ponemon Institute suggested that employees steal data because they think they are entitled to it as something they helped to create.  Other theories include that employees want to use the information in their portfolios or to otherwise help them seek other work.  Of course, the traditional school of thought says that employees steal to "get back" at the employer in response to the wrong they perceive has been done to them. Whatever the reason, employers cannot afford to take this lightly. Confidential and proprietary information belongs to the organization--not to the employee--so the organization must be diligent in preventing the loss of its rightly-owned data.

Delaware Employers Face a Rising Obesity Rate*

Posted by E-LawOn July 2, 2009In: Delaware Specific, Wellness, Health, and Safety, Women, Wellness, & Work-Life Balance

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Delaware has the 17th highest rate of adult obesity in the country, with more than one in four adults classified as obese, according to a new report by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Employers bear many of the indirect costs of this obesity rate, including higher disability costs, more sick days, and increased workers’ compensation claims. The report indicated that Delaware’s obesity rate increased significantly in the past three years—a sign that current health and wellness policies aren’t cutting it.

So what can Delaware employers do? The study highlights three steps employers can take to promote healthier lifestyles: apple, red

· Provide workplace wellness programs and preventative care benefits

· Give employees a chance to take breaks for exercise during the work-day

· Offer coverage for wellness services such as nutrition counseling and weight management programs

Some companies have already rolled out in-house yoga classes, discounted gym memberships, and free massages for stress reduction. How those perks will weather the economic downturn is an open question. Other options? Employers can offer healthier food choices at company meetings and events, and improve selections at the office cafeteria.

F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies Are Failing in America 2009, was released on July 1, 2009.  For a list of other blogs covering wellness and work-life balance, see our blogroll, including the 50 Best Blogs on Wellness, Women's Interests, and Work-Life Balance

*This guest post is by Summer Associate Christen Martosella. Christen will be entering her second year of law school at NYU in the Fall but, until then, she's busy making a great impression at YCS&T.  Thanks, Christen!

Is Your Workplace Psychologically Healthy?

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn April 7, 2009In: Employee Engagement, Wellness, Health, and Safety

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Bullying in the workplace has been on the employment radar for several years, now.  But what exactly bullying is, on the other hand, remains elusive and without a universal definition.  The American Psychological Association (APA), has provided a way to come close, though. image

Each year, the APA sponsors the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award program.  The award program recognizes employers who excel in five categories.  When a workplace can implement each of the five, it qualifies not just as a "good place to work," but as a psychologically healthy workplace.  

The five types of workplace practices that contribute to a psychologically healthy work environment include: (1) work-life balance; (2) employee involvement; (3) employee growth and development; (4) health and safety; and (5) employee recognition.  These factors mirror those most commonly cited as the most important drivers for employee engagement, as well. 

Employers interested in reducing health-care costs, improving quality and productivity, and positioning their organizations for recruitment and retention of the best employees can learn more at the APA's website.

50 Best Blogs on Wellness, Women's Interests, and Work-Life Balance

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn March 13, 2009In: Resources, Wellness, Health, and Safety, Women In (and Out of) the Workplace, Women, Wellness, & Work-Life Balance

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Delaware Employment Law Blog is pleased to add the following 50 blogs to its "Best of" Blogroll.  The common premise among these blogs is the idea that well-rounded employees are happier employees and happier employees perform better for their employer, who, in turn, enjoys more success overall.  In other words--wellness and work-life balance are valuable principles, which should be considered high-ranking goals among employers.   man holding blog

Here's the list, alphabetically:

  1. About Working Moms
  2. Alliance for Work-Life Progress
  3. Business Week’s Working Parents Blog
  4. Chief Home Officer
  5. Corporate Voices
  6. Corporate Voices for Working Families
  7. Discovering Your Inner Samurai Blog
  8. FunnyBusiness
  9. Half Changed World
  10. How She Really Does It
  11. Hybrid Mom Insider
  12. Institute for Women’s Leadership
  13. Jugglezine
  14. Kathy Lingle's Work-Life Blog
  15. Moms Rising
  16. Motherlode
  17. Mothers Movement
  18. Newly Corporate
  19. On Balance
  20. Progressive States
  21. Sloan Network
  22. Sue Magazine
  23. The Anti 9-to-5 Guide
  24. The Juggle
  25. The Lattice Group
  26. The Women’s Initiative Blog
  27. The Work/Life Balancing Act
  28. The WorkLife Monitor
  29. Women for Hire
  30. Women on Business
  31. Women's Leadership Exchange Blog
  32. Women's Rights Employment Law Blog
  33. Work from Within
  34. Work+Life Fit, Inc
  35. Working Mother
  36. Work-Life and Human Capital Solutions
  37. WorkLife Law Blog
  38. World at Work
  39. YourOnRamp.com
  40. Christina's Considerations
  41. Corporate Wellness Quotes
  42. Employee Corporate Wellness Programs
  43. Employee Wellness USA
  44. Employee/Corporate Wellness Programs
  45. Meditation At Work Info
  46. My Meditation Coach: Improve your workforce!
  47. Wellergize
  48. Wellness Corporate Insights
  49. Wellness.com
  50. Workplace Wellness

Layoffs Can Lead to Abusive Workers' Compensation Claims

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn January 29, 2009In: Wellness, Health, and Safety

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Employers are conscientious about safety and injury-prevention, regardless of the economic climate.  But when the economy is difficult, employers should keep an especially cautious eye out for fraudulent workers' comp claims.  There are three methods to prevent abusive workers' comp claims that every employer can utilize, regardless of size or industry. shutterstock_17077399

To read more about how to best prevent laid off employees from bringing baseless comp claims, have a look at my guest post at the Workers' Comp Kit Blog

Ergonomic Chair Update: Herman Miller Laptop Stand

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn January 19, 2009In: Wellness, Health, and Safety

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Previously I posted about my quest for the perfect economic office chairherman miller scooter laptop standAnd, as everyone knows, nothing's more important than the perfect accessory.  When I do manage to find my dream chair, I now know the perfect accessory for it--the Herman Miller Laptop Stand. The Scooter Laptop Stand  provides comfortable and ergonomically correct keyboard and mouse support. The Scooter adjusts in height from 22" to 30" and has a tilt range of 20°. It can be purchased at Amazon for $379 and comes in Solid Cherry, Ash, and Ebony finishes.  

Wellness Resolution: The Quest for the Perfect Ergonomic Office Chair

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn January 12, 2009In: Internet Resources, Wellness, Health, and Safety

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Walking while you work was the topic of an earlier post. This post stays within the same theme--how to be healthy at work--but with a different perspective--mine.  I have some thoughts of my own on this topic. 

For one, I would cherish the opportunity to move more through the day without sacrificing working time.  It's not the walking part, really, as much as it's the idea of not sitting that I find attractive.  Basically, anything that involves me not sitting would be of value.  Alternatively, sitting comfortably and without permanently wrecking my posture would be a heck of an idea.

Somehow, I've never gotten around to buying one and my back really pays the price for my indecisiveness.  What's stopping me?  There's just too many from which I could choose!  But that's not to say that I haven't given it a lot of thought.  Here's the rundown on my years of searching. image

There's the classic Herman Miller Aeron chair.  Everyone knows that the Aeron is pretty hard to beat when it comes to function and design.  Being a lover of modern furniture, I can admire the Aeron even for the story of its creation--and if you haven't yet read the story, it's a great story of perseverance and dedication, of leadership and teamwork.  Good stuff.  The Executive Aeron can be purchased for approximately $1,300. 

 

Herman Miller also offers the Mirra ($829) and Celle ($629) chairs as less pricey Aeron alternatives. Both chairs come in a variety of colors, which is an advantage over the Aeron.  Color is important. 

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I have to pass on the Aeron because, honestly, it's just not "pretty" enough for me.  Yes, mock me if you will, but at least I'm honest.  I appreciate the aesthetic but I need more glamour than the black mesh has to offer. 

The Freedom chair by Humanscale is next in the rotation.  The Freedom chair (with headrest, ofimage course), also has plenty of design awards on its resume and is known as one of the best in the ergonomic category.  But, to its credit, it comes in a variety of colors and textures, including leather, which happens to be my preference.  At around $1,000, the chair is priced competitively.  The Liberty chair, priced for under $800, is Humanscale's task chair alternative. 

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Next up is Steelcase--the maker of the Walkstation treadmill-desk combo that prompted this post.  Steelcase has plenty to offer in the way of ergonomic seating, the two most popular choices being the Leap and Think chairs.   Both are offered in various colors and both have a contemporary look, with the Think chair's sleek, linear design being my preference between the two. image
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I've been known to be open to new things so it's not surprising that I've given a lot of thought to the out-of-the-ordinary seating options.  For instance, the HAG Capisco saddle chair (in red, below, $690 - $1,200) dares to be different.  Even assuming that it's as comfortable as could be and the look was where I wanted to go, the whole "saddle" concept just doesn't work for me.  The idea is that you can sit in the chair backwards (why, I haven't the foggiest).  Sorry, I wear too many skirts to make this a realistic possibility.  I'll pass, although I do love the height-adjustable feature. In my ideal office, I would have a height-adjustable desk, making this feature quite important.  

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The same principles go for the "stool" option but, in the interest of fairness, I'll list them anyway.   The Swopper Stool by Via (left, $600) is designed to force its user to keep their balance by engaging their abdomen muscles instead of letting us lazy office workers slump over in our traditionally terrible posture.   The HAG Balans Kneeling Chair (right) is even less likely to ever see the four walls of my office.  I've witnessed these in use and, unless you work at a health club or in another industry where you are expected to wear clothes designed for comfort, this option is just impractical.  My devotion to improved posture is not this strong.   

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Now let's get to the serious contenders.  If and when I get around to breaking open the office-chair-piggy-bank, there are just two that make me stand up and cheer. 

First is the Steelcase Leap Worklounge Chair in Leather ($2,700-$3,400 depending on options). steelcase work lounger in leather

It's beautiful.  And that's exactly why I like it.  It comes in white leather, which is my favorite upholstery option (practicality be damned).  There is also an optional ottoman but who has time to put their feet up?  We're working too hard to afford the chair!

 

 

And then there's the ultimate in luxury office seating, the Silver chair by Interstuhl.  Interstuhl is a German company and brings German precision to its line of couture office furniture.  I could say more but the pictures speak for themselves. 

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Beauty is not cheap.  The base model in black will cost you around $4,500.  But why stop there?  If you're going to do luxurious, go all the way.  And Interstuhl has just the chair for satisfying the maximum luxury quotient.  

For a mere $65,500, you can be one of the lucky owners of the world's most expensive office chair.   You'll get not just the chair but the matching ottoman, as well, both of which are plated in 24-karat gold.

 

The chair has even had a few roles on the silver screen.  It was used as Al Pacino's chair in the movie Ocean's 13.  And, more recently, made a cameo in the latest Bond film, Quantum of Solace.

 

New Year's Workplace Resolutions #2: Get More Exercise

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn January 11, 2009In: Wellness, Health, and Safety

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What are your resolutions for 2009? I predicted the top 5 workplace resolutions based on the popularity of various topics on the blog. One of the most popular topics in 2008 was Corporate Wellness.  There's no time like the present so why wait to get fit?  If you're ready to jump on the healthy-employee bandwagon, here's an interesting way to get started: the treadmill desk.  We've written before about this fascinating workplace wellness concept. 

The premise is this:  Healthy employees are productive employees.  To be healthy, employees need to move.  Moving employees aren't being productive.  It's a vicious circle. 

Until now, that is.

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Steelcase is trying to change that with its Walkstation treadmill desk.  The Walkstation is, in a basic sense, a treadmill and an adjustable desk.  Using this nifty tool, employees can walk while they type, talk on the phone, or review documents.  Employees aren't asked to jog while working, though.  The treadmill runs at speeds of 0.3 - 2 mph. 

Health doesn't come cheap, though.  A single Walkstation will set you back about $5,000.  According to Steelcase, employers are buying single units to be shared among several employees, who can reserve the unit for small periods during the workday.

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I have some thoughts of my own on this topic.  For one, I would cherish the opportunity to move more through the day without sacrificing working time.  It's not the walking part, really, as much as it's the idea of not sitting that I find attractive.  Basically, anything that involves me not sitting would be of value. 

I'm also in touch with the fact that I am just not that coordinated.  The thought of me trying to walk on a treadmill in 4" heels while typing an e-mail to opposing counsel is funny to me, even funnier to anyone who's seen me try to walk and chew gum at the same time.  I think it's a disaster waiting to happen.  So what would be my preferred alternative?   Stay tuned to find out.

"My Boss Is Killing Me": Why this just may be true

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 14, 2008In: Jerks at Work, Wellness, Health, and Safety

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Bad bosses can kill you.  Even more so than factors such as whether the employee smokes, exercises, or has weight problems. The data comes from a four-year-long study in Switzerland and was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Workers who were subject to inconsiderate and uncommunicative bosses were about 60% more likely to suffer a heart attack or other life-threatening cardiac condition.  Employees who had strong leaders as bosses, on the other hand, were roughly 40% less likely to suffer heart emergencies. 

Got boss troubles?  Check out these posts:

How Crazy Is Your Boss? No, really, how crazy?

15 Things that Jerks at Work Usually Do

Inside the Mind of a Super Jerk

5 Costs of Coworker Bullying

And In This Corner. . . Susan From Accounting. Office Rage in the Ring

Top 5 Lessons to Be Learned from the Jerk at Work

Workplace bullying

You Know You’re a Bad Manager When. . . Mutiny at the Post Office

Bosses Aren't the Only Workplace Toxins: What to do with toxic employees?

Employee Handbook Policy #502: Respectful Workplace

Everything You Needed to Know About Your Toxic Boss

Will President-Elect Obama Be Charged a Smoker's Premium for His Health-Care?

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 11, 2008In: Off-Duty Conduct, Wellness, Health, and Safety

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Employers want healthy employees. Employee wellness programs are as hot as ever.  Employees who smoke, on the other hand, aren't very popular.  Employers point to well-known statistics to support a variety of smoke-free policies.  Many companies have implemented bans on hiring smokers.  Others have taken to charging a "smokers' premium" on health insurance.  Smokers' premiums are a surcharge added to the health-care premiums of smokers, typically between $15 and $30 extra per month.  image

The idea of "punishing" employees for what they do in their non-working time does not sit well for some.  Others raise questions about enforcement--how will the employer know if the employee claims not to smoke but does so "socially" or even secretly.  Should closet smokers be able to avoid the smokers' premiums by hiding what they do outside of the office?  

Our future President may be sympathetic to this secret society of smokers.  He is, after all, a card-carrying member.  Obama has admitted to being a former smoker but, in an interview with Tom Brokaw on political talk show, Meet the Press, the President-Elect admitted that he's "fallen off the wagon" on more than one occasion and did not deny that he'd avoided Barbara Walter's questions about whether he'd kicked the habit for good. 

In light of his penchant for lighting up, will the country's next President really support the current employee wellness programs sweeping the nation? 

Can Desk Treadmills Help Employees Walk Away From Cancer?

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn November 25, 2008In: Wellness, Health, and Safety

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Employee wellness programs are great.  Employers like the cost reductions in insurance and related health-care costs.  Employees like to be able to shoot hoops at lunch or take a yoga class on-site after work.  But what about wellness while you work?  The idea of the treadmill-desk is one I've posted about before.   (See These Pumps Were Made for Walkin').  "Walkstations," as they're known, have been touted as the missing link between a truly obtainable harmony between wellness and the daily corporate grind. Walking At Work: The Best Medicine

Now, the makers of Trekdesk claim that the benefits of walking while you work are even more substantial.  According to a promotion for the company, you can walk your way to thinness by losing one to two pounds per week, or more, without dieting.  It can help you sleep through the night, help correct back problems, improve your mood, and even reverse and delay aging.  And, according to the manufacturer, “Walking has been shown to prevent colon, prostate and breast cancer along with a multitude of other diseases."  Hence, employees who walk will be helping to prevent cancer.  Pretty lofty claims.

In the end, I am more than a little skeptical of the validity of these expectations.  But, I'm not skeptical about the potential impact on productivity and general health that can result from regular exercise.  Not that I'm committing to the purchase of a TrekDesk quite yet--after all, there are no prices listed on the manufacturer's website.  But I'm willing to keep an open mind. when it comes to wellness.

Delaware's ING DIRECT Invests in the Health of Its Employees With Remarkable Returns

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn November 17, 2008In: Wellness, Health, and Safety

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Delaware's ING DIRECT's employee wellness strategy and approach has been discussed in earlier posts.  The background of the wellness program was the subject of Part I of this post.  In Part II, we reviewed the principals underlying the corporate health and wellness program that shape the company's various health-centric initiatives.  In this final part, we'll look at the Returns on Investment ING DIRECT has seen since first implementing its wellness program.

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High-Energy Initiatives at The Energy Zone

At the core of the ING DIRECT wellness program is The Energy Zone. The Energy Zone, is the company’s on-site exercise facility, which opened in March 2005. The facility is expansive, sprawling across 10,000 square feet of the company’s Delaware location. The Energy Zone is fully equipped with all of the cardiovascular and strength-training equipment found in a membership-based health club, including full shower and locker room amenities. These conveniences represent substantial time savings for associates. In turn, employees, who pay just $10 per month in dues, are more motivated to participate, in part, because of the ease of access to the exercise infrastructure.

And, once associates make their way to the fitness center, they can expect to have some company. The Energy Zone is staffed with a team of professionals dedicated to the promotion of health and wellness. The team offers members guidance on general fitness principles and the value of making healthy lifestyle choices. Nutrition counseling is available as an important auxiliary benefit to ensure associates are able to maximize their efforts in the gym. The Energy Zone staff is an enthusiastic group, implementing a number of interactive and motivational programs to get associates excited about wellness and to keep that enthusiasm in high gear on a long-term basis.

So how well has the Energy Zone worked? The gym sees, on average, approximately 150 employee-members per day. This number represents an increase in attendance by more than 70% since 2006. There is little seasonal fluctuation in attendance numbers. The Energy Zone’s attendance rate has virtually no decline in November and December—a time when the busy holiday season is historically linked to low attendance.

The Doctor Is In

What separates the ING DIRECT model from even most its highly regarded competitors is its on-site medical care. Employer-sponsored health clinics have experienced increased popularity over the last several years. And, as is not uncommon with this front-running company, ING DIRECT was one of the first large organizations to recognize the concept’s many values.

Until recently, the number of employers that provide on-site health clinics has been tiny. A recent study, though, found that 32% of all employers with more than 1,000 workers either have an on-site medical center or plan to build one by 2009. Again, ING DIRECT is far ahead of its peers.

The medical facility offered at ING DIRECT is available for associates on an appointment and walk-in basis. The facility is staffed by a board-certified family physician, and a registered nurse, both of whom are accessible to associates via phone and e-mail. The availability of on-site treatment for routine, as well as urgent issues, resulted in a direct and immediate savings of more than 1,300 working hours in 2006 alone.

Results and Returns

For many businesses considering a health and wellness offering, the lingering question remains, “Will it work?” Contributing to this question are a number of other questions such as, “How do we define success?” and “What will be the net gain?” All of these inquiries are legitimate and arise, and each arises in the context of keeping in mind the best interests of the business.

ING DIRECT has addressed the questions in a number of ways. First, ING DIRECT set clearly defined long-term objectives, such as reducing the cost of health care to its associates and to the productivity of the organization as a whole. With those objectives in mind, it was able to create a set of short-term goals, such as decreasing the number of tobacco users and increasing the amount of cardiovascular activity associates participate in on a regular basis. And, with these targets in mind, it set to work to get results.

And results have happened—far beyond the optimistic goals set by the program’s director, Don Baag, M.D. For example, one of Baag’s early initiatives was a campaign to decrease the percent of ING DIRECT employees who smoke by 5%. By all accounts, this is an admirable goal, and even more so in light of the fact that participation was entirely voluntary—no carrot or sticks required.

To measure the company’s effectiveness, a health survey was distributed to employees, who were selected at random at the beginning and end of the campaign. The results were remarkable. In a mere five months, the percent of employees who smoked decreased by 24%. Regardless of how “results” are defined, there can be no doubt that such a remarkable accomplishment is, by definition, a success.

The results of the wellness program also can be evaluated by referencing enrollment statistics. If associates are enthusiastic enough to enroll in continued short-term programs, they’re more likely to sustain a long-term lifestyle change. In this category, as well, the ING DIRECT wellness program sets the standard high. For example, in the first year it was offered, nearly 20% of employees participated in the company’s flu-shot program. Additionally, for employees who are not members of the on-site fitness center because of residency and traveling issues, ING DIRECT offers up to $40 per month in gym-fee reimbursement. Nearly 200 employees are enrolled in this program, which requires participants to provide proof of attendance at least eight times a month.

Third Circuit Rules on Payment under Bloodborne Pathogens Standard

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn October 15, 2008In: Wellness, Health, and Safety

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The Bloodborne Pathogens Standard (BPS), was issued by OSHA as a measure to protect employees who are at risk for exposure to viruses caused by bloodborne pathogens, such as HIV and Hepatitis.  For more background on what exactly the BPS requires employers to do, see our prior post on the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard.

In a recent decision by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal appellate court with jurisdiction over Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, the procedures requirements of BPS were put under the spotlight—with interesting results.

In Secretary of Labor v. Beverly Healthcare-Hillview, the Third Circuit was asked to interpret what it means to provide the necessary testing “at no cost to the employee.” In that case, two employees suffered needlestick injuries while at work. They sought treatment after the shift at the hospital’s designated medical facility. They subsequently returned to the facility for periodic treatment as prescribed. All of the treatment occurred during their non-working time. Beverly paid the cost of the treatment but did not compensate the employees for the non-working time they spent in treatment.

Beverly was cited by OSHA for failing to provide the testing and treatment “at no cost to the employee.” The citation was appealed to an administrative judge and, subsequently, to the Third Circuit. The appellate court held that the language of the applicable BPS provision relating to “at no cost” was ambiguous, which gave the Secretary of Labor the authority to interpret the provision. OSHA interpreted the language to include compensation for travel time and non-working time when the employees sought follow-up care. In short, the court’s decision means that employers must compensate employees for time spent and costs expended while seeking post-incident evaluation and treatment.