Vice president of disability management
Sonja Teague is among the few who say they can navigate the confusing “Bermuda Triangle” of employees absent from work because of an injury or coming back after healing.
That triangle is the three different laws and, hence, departments, that oversee workers compensation, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, along with the amendments to that law that protects those who have special needs in the workforce, according to Ms. Teague.
“Employers still don’t understand all of that,” she said. “They all work together, and they shouldn’t be handled separately.”
The key word is “integration,” she said, adding that employers have long made the mistake of not combining the efforts of all those programs to “give the worker what they need.” What workers often get are mounds of paperwork, all from different departments, all often asking for the same information, she said.
Ms. Teague, who has spent 25 years in the insurance industry, joined ESIS Inc., a unit of Chubb Ltd., in 2012. Within three years, she was charged with building a strategy to broaden and enhance ESIS’ integrated absence-management solution, which gives customers one call center to refer to when a worker is out, whether for workplace injury, pregnancy or illness, and how to best get them back on task and stay within the laws of accommodation and leave.
With this integrated solution, ESIS is able to help employers trigger the appropriate coverages, “streamlining and creating a lot of efficiency and also avoid those employees falling into a black hole,” which Ms. Teague describes as being in violation of federal and state laws.
“There is so much overlap and convergence with these coverages,” she said, adding that employers who mishandle claims can get in trouble. “The fines (from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) are huge.”
Keith Higdon, Chicago-based division president of ESIS, said Ms. Teague “inspires her team to transcend the ordinary.”
“When you look for someone who can take an existing product to a new level, you want an individual who has the vision to look beyond current capabilities and, instead, find a solution for clients’ future needs,” he said in a statement.