March 2015 - Issue 37

California JPIA Introduces Medical Provider Network

LinkedIn Discussion Group

Risk Managers Roundtable: Managing Special Event Risks

Leadership Academy

Save the Date: 20th Annual Risk Management Educational Forum

Students Get Inside Look at San Dimas City Government

Pro:Files

Removing Essential Job Functions Not Reasonable Disability Accommodation

News: Worthy

California JPIA Introduces Medical Provider Network

by Jeff Rush, Workers’ Compensation Program Manager

The California JPIA has established a Medical Provider Network (MPN) in an effort to improve the quality of care provided to employees covered by the workers’ compensation program. The Authority has partnered with Harbor Health Systems and began utilizing the Harbor One MPN on March 1, 2015. This Network includes some of the state’s larger medical groups, like US Healthworks, Concentra and Kaiser, in addition to occupational medicine clinics and specialists requested by the Members.  

When an injury occurs, employees will be required to seek treatment within the MPN unless the employee has pre-designated their own personal physician to provide treatment. If an employee has pre-designated their own physician and a referral is made to a specialist, they can be requested to seek subsequent treatment from a specialist within the MPN. Once an employee initiates treatment from an MPN physician, any subsequent treatment should be sought within the MPN unless there is a lack of sufficient physicians for their particular injury. Such scenarios are rare and typically only occur in rural areas with few physicians or for injuries that require treatment not typically provided in workers’ compensation.

Members may check which local providers are available by visiting www.harborsys.com/HarborOne and utilizing the Search function.  Additionally, a Medical Access Assistant is available at (888) 626-1737 from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM, Monday through Saturday, to answer calls from Members and injured employees. For more information about the Authority’s MPN or if you have questions, please contact Jeff Rush, Workers’ Compensation Program Manager, by e-mail or at (562) 467-8707.


News: Worthy

LinkedIn Discussion Group

by Courtney Morrison, Administrative Analyst

In an effort to facilitate communication among the Authority and the Members, the Authority has launched the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority discussion group on LinkedIn. The group will provide a forum for Members to post comments, and discuss and obtain feedback on all issues regarding local government. The discussion group is also an ideal place to pose questions, submit ideas, and provide thoughts pertaining to risk management and the California JPIA.

There are two ways Members can find the Authority’s group on LinkedIn:

  1. Use the drop-down list on the left side of the search box at the top of the page to select “Groups,” then type in “California Joint Powers Insurance Authority.” On the search results page, the Authority’s group is the only result that should appear.
  2. On your home page, move your cursor over “Interests” at the top of the page, and select “Groups.” Click on the “Find a Group” button that appears near the top right of the resulting page. In the pop-up box, type in “California Joint Powers Insurance Authority,” and click the search icon. On the search results page, our group is the only result that should appear.

Note that you will need to have a LinkedIn account in order to participate in the group. Also, this discussion group is restricted to Authority Members only, and Members are expected to abide by the Authority’s terms of use for social media. After you have requested permission to join the group, you will receive a welcome message, and you will be immediately able to post topics for discussion.


News: Worthy

Risk Managers Roundtable: Managing Special Event Risks

by Maria Galvan, Risk Manager

With the summer months approaching, member agencies are in the midst of planning and preparing for the year’s special events. On February 17, over sixty staff members from numerous member agencies participated in a Risk Managers Roundtable at the California JPIA campus. Participants learned how to manage the risks associated with events such as parades, festivals, fireworks shows, and concerts and movies in the park. “It was a very informative roundtable,” stated Amy Jones-Brink, Director of Community Services for the City of Agoura Hills. Roundtables were also held San Luis Obispo and La Quinta with Roy Angel, Senior Risk Manager, and Alex Mellor, Risk Manager, facilitating the discussions, respectively. 

While event planners do not want to take the fun out of these events, it is evident that risks exist with all activities and the best approach is to identify those risks and mitigate them appropriately. Common risks for special events include premises liability, bodily injury, property damage, economic damage, and ADA violations. Jim Gross, Senior Risk Manager, provided an overview of risk management tools and techniques for different types of events. Planning is an important element in ensuring a safe and successful event. The type of event and number of attendees should be kept in mind when conducting the event’s risk assessment and developing a risk management plan. Representatives from different departments, who all play a role in the event, should be invited to planning meetings (parks and recreation, public safety, public works, traffic engineering, risk management, and administration). The Authority’s Risk Managers are also available to attend planning meetings.  

Parades are a common event for many Member agencies. To ensure design immunity, it is important to have a traffic control plan approved by the member agency’s governing body. Participant waivers that indemnify and hold your agency harmless should also be required from all parade participants. While verifying that all participants provide an executed waiver could be an administrative burden, agencies can ensure this risk management tool is in place by making the waiver requirement a condition of the parade application. If the organization or group participating in the parade does not require executed waivers from all of its participants, they are in breach of contract. The parade application should also include rules such as requiring drivers to have a valid driver’s license and provide proof of insurance (in terms and coverage satisfactory to the agency), not throwing objects from vehicles, and other rules and regulations that address participant and spectator safety. For those parades that are held by an outside agency, the parade route should not be suggested to them. The more an agency suggests how an outside organization run its event, the more liability it holds. 

Festival and summer events, such as concerts and movies in the park are also common events for member agencies. For these large scale events, member agencies often work with several vendors that provide event activities. Examples of vendors include bands, pyrotechnic companies, carnival ride operators, food vendors, petting zoo operators, etc.  The Authority recommends that member agencies enter into agreements with all vendors and transfer the risk accordingly. Agreements should include insurance specifications addressing the exposures with appropriate limits and indemnity language in favor of your agency. Caution should be exercised when a vendor provides their agreement form for signature; as the indemnity language is usually in their favor and insurance may not be a requirement, leaving Members exposed to their liability.

Gross also discussed ADA accessibility as an important element of all special events. All temporary venues, related structures, and outdoors sites associated with an event need to be accessible to persons with disabilities. If an area is not accessible, an alternate area must be provided with the same activities found in inaccessible areas. Other areas to address include paths of travel/accessible routes, accessible parking/transportation, accessible restrooms/sinks, accessible booths/service counters, accessible staging/seating, and accessible communication. If requested, event information in alternative formats, sign language interpretation, and assistive listening devices should be provided. 

Every event is unique and the risk management tools and techniques implemented for one event may not necessarily apply to another. If you need assistance in evaluating the risk exposures associated with your agency’s special events, please contact your Risk Manager.

News: Worthy

Leadership Academy

by Joe Eynon, Senior Training Specialist

Albrecht March

The California JPIA Leadership Academy was held February 23 - 25, 2015 at the Hyatt Regency in Indian Wells. Forrest Story, principal consultant for Public Sector Excellence; John Perry, President of Human Productivity Systems; Jeff Bills, a nationally recognized speaker, consultant, and facilitator;  Lizz Pellet, a Fellow in Organizational Transformation from Johns Hopkins University; and Dr. Steve Albrecht, author and consultant, facilitated the three-day academy which consisted of eight sessions designed for senior management to equip them to think strategically and apply skills that will enable them to achieve effective, sustainable results.

The Leadership Academy provided the means for participants to assess and explore their personal behavioral preferences and how they may affect their relationships with employees. They also acquired approaches to identify differences between root cause and proximate cause, gained tools and strategies for resolving conflict, realized and increased the benefits of trust, and enhance the effectiveness of their communication, internally and externally. They learned how employee behavior affects the organizational culture. Sessions included:

  • The Job Person Environment Assessment
  • Trust, Strategic Thinking and Innovation
  • Transforming Your Organization Through Great Leadership
  • How to Make Training Part of Your Organization Culture
  • Public Service Ethics/Making Decisions in the Gray Zone
  • Conflict Resolution: Leadership Strategies, Tools, and Techniques to Help Employees Get Along
  • Strengthening Your Agency: Building the Culture in Your Organization

Thirty participants representing 19 agencies attended the specialized academy.  Lori Carney with the City of Palm Desert expressed, "The best Conflict Resolution coaching workshop I’ve been to."  Diana Impeartrice from the City of Fillmore commented on the overall academy, “Dynamic, interesting speakers, and the hospitality at the facility was amazing!” 

For more information about the Academies offered by the California JPIA, please contact Michelle Aguayo, Training Coordinator, at maguayo@cjpia.org


News: Worthy

Save the Date: 20th Annual Risk Management Educational Forum

Are you a champion? A champion can be many things; a parent, sibling, coach, friend, mentor, victor, change agent, or advocate. A champion has purpose and passion, seizes the moment, and learns life’s lessons. A champion is comfortable with resistance and struggle.

RMEF 2015

The Authority’s 20th Annual Risk Management Educational Forum will train people to manage risk like a champion. Let’s face it: it’s not the award or the recognition. It’s not the budget or the staff. It’s about vision; vision to see that things can be different, better, and then being relentless in getting there.

Come join us at San Francisco’s Mark Hopkins Hotel, September 23 - 25 to learn from the experts and meet the California JPIA team. Our speakers and sessions will help you to stay focused, learn from losses, measure improvement, know the score, and never give up in managing risk. So, mark your calendar!

For 2015, the Authority’s Executive Committee has again waived registration for members. Lodging scholarships will be available on a limited basis.  Non-member registration fee is $450.00.  Registration will open in late spring.

Participants at last year’s forum had this to say:
‘The Forum was well run, well attended, and well presented.”

“You all do a great job … creating a great, casual, relaxing learning environment. I really appreciate all you do. Thank you for everything!”

“Liked the forum starting at noon - allowed for travel time w/o having to spend an additional night for lodging.”

“Thank you for providing these forums to our agencies. Its always informative and very worthwhile.”


Re: Members

Students Get Inside Look at San Dimas City Government

San Dimas
San Dimas High School seniors Destiny Kleca and Seth Haynes, listen to Los Angeles County Fire Department Battalion Chief John Lenihan as he gives them a tour of Fire Station 64, during the city’s annual Students In Government Day in San Dimas.

(Reprinted from The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, February 25, 2015) 

Cameron Patterson, 18, feels safe in San Dimas and foreign-exchange student Alicia Esteban, 15, loves the challenge of learning new city and school systems.

Patterson and Esteban were among 21 San Dimas High School seniors participating in the San Dimas Students in Government Day on Wednesday. The teenagers got up-close and personal views of how municipal government works by shadowing professionals charged with making sure things run as smoothly as possible in town and according to the policies set by the City Council. They also assumed leadership roles as counterparts to Mayor Curt Morris and Councilmen Jeff Templeman, Emmett Badar, John Ebiner and Denis Bertone.

Esteban, a senior when she decided to leave her Madrid, Spain home and spend a year in America, said although she’s sometimes homesick she wouldn’t consider going home before finishing the adventure and facing the challenges of life and education in the United States. The daughter of musician/producer Luis Carlos Esteban and writer Marisol Esteban Esteban is hosted by Marie and Gabriel Ramirez of San Dimas, her American “parents.”

“Student Government Day is one of the most interesting experiences I’ve had so far because they don’t have anything like this at my school in Spain,” said Alicia who shadowed Public Works Director Krishna Patel for the day-long event. “I’m learning more about City Hall and the jobs here. There’s also a lot of diversity and different kinds of people and kids are more involved in clubs, activities and events like this.”

Patterson, a youth leader at Lifehouse Foursquare Church in San Dimas, said he accepted government and economic teachers Megan Fierheller’s and Bryan Wierzchucki’s invitation to apply for participation because he felt it would help him understand how the city works and get a better perspective on the community. He especially likes San Dimas because he now enjoys a safe and stable life totally different from the dysfunctional lifestyle he suffered while living with his mother.

“She was on drugs and afraid of sheriff’s deputies, so she taught me to be afraid of anyone in law-enforcement. I’m living independently now and trying to discover different truths for myself,” said the teen who went to 22 different schools before coming to San Dimas High. “This event gives me an inside look at what it’s like to be part of government, law enforcement and people who try to make it better for more people in the whole community.”

Teen ears perked up to possibilities when Assistant City Manager/Administration Ken Duran told them he saw a recreational job flier when he came to City Hall as a SDHS student taking part in the government day in 1979. He was hired that summer and, after completing college and graduate school, has moved up to an executive administrative position at City Hall.

Seth Haynes and Destiny Kleca chose to tag along with Los Angeles County Fire Department Battalion Chief John Lenihan at Station 64 in San Dimas. Shawheen Ghalamba and Jocelyn Alvarez, who both plan to attend Mt. San Antonio College, also wanted more information about public safety so they accompanied San Dimas Sheriff’s Station Capt./Commander Duane Harris.

Grant Muller, Nicholas Baudino, Patterson, David Vargas and Lizelle Reyes were lively participants in discussions with City Manager Blaine Michaelis, Assistant City Manager/Community Development Larry Stevens, Duran, Patel and Parks and Recreation Director Theresa Bruns. They and other teens became the first focus group to gauge sentiments about the re-configuration of the intersection of Bonita and Cataract avenues when the Gold Line rail comes to San Dimas. Baudino’s comments were so detailed and informed, Stevens asked him if he planned on becoming an urban planner or engineer.

Inland Empire Stages bus driver Fred Guay took teens on a city tour with Duran acting as informational guide and recreational services manager Leon Raya and the two teachers augmenting Duran’s info on local history and happenings. Event coordinator Erica Rodriguez, recreation specialist Albert Chavez and recreation coordinators Jeff Freeth, Dominique Borba and La Toyia Ward hosted a luncheon for the teenagers and Bonita Unified School District officials at Ladera Serra Park after the tour.

Other participating students included Hisham Hussein, Cynthia Reyes, Noel Nevarez, Alondra Rios, Autumn Barron, Gabriella Bates, Jeremy Boyle, Ray Stepp Tyler Brosche, Emily Thompson, Sienna Machado and Seth Haynes.

“This program gives students a chance to learn outside of the classroom and in the real world,” Wierzchucki asserted. “They get their hands on what’s going on outside. We can only do so much in the classroom, so this city activity is invaluable.”


Pro: Files

Michelle Aguayo, Training Coordinator

MichelleMichelle Aguayo will soon mark her 7th anniversary with the California JPIA.  Michelle began her career with the Authority in 2008 as Training Assistant and now serves as Training Coordinator.  Aguayo, along with Joe Eynon, Senior Training Specialist, and Robin Baccanti, Office Assistant, make up the Authority’s Training Division.  “With the various training options available for members including: classroom training, e-learning training, webcast training, webinars, academies, and the risk management educational forum, the Authority’s training program has evolved as a leading educational resource for members and others interested in risk management,” reflects Aguayo. 

With work ranging from coordinating the Authority’s training workshops and academies, and assisting members with personalized training plans, Aguayo is constantly challenged.  What was once one or two Academies per year when Aguayo started with the California JPIA is now five to six academies. “From researching and developing content to strategizing with trainers and organizing the event, I enjoy working closely with the instructors as well as meeting the members,” said Aguayo who attends the academies on behalf of the California JPIA.  “It’s nice to catch up with members in person at the academies.  It is also an excellent opportunity to hear their opinions and ideas about the Authority’s training program.”

“Working at the California JPIA feels like family,” said Aguayo. “We work hard and are recognized for doing so.”

Aguayo and her husband have been married 14 years. They are parents of two very active, elementary school-aged daughters.  Over the past eight weeks, Aguayo was known as “Cookie Mom” of her daughter’s Girl Scout Troop. “I survived!” she laughs.

Courtney Morrison, Administrative Analyst

CourtneyCourtney Morrison joined the Authority last November as a temporary Office Assistant, and is now an “official member” of the California JPIA team as an Administrative Analyst.  Morrison is involved with various information resources for members. These include the white paper series, ADA resources, policy templates and checklists, the sidewalk inspection and maintenance program, and job function analysis resources.  She is also the Authority’s webmaster and leads the Authority’s social media presence. “It’s about having collaborative interactions with members. The Authority’s planned approach to social media, including LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, helps us keep our fingers on the pulse of what is important to the members,” says Morrison.
 
Prior to her employment with the California JPIA, Morrison was employed as a manager in the Branded Entertainment division of the USA Network where she was a liaison between show producers and the USA Sales Team.  She was responsible for providing feedback on scripts and rough cuts of original programs, ensuring high-quality exposure for branded products, including Toyota, Anheuser Busch, and Subway.  

Morrison holds a Master of Science in Communications from Syracuse University (go Orangemen!) and a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology from Brown University. 

“I appreciate the leadership at the California JPIA. We work together with a common purpose to serve the members.”

Morrison, a New Jersey native, and her husband are the parents of two young sons. She and her family like to spend their weekends outdoors, hiking, camping, and going to the beach.

Jennifer Fullerton, Administrative Analyst

JennJennifer Fullerton is an Administrative Analyst in the Administration Division of the California JPIA.  A La Palma native, Fullerton joined the Authority in 2008 as part-time Secretary.

Working in the Administration Division, Fullerton’s diverse responsibilities include overseeing the agenda process for the Executive Committee, Managers Committee, Finance Officers Committee, and Liability Trust Fund; managing the filing process for Authority’s Conflict of Interest Code; assisting with the Authority’s marketing efforts, including prospective members; and working on special projects for the executive and administration teams.

Fullerton enjoys event planning and is involved with planning and executing a range of events, from board meetings to staff, team-building activities.  She is active, as is the rest of the California JPIA team, preparing for the upcoming Risk Management Educational Forum in San Francisco. “The Educational Forum is a great opportunity for staff to connect with members.”  

Asked what she likes about working at the California JPIA, Fullerton shared a favorite quote from Vince Lombardi: “The strength of the group is the strength of the leaders.”  “I can't think of any other employer that does what the Authority does for its employees, personally and professionally. It's encouraging. I am extremely proud to say that I am a part of the California JPIA team,” reflects Fullerton.  

Her life is just as busy outside of work, too. Fullerton and her husband are parents to four children, who range in age from age three to 14. Fullerton is a sports fan, especially if it involves the USC Trojans.  A little known fact about Fullerton: “I was a Disneyland performer!”


The Court Report

Removing Essential Job Functions Not Reasonable Disability Accommodation

(Reprinted from the Society for Human Resource Management, March 5, 2015)

Affirming summary judgment in favor of an employer on an employee’s disability discrimination claims under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), the California Court of Appeal ruled that the employer was not required to eliminate essential functions of a position as a reasonable accommodation. The court further held that reassigning the employee to a position for which he was not qualified and granting him an indefinite leave of absence until a suitable position became available also were not reasonable accommodations. 

As to the employee’s retaliation claim, the court held that a request for a reasonable accommodation alone was insufficient to establish the employee engaged in protected activity.

Background

Tony Nealy worked for the city of Santa Monica as a solid waste equipment operator. Nealy had sustained many work-related injuries to his knee and back requiring multiple surgeries and several leaves of absence. In 2010, Nealy’s physician reported that Nealy could return to work subject to certain work restriction. He was precluded from kneeling, bending, stooping, squatting, walking over uneven terrain, running, prolonged standing relative to the right knee, climbing, and heavy lifting. 

In July 2010, the city met with Nealy to discuss his interest in returning to work as a solid waste equipment operator. The city identified the essential functions of the position that it believed Nealy could not perform based on his medical restrictions, including, among others: clearing debris and trash from the hopper of vehicles; conducting vehicle inspections; pushing trash bins through walkways or alleys; retrieving bulk items left outside of bins; walking on uneven surfaces; and climbing ladders to access the vehicles. 

After additional discussions, the city concluded it could not reasonably accommodate Nealy in the position and offered to reassign him to another position. Nealy applied for a city planning staff assistant position; however, he did not have the appropriate experience. The city extended Nealy’s leave of absence to allow him to apply for a disability retirement. However, Nealy’s application was rejected because he failed to submit required information. 

Nealy then sued the city under the California FEHA for disability discrimination and retaliation. The trial court granted the city’s motion to dismiss Nealy’s claims. Nealy appealed.

Applicable Law

The FEHA proscribes certain disability-related practices, each of which is a separate cause of action. The law prohibits employers from:
  • Discriminating against employees because of their physical disability.
  • Failing to make reasonable accommodation for employees’ known physical disabilities.
  • Failing to engage in a timely and good faith interactive process to determine effective reasonable accommodations.
  • Retaliating against employees for opposing prohibited practices.

Essential Functions
Nealy argued he could perform the essential functions of the solid waste equipment operator position because, with his restrictions, he could operate an automated side loader. The appellate court rejected this argument because Nealy focused only on one essential function of the position (operating vehicles), although many other job functions are essential to the position. Based on Nealy’s restrictions, he could not perform many of these other functions, such as “refuse and recyclable collection/disposal duties,” “equipment maintenance/inspection,” and “heavy lifting.” The court stated, “the fact that one essential function may be up for debate does not preclude summary judgment if the employee cannot perform other essential functions even with accommodation.” 

Nealy next argued that he could have remained in his position if the city restructured the position to eliminate the kneeling and heavy lifting requirements and assign him permanently to an automated side loader. The court disagreed. It explained that the “FEHA does not obligate the employer to accommodate the employee by excusing him or her from the performance of essential functions.” 

Another Position

Nealy then argued that the city should have reassigned him to a vacant staff assistant position. The court rejected Nealy’s argument because he was not qualified for the position and the city was not required to create a new position for him or provide “an indefinite leave of absence to await possible future vacancies.” 

Interactive Process

Turning to the interactive process claim, Nealy argued that the city should have considered only the following accommodations: (1) restructuring his old job so that he did not need to lift heavy objects or kneel; (2) assigning him to the automated side loader permanently; (3) reassigning him to another position; and (4) retraining. 

The court rejected Nealy’s arguments for the same reasons it rejected his failure-to-accommodate claim. The first two accommodations, it said, were not reasonable because they required elimination of essential job functions. The third was not reasonable because there were no vacant positions for which Nealy was qualified. The court also rejected the fourth proposal because Nealy provided “absolutely no detail as to what type of retraining would have enabled him to perform the solid waste equipment operator job or some other vacant position.” 

Retaliation

On his retaliation claim, Nealy argued that his protected activity was seeking the city’s assistance in returning to work. The court found that this was not protected activity because it was simply a request for a reasonable accommodation and did not “demonstrate some degree of opposition to or protest of unlawful conduct by the employer.” 

Accordingly, the court affirmed summary judgment in favor of the city and dismissed Nealy’s disability discrimination claims.
Nealy v. City of Santa Monica, Cal. Ct. App., No. B246634 (Feb. 13, 2015). 

Professional Pointer:
 While employers must engage in the good faith interactive process and provide reasonable accommodations to an employee with a disability, they are not required to eliminate an essential job function or create a new position as an accommodation. In light of this case, employers should review their essential job functions and procedures for considering and responding to requests for reasonable accommodations, and consult with experienced counsel about these complex issues.