DMEC 2018

5 Reasons Employers Say DMEC Is a Must-Attend Event

Employers look to the DMEC conference to share real-world problems and solutions with their peers in the trenches.
By: | August 8, 2018 • 3 min read

The Disability Management Employer Coalition, or DMEC, annual conference draws faithful followers who return year after year while also attracting a steady stream of new participants.


DMEC’s annual conference has grown from 110 attendees in 1996, when it first launched, to the nearly 800 who gathered August 6 through 9 in Austin, Texas. A few employers in attendance know exactly why this conference is a must-see every year.

1) DMEC Offers Learning Opportunities

Employer compliance requirements keep growing increasingly challenging as state and local governments pile on more and more family and medical leave type laws.

Add in the Americans with Disabilities Act and employers need a place to learn about the most recent legislation, court decisions and regulations they’re required to stay on top of.

“It is really, really confusing and really difficult for employers to manage all of that,” said Kimberly N. Mashburn, national accounts practice lead, group benefits at The Hartford.

“One of the hallmarks of DMEC is making sure we keep employers up-to-date on changing legislation for leave management, Family and Medical Leave Act and now all of the municipal leaves, the state leaves and all of the paid family leaves coming into play,” added Mashburn, who is also a DMEC board member.

2) Great Place to Share Ideas That Work

Compliance isn’t employers’ only concern with so many leave and disability regulations. Maintaining a productive workforce is challenging when the laws allow employees so much time away from work.

Which brings us to a second reason for DMEC’s popularity. The conference provides an employer forum for sharing ideas on what strategies work for managing all those leaves and the disabilities that cause absences.

“I am the only one who does what I do where I work,” said Jenny Haykin, integrated leaves & accommodation program manager at Puget Sound Energy in Washington state.

“So having the opportunity to connect with other people in different organizations trying to accomplish the same things I am trying to accomplish, and hearing about what they have done and what works and what doesn’t work — that is all fantastic,” Haykin said.

3) Topics Are Relevant for an Employer’s Day-to-Day

DMEC chairwoman

Marcia Carruthers, co-founder and board chairwoman, DMEC

A third reason DMEC’s annual conference appeals to disability management professionals: the attendees and speakers keep it real, addressing tangible topics that commonly concern employers.

“What I really like about DMEC is this is where you meet all the worker bees, the people who really make it happen,” said Gary Anderberg, senior VP, claim analytics at Gallagher Bassett. “They have disability dirt under their fingernails. They know what they are doing. These are the people I like to listen to. These are people who are talking about real things happening to real people.”

This year’s conference topics included the complexities of reasonable accommodation, predicting and reducing disability absence, and the changing workforce and benefit design.

“We have far less talk about theory and far more talk about what worked and what didn’t, the results, and ‘this is how we did it,’ ” Anderberg explained.

4) DMEC Has a Willingness to Lead on Topics Generating Employee Disabilities 

A stigma around mental health prevents many employers from talking about the topic, even though it’s a costly employee disability driver. DMEC has long been at the forefront of educating employers on helping employees cope with mental health issues that cause absences and productivity distractions.


Mental health challenges are a huge cost driver for employers, so DMEC continually educates on the topic, said Marcia Carruthers, DMEC co-founder and board chairwoman.

“We keep pushing it and keep pushing it out and pushing it out,” she said.

This year’s conference, for example, included a session titled “Mental Health in the Workplace: The Invisible Disability Now Visible.”

One in four employees experience a mental health issue during any given year, presenter Rachael A. Shaw, president of Shaw HR Consulting Inc., told DMEC. Employees suffering from depression, she added, miss 27 days per year due to absenteeism or presenteeism, meaning they are not focused on the job when they are at work.

5) Networking

Last, but certainly not least, attendees include a good mix of employers and service providers and the space for problem-solving discussions. &

Roberto Ceniceros is senior editor at Risk & Insurance® and chair of the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. He can be reached at [email protected] Read more of his columns and features.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2018 Risk All Stars

Stop Mitigating Risk. Start Conquering It Like These 2018 Risk All Stars

The concept of risk mastery and ownership, as displayed by the 2018 Risk All Stars, includes not simply seeking to control outcomes but taking full responsibility for them.
By: | September 14, 2018 • 3 min read

People talk a lot about how risk managers can get a seat at the table. The discussion implies that the risk manager is an outsider, striving to get the ear or the attention of an insider, the CEO or CFO.


But there are risk managers who go about things in a different way. And the 2018 Risk All Stars are prime examples of that.

These risk managers put in gear their passion, creativity and perseverance to become masters of a situation, pushing aside any notion that they are anything other than key players.

Goodyear’s Craig Melnick had only been with the global tire maker a few months when Hurricane Harvey dumped a record amount of rainfall on Houston.

Brilliant communication between Melnick and his new teammates gave him timely and valuable updates on the condition of manufacturing locations. Melnick remained in Akron, mastering the situation by moving inventory out of the storm’s path and making sure remediation crews were lined up ahead of time to give Goodyear its best leg up once the storm passed and the flood waters receded.

Goodyear’s resiliency in the face of the storm gave it credibility when it went to the insurance markets later that year for renewals. And here is where we hear a key phrase, produced by Kevin Garvey, one of Goodyear’s brokers at Aon.

“The markets always appreciate a risk manager who demonstrates ownership,” Garvey said, in what may be something of an understatement.

These risk managers put in gear their passion, creativity and perseverance to become masters of a situation, pushing aside any notion that they are anything other than key players.

Dianne Howard, a 2018 Risk All Star and the director of benefits and risk management for the Palm Beach County School District, achieved ownership of $50 million in property storm exposures for the district.

With FEMA saying it wouldn’t pay again for district storm losses it had already paid for, Howard went to the London markets and was successful in getting coverage. She also hammered out a deal in London that would partially reimburse the district if it suffered a mass shooting and needed to demolish a building, like what happened at Sandy Hook in Connecticut.

2018 Risk All Star Jim Cunningham was well-versed enough to know what traditional risk management theories would say when hospitality workers were suffering too many kitchen cuts. “Put a cut-prevention plan in place,” is the traditional wisdom.

But Cunningham, the vice president of risk management for the gaming company Pinnacle Entertainment, wasn’t satisfied with what looked to him like a Band-Aid approach.


Instead, he used predictive analytics, depending on his own team to assemble company-specific data, to determine which safety measures should be used company wide. The result? Claims frequency at the company dropped 60 percent in the first year of his program.

Alumine Bellone, a 2018 Risk All Star and the vice president of risk management for Ardent Health Services, faced an overwhelming task: Create a uniform risk management program when her hospital group grew from 14 hospitals in three states to 31 hospitals in seven.

Bellone owned the situation by visiting each facility right before the acquisition and again right after, to make sure each caregiving population was ready to integrate into a standardized risk management system.

After consolidating insurance policies, Bellone achieved $893,000 in synergies.

In each of these cases, and in more on the following pages, we see examples of risk managers who weren’t just knocking on the door; they were owning the room. &


Risk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, clarity of vision and passion.

See the complete list of 2018 Risk All Stars.

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]