December 2008

In This Edition

By Cassy Van Dyke, SPHR,
GMA SHRM President

Final FMLA Regulations Issued, Effective 1/16/09
- By Meg Vergeront, Stafford Rosenbaum Law Firm

Managing Benefit Plan Changes in a Tight Economy
- By Adam Jensen, Virchow Krause Employee Benefits, LLC

GMA SHRM Benefits Survey Now Available

2009 Mileage Reimbursement Rate Announced


Save the Date: 61st Annual SHRM Conference and Exposition - New Orleans


- Community Events

- Welcome New Members!

- In Transition

- What's Cool in HR

- Movin' Up

Click here to see the full GMA SHRM Event Calendar.

- December/January Certification Study Groups

-GMA SHRM Strategic Planning Session, January 15, 2009

- World at Work Certification Course, March 3-5, 2009

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Cassy Van Dyke , SPHR,
GMA SHRM President
2008 Corporate Partners

Boardman Law Firm
Lee Hecht Harrison
Melli Law, S.C.

Fidelitec, LLC
Physicians Plus Insurance Corporation
Right Management
UW Credit Union

Career Momentum
Edgewood College
Neider & Boucher, S.C.
Payroll Data Services
QBE Regional Insurance
Stark Company Realtors

Thank you!

GMA SHRM Members,

As we enter this holiday season, we have much to be grateful for. Amongst many other things, I am grateful to have the network of professionals and friends that I have developed through our chapter. It is my hope that you are all sustaining and thriving through these tough economic times.

During times of economic downturns, it is common for professionals to refocus on personal growth and enhancing job marketability. One way to do that is through volunteering with our chapter.

Top 10 reasons to volunteer with GMA SHRM:

  1. Expand your network/meet new people
  2. Develop HR, business, and leadership skills
  3. Do something you’re passionate about (there are many ways to get involved)
  4. Make a strategic impact
  5. Build your resume
  6. Differentiate yourself from others in the job market
  7. Be a part of the leading HR organization in the Nation
  8. Mentor others
  9. Leave a legacy
  10. Give back to the HR profession, HR professionals, and to the community.

Get started today! If you are interested in learning about the diverse opportunities that are available, please contact any of our Board members or visit the volunteer page of our website.

Another way to get involved is to attend our upcoming strategic planning session. Please don’t miss this chance to provide input and help to shape the direction of our great chapter. I would like to extend a personal invitation for you all to attend and share your ideas on January 15, 2008. More information can be found by clicking here.

One of the many advantages of volunteering with our chapter is that as volunteers progress onto the Board, they are given the opportunity to attend the SHRM National Leadership Conference. Here’s what this year’s Board attendees had to say:

“I really enjoyed learning about all of the projects and initiatives that were implemented by chapters all across the country. It made me realize that the smallest seed of an idea can grow into something truly spectacular for the HR profession and the local community. At GMA SHRM, we've been tremendously successful with many initiatives over the past several years, and this is largely because we have members making all types of contributions, however seemingly small, that together create outstanding results. I want to encourage any of our members to step forward with more ideas for our chapter. Even the simplest idea has the potential to bring great things to our members and the greater Madison community. Whether someone is new to the chapter or a long-term member, I would like everyone to know that they are also welcome at any time to get involved with any of the current projects or committees at GMA SHRM. After all, it could be your contribution that makes a difference and allows a project or initiative to grow to its true potential.”
- Dave Furlan, VP of Marketing and Communications

“I think the networking with people from all over the U.S., SHRM National, our State Council, and my fellow Board members was a terrific experience. Sharing best practices was invaluable and I attended some excellent sessions.”
- Chris Berg-Thacker, VP of Membership

“As a new board member, being able to see HR leaders around the country come together to discuss best practices and concerns about threats to talent was reinvigorating and encouraging, especially to know as a profession we have an outlet and community that can make a difference for the better in providing for our people.
HR professionals have thought we have faced challenges in the past (i.e. being heard, being valued, etc), but the challenge ahead of us now is greater than ever. With the change in administration proposing changes to the way Unions can be formed, Healthcare Administration, etc., our ability to come together to have our voice be heard in Washington is imperative. Additionally our ability to be able to operationalize these changes for our organizations is going to be the difference in some organizations succeeding or failing.”
- Zach Penshorn, VP of Programming

“The conference was a great experience that all volunteers should attend if given the chance. It provides an opportunity to meet other chapters and learn of their challenges, opportunities, and best practices. It was well worth the time!”
- Kris Schmitt, Director of Education and Development

“It's always a great experience to attend the SHRM Leadership Conference in DC. I'm able to bring back a few best practices from the other Chapter Administrators from around the country. Keep an eye on the website for new features to make the most of your membership!”
- Christopher Dyer, GMA SHRM Chapter Administrator

Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season,

Cassy Van Dyke, SPHR
GMA SHRM President

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GMA SHRM Board of Directors

Cassy Van Dyke, SPHR

Kari Lauritsen, SPHR
President Elect

Anthony Dix, SPHR, MBA
Past President

John Komosa
Secretary Treasurer

Kris Schmitt
Director, Education & Development

Chris Berg Thacker, PHR
VP, Membership

Mike Leibundgut, SPHR
Director, Government Affairs

Zach Penshorn, PHR
VP, Programming

Dave Furlan
VP, Marketing & Communications


Melissa Wieland
Director Workforce Readiness & Diversity


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Final FMLA Regulations Issued, Effective 1/16/09
By Meg Vergeront, Stafford Rosenbaum Law Firm

More changes! On November 17, 2008, the U.S. Department of Labor issued final regulations governing the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) obligations and rights of both employers and employees. These regulations amend the ones first issued by the Department a few years after the FMLA was enacted, and also address the military leave provisions of the FMLA that Congress enacted earlier this year. The changes to existing regulations are extensive. While an exhaustive discussion of all of the changes made by the new regulations is beyond the scope of this report, a few of the more significant ones are highlighted below.

Definition of Serious Health Condition
The new regulations clarify the phrase “serious health condition involving continuing treatment” in several respects. Two examples of these changes are as follows. First, the regulations now specify the time within which an employee seeking to establish a serious health condition by proof of a period of incapacity plus treatment must obtain that treatment. Under the new regulations, proof of incapacity for a period of three or more days now must be accompanied by proof of either two visits to a health care provider within 30 days of the first day of incapacity or at least one visit resulting in a plan of continued treatment. The first visit to the health care provider under either scenario must occur within seven days of the first day of incapacity.

Second, the regulations provide that, for the purpose of establishing that an employee with a chronic health condition is undergoing continuous treatment, the employee must visit a health care provider at least twice a year.

Notice Requirements
The new regulations expand employers’ notice obligations. Among other things, employers now must provide the following notices:

  • A general notice, provided by appropriate postings and discussion of rights in employee handbooks. The general notice must be provided “upon hiring.”
  • An eligibility notice, to be provided upon beginning FMLA leave.
  • A rights and responsibilities notice for the leave period.
  • A designation notice stating that the leave counts against the employee’s FMLA entitlement.

The regulations also affect employees’ notice obligations. For example, while employees are still only required to give notice of unforeseen leave “as soon as practicable,” the regulations provide that it generally should be “practicable” for employees to give notice of unexpected FMLA leave according to their employer’s usual and customary call-in procedures, absent unusual circumstances.

Medical Certification
Changes affecting the medical certification procedure include, among other things, a provision requiring the employer to state in writing what information the employee must provide to make an incomplete or insufficient certification complete or sufficient. The employer then must give the employee seven calendar days to cure the deficiency. If the employee fails to cure, the employer may deny FMLA leave.

Fitness for Duty Certification
The new regulations permit employers to obtain more information from an employee’s health care provider in determining whether the employee is fit to return to duty.

Regulations Interpreting the Military Family Leave Amendments
The regulations also implement the military family leave additions to the FMLA that were enacted earlier this year. That legislation obligates employers to provide leave for employees to deal with “qualifying exigencies” resulting from a family member’s service on qualifying active military duty and leave to provide care for a family member injured or who contracts a serious illness while on active duty. The regulations are designed to help employers determine more precisely their obligations under the legislation. For example, the regulations clarify exigency leave is available only to family members of those serving in the Reserves or National Guard on active duty, and also provides a list of eight circumstances that count as qualifying exigencies, such as short-notice deployment and military events and related activities.

The regulations also clarify employer obligations to provide up to 26 weeks of leave within a 12-month period to care for a family member who is injured or becomes ill while on active duty. In particular, the regulations clarify that the 12-month period begins on the first day the employee takes FMLA leave and ends 12 months later, and that the leave entitlement is applied on a per-service member, per-injury basis.

Employee and employer rights and responsibilities regarding certification of the need for exigency and care-giving leave are also addressed.

The regulations also include new Department of Labor forms for medical certification for employees, a separate medical certification form for leave to care for a family member and new forms for use with service member and military exigency leave.

Effective Date
The new regulations go into effect January 16, 2009. Employers need to promptly familiarize themselves with the regulations and then work quickly to amend their FMLA policies and procedures to conform to the new regulations. Updated training to those responsible for any part of the implementation of the FMLA policy also should be provided.

Meg Vergeront is a partner at the Stafford Rosenbaum law firm. For over 14 years, she has consulted with employers on a regular basis to help address specific issues relating to discipline and discharge, working closely with them to find common sense resolutions to the issues. Ms. Vergeront also litigates employment cases in state and federal forums.

The opinions expressed or implied are those of the author and may not represent the official position of GMASHRM. This article is intended for general information purposes and highlights developments in the legal area. This article does not constitute legal advice. The reader should consult legal counsel to determine how this information applies to any specific situation.

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Managing Benefit Plan Challenges in a Tight Economy
By Adam Jensen, Virchow Krause Employee Benefits, LLC

The current tight economy has created challenges for employers and many find themselves faced with tough decisions including benefit plan cut-backs and even work force reductions. These decisions can affect employee benefit plans and employers must plan carefully to avoid problems later.

Plan Design Pitfalls
Continued medical inflation has left many employers with the choice of increasing employee contributions, changing plan design, or eliminating benefit plan offerings altogether. One common plan design change chosen by employers has been to increase medical plan deductibles or move to high deductible health plans. In order to off-set the effects of increased deductibles, many employers have implemented Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs). While HRAs allow employers to enjoy premium savings of higher medical plan deductibles and still cushion adverse effects on employees, there is a hidden trap waiting for many employers. Business owners who are sole proprietors, partners in a partnership, or 2% or greater S-Corporation owners are ineligible to participate in HRAs. Only “employees” are allowed to participate in HRAs and the IRS does not consider these persons to be “employees” for employee benefit plan purposes. One potential solution is to offer a high deductible health plan with an HRA to employees and to offer owners a high deductible health plan that is compatible with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), coupled with an HSA.

Benefit Cut-Backs and Terminations
Some employers have found it necessary to curtail or eliminate health and welfare benefit plan offerings. Substantial reductions or elimination of benefits triggers a federal requirement to provide plan participants with a Summary of Material Modifications (SMM) describing plan changes within 210 days of the end of the plan year. If health and welfare plans are going to be terminated, the SMM must be provided within 60 days of the date when the termination amendment was signed. There may also be state notice requirements. For example, the State of Wisconsin requires employers of 50 or more employees to provide fully-insured plan participants with a plan termination notice at least 60 days prior to the plan termination.

Work Force Reductions
The tight economy has forced numerous employers to scale back their work forces, either permanently or at least on a temporary basis. Whether or not employees are allowed to remain on the benefit plan as active participants for a period of time following the downsizing will be governed by the plan document. Be sure to check your plan document in advance of work force reductions.

Lay-offs and furloughs can create COBRA eligibility; if you self-administer your COBRA continuation be prepared for the increased administrative work load. Failure to follow the COBRA regulations, especially the timing requirements of the various COBRA notices can subject employers to costly litigation or potential reimbursement denials by stop loss carriers. If employers wish to pay for the COBRA continuation, the payments must be structured to avoid constructive receipt by the former employees or the premium amounts will be taxable. Payments made directly to carriers or administrators by employers are generally not taxable to the former employee.

Employers must also consider the effect of downsizing on plan participation. Because many fully-insured carriers enforce minimum participation requirements, reductions in staff can inadvertently result in employers falling short of minimum participation requirements. If participation falls, insurers may also open contacts for rate review that could change a group’s rates.

  Adam P. Jensen is a Senior Compliance Officer with Virchow Krause Employee Benefits, LLC and has worked in the insurance and employee benefits industry since 1986. Adam specializes in providing regulatory compliance and plan design services for health and welfare plans and qualified retirement plans. He also advises executive clients on non-qualified deferred compensation issues. Phone: 608.240.2582 Email:

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The Greater Madison Area Society for Human Resource Management and its survey partner, enetrix, are pleased to announce the release of the 2008 Benefits Survey! This new on line report compiles statistical ly meaningful benefit data from over 50 different GMA SHRM membership organizations in the Dane County area. A special thank you goes out to all our participating employers for their invaluable input and assistance in compiling this data.

Expanded Statistics in an Easy to Read Format!

Our new survey report breaks down the data by employer size and type of industry in an easy to read format. Expanded statistics range from traditional survey topics such as premiums, health insurance plan design, and retirement benefits to wellness, cost containment features, and PTO programs. The 2008 Survey provides HR Professionals like you with the authoritative data to evaluate and tailor a total compensation package that recruits and retains top talent in an increasing ly competitive marketplace.

To purchase this survey, just follow this link:!stmenu_template.main? and click on the Purchase option at the top of the page. Participating members receive a significant discount on the cost of this survey.

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2009 Mileage Reimbursement Rate Announced

The IRS has adjusted the recommended mileage reimbursement rate for 2009 to 55 cents per mile, down from 58.5 cents per mile. It was adjusted down since the 58.5 cents per mile was a temporary adjustment made for the second half of 2008. For more information, visit the IRS website at:,,id=200505,00.html.

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SHRM 61st Annual Conference & Exposition - Save the Date!

The SHRM 61st Annual Conference & Exposition will be held on June 28 – July 1, 2009, in New Orleans, at the Morial Convention Center. Tom Brokaw and Lee Woodruff have already been confirmed to be keynote speakers at this exciting and informative event! To learn more, visit:

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Community Events

  • UW-Madison is hosting the Careers Conference 2009: From Inspiration to Application to be held on January 26-28, 2009, at the Concourse Hotel in Madison. Keynote speakers will be Tama J. Kieves (honors grad from Harvard Law, best-selling author, sought-after national speaker, workshop presenter, and career coach) and Dr.John D. Krumboltz (Professor of Education and Psychology at Stanford  University, and a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science). For more information, visit Ear ly registration rates through December 15!

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Welcome New Members!

GMA SHRM welcomes the following members who joined our chapter in October 2008.

Lynn S. Baumgart

HR Manager

Foley & Lardner LLP

Mark A. Dalebroux

HR Director

Group Health Cooperative

Russell R. Falk, PHR

Human Resources Manager


Keith Johnston


Ninth House

Nathaniel W. Johnston



Kelli L. Laufenberg

HR Assistant

Home Health United

William E. Markasian


WI Realtors Association

Tatum O. McGowarn

Staffing Sales Executive

Bright Star Healthcare

Lisa R. Munnik

HR Generalist

American Red Cross

Trevor B. Nagle

Organization Effectiveness Consultant

American Family Insurance

Anna E. O'Rourke

HR Manager

Ballweg Automotive Group

Molly M. Olds

HR Assistant

UW School of Medicine & Public Health

Marla Rybowiak

Manager, Finance & Administration

Gentel Biosciences Inc

William K. Strycker


Employment Relations Consulting

Ilizabeth A. Van Valkenberg

HR Assistant

UW Madison Dept. of Medicine

In Transition

Jeff Palkowski (PHR, CIR) is a GMA-SHRM member that is looking to resume his HR career after working in the Wisconsin State Assembly for the past three years. His service in the State Assembly will end on 1/2/2009.






Following is a brief networking profile. Additional details regarding his background can be found on LinkedIn at: Jeff has asked that we share his information with you. His contact information is as follows:

JEFF’S PROFESSIONAL PROFILE : Certified human resources professional with over ten years of progressive experience in human resources, call center management, financial services, and public administration. Experience in corporate and public sector industries.

JEFF’S SEARCH OBJECTIVE : A medium to large company or organization where I can become in integral member of a corporate human resources team, providing world class service to my internal customers. Positions may include: human resources generalist, human resources coordinator, talent acquisition specialist, recruiter, sourcing specialist. Geographic preference is within the Madison metropolitan area, east to Jefferson or Waukesha counties. Prefer full time, direct hire positions but will consider contract opportunities.

JEFF’S TARGET INDUSTRIES : Industry preference is open. Prefer service related industries where I can leverage my corporate management experience. Financial services, insurance, utilities, and technology industries would be a good fit.

If you are a member who is in between jobs, or who is currently employed but seeking new positions or career paths, write us a brief description of your skill set, areas of expertise, what you’re looking for, etc. Send us an e-mail. We’ll publish your information in the next HR InTouch.

What’s Cool in HR in the Greater Madison Area?

What’s going on in HR in your workplace?

Have you…

  • completed a major project,
  • implemented something new,
  • managed a change,

Is there something…

  • your company/dept does really well,
  • interesting about your company culture
  • that makes your company an employer of choice

We want to hear about it! Share it with your HR colleagues in HR InTouch. Send us an e-mail


Movin' Up

Have you started with a new company? Has your organization recently promoted you to a new position? Or do you want to recognize a new person or promotion within your department? If so, we want to hear about it. Send us an e-mail, and we’ll publish your good news in the next HR InTouch!

HR InTouch Guidelines

Article Writing:

Do you have an interest in writing for the HR InTouch? We have an interest in learning more about your area of expertise!

Why should you volunteer? Top three reasons: 1) to share your knowledge and experiences to educate others; 2) to become more connected in the HR and Dane County communities; and 3) to contribute towards the advancement of GMA SHRM and the HR profession.

The first step is for you to choose a submission option: you can pre-submit an article to GMA SHRM at any time for us to use in any of the upcoming newsletters, you can sign up to write for a particular month, or we can put you on a list of people to contact in future months whenever we need articles.

Article length:

Because the HR InTouch is now in an online format, the size is flexible. The article should be engaging and hold readers’ attention. Include the core information in your article, and we will advise if it is too lengthy.


GMA SHRM is conscious not to allow solicitation through the articles, in an effort to protect the interests of our partners and members. The nature of the article should be educational (i.e., what are the business advantages of having a product like yours) or informational. Otherwise, if you truly are interested in advertising through the HR InTouch, you can work with our Marketing Committee. As a rule of thumb for article writing, if the submission relates to a for-profit event, or specifically markets your company (vs. your industry), it is an advertisement, and should be purchased. If it is a not-for-profit event that your company is hosting, or an announcement (i.e., a SHRM member recently joined your company), it is an acceptable addition to the HR InTouch content. If you have any questions related to the appropriateness of your submission, please contact us.

If you have questions, or to submit an article, contact GMA SHRM at .










Greater Madison Area SHRM, Inc.
2830 Agriculture Dr.
Madison, WI 53718
(608) 204-9814
fax: (608) 204-9818

© 2004; Greater Madison Area SHRM, Inc. All rights reserved.