Skip to main content

Workplace Accommodation and Leave Challenges 2019


Speaker(s): Amy L. Bess, Debra L. Raskin, Marti Cardi, Matt Hoffer Morris, Megan G. Holstein, Rae T. Vann, Richard J. Mrizek, Sara E. Elder, Shanon Shumpert, Thomas G. Hancuch
Recorded on: Nov. 6, 2019
PLI Program #: 273538

Amy L. Bess is the immediate past Chair of the Labor and Employment practice area at Vedder Price and currently serves as Chair of the group’s DC practice. She also recently completed a three-year term of service on the firm’s Board of Directors.

Her employment litigation experience includes the representation of employers before U.S. state and federal courts and administrative agencies, defending against claims of race, sex, disability and age discrimination; sexual harassment; whistleblower retaliation; restrictive-covenant disputes; wrongful termination; and wage and hour violations. She regularly counsels clients in all of these areas, drafts and negotiates employment and severance agreements, conducts on-site workplace investigations, presents training seminars and speaks to employer groups on avoiding workplace problems. Ms. Bess is an author and frequent speaker on a variety of employment topics, most notably on the impact of the #MeToo movement and anti-harassment laws and best practices that organizations should undertake to prevent and resolve harassment concerns. She is regularly quoted in the media on these and related topics.

Ms. Bess has extensive first-chair bench trial, jury trial and arbitration experience. She also is experienced in the defense of complex class action litigation, including wage and hour collective actions and pattern-or-practice litigation brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The Legal 500 United States guide recommended Ms. Bess in the Labor and Employment—Labor and Employment Litigation category in 2014. Since 2018 the Legal 500 United States guide recommended her in the Labor and Employment Disputes (including collective actions): Defense and Labor and in 2021 was editorially recommended in the Employment Labor-Management Relations category. Ms. Bess also has been listed in Washingtonian Magazine’s “Best Lawyers” edition (December 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2020) in the category “Employment Defense.” She has been selected for inclusion since 2012 in Washington DC Super Lawyers in the category “Employment Litigation Defense.” In 2013, Ms. Bess also was listed in Expert Guides to World’s Leading Lawyers— Labour and Employment.

Ms. Bess is actively involved in a number of nonprofit and charitable organizations. She is a board member and serves as general counsel for Everybody Wins!, a charity in the District focusing on promoting children's literacy. She is also a member of the board of the District of Columbia Coalition Against Domestic Violence. In 2019 she was awarded the “Tom Nees Award for Exceptional Service” by Community of Hope, a nonprofit organization pursuing a mission to aid low income families experiencing homelessness and struggling with health care needs, in recognition of her long-standing, deeply impactful service to the women, men and children who turn to Community of Hope for help.


Marti Cardi is the Vice President of Product Compliance for Matrix Absence Management, a provider of leave and disability management services.  Marti keeps the company and its clients and business partners up to date with the ever-changing and expanding state and federal leave of absence and accommodation laws.  She is responsible for ensuring that the company’s absence management and accommodation services for outsourcing employers are offered in compliance with the FMLA, the ADA, and other federal and state laws. 

Marti started her legal career in private practice with major Denver law firms where she provided employment law advice and counsel and represented employers in state and federal courts and EEO agency proceedings. She transitioned to in-house employment law counsel for Knowledge Learning Corporation, a national child-care company, and then for Sports Authority, a national sporting goods retailer.  In those roles Marti experienced the challenges employers face in managing a multi-state employee population and complying with myriad state and federal laws and regulations.

Marti has now focused on accommodations and absence management for over nine years.  Marti received her J.D. from the University of Colorado School of Law.


Matt Morris is Vice President of FMLASource, a ComPsych company, one of the leading FMLA and absence management administrators in the country.  An employment lawyer by background, Matt has over 18 years of experience working with employers’ FMLA and ADA administration and is responsible for FMLASource’s compliance program and ADA consulting solution.

Matt is a frequent speaker on the FMLA, state leaves, the ADA, and compliance challenges regarding leaves of absence.  He was invited by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to participate in a roundtable discussion about the FMLA and his response to the DOL’s proposed FMLA regulations was cited 38 times by the DOL in the final rule.

Prior to his work in absence management, Matt practiced for many years at a boutique Chicago employment law firm. He received his B.A., magna cum laude, from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and his J.D. from The University of Michigan Law School, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


Megan Holstein is a licensed attorney in Colorado and New York, specializing in employment law. She is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law teaching Human Resources Management. Ms. Holstein is the SVP of Absence and Claims Product at FINEOS where she is responsible for FINEOS Absence and IDAM solution. She focuses on operationalizing the law to create compliant but workable solutions, converting legal rules into software and/or process requirements. Ms. Holstein has extensive experience focusing on the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and their state and local law equivalents as well as disability, paid sick leave, and family leave benefits, including ERISA as it pertains to short- and long-term disability plans and statutory disability and paid family leave.

Ms. Holstein’s background also includes employment law counselling matters such DOL audit assistance, defense of EEOC and workplace discrimination claims, manager and employment law training and workplace investigation. She was employed as Vice President of Compliance for a third-party administrator (TPA) of disability benefits, leave of absence, and accommodation programs as well as in-house employment counsel for two publicly traded companies. Ms. Holstein has been in private practice and managed her own consulting and law firm, where she provided legal counsel and representation regarding all employment matters and conducted compliance audits, training, and workplace investigations.


Rae Vann represents and advises employers on all major federal, state, and local employment laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Executive Order 11246, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Equal Pay Act (EPA), the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Rae has more than 20 years of experience representing and advising corporate clients on workplace compliance matters. She provides counsel to businesses on mitigating individual and systemic discrimination risks, establishing effective alternative dispute resolution procedures, conducting thorough and effective workplace harassment and other misconduct investigations, and other labor and employment matters.

Her experience includes:

  • Drafting memoranda analyzing significant employment-related developments within the judicial, executive, and legislative branches.
  • Developing policies and procedures to ensure compliance with labor and employment law requirements.
  • Conducting effective investigations of alleged unlawful harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.
  • Advising employers on defending charges of discrimination before the EEOC and state and local fair employment practices agencies.
  • Advising federal contractors on OFCCP-enforced affirmative action obligations.
  • Performing self-critical analyses and internal audits of employment policies and practices for clients.

Rae previously served for more than a decade as the senior vice president and general counsel of the Center for Workplace Compliance, the preeminent national employer association formerly known as the Equal Employment Advisory Council (EEAC). There, she advocated for the development of sound workplace policy in the courts and before federal regulatory agencies, including authoring numerous amicus curiae briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court and federal courts of appeals. Rae also authored comments and testified before the U.S. Congress and the EEOC on a range of equal employment opportunity and workplace compliance matters.

As a member of the EEOC's Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace, Rae helped guide development of a detailed set of recommendations to help employers prevent workplace harassment. The recommendations were released in June 2016, ahead of the international #MeToo movement.

Rae is a nationally recognized speaker and author on labor and employment issues. Her thought leadership has been featured in media including Bloomberg Law, Law360, National Law Journal, National Public Radio, PBS NewsHour, Politico, and Reuters.


Richard J. Mrizek is a Trial Attorney with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Chicago District Office.  With the Commission, Richard has litigated discrimination cases concerning race, national origin, sex, religion, disability, and retaliation.  Richard presents regularly on issues of employment discrimination law. 

Richard has worked on significant class litigation, successfully obtaining a $6 million settlement and significant policy changes in the criminal background check disparate impact case of EEOC v. Dollar General, an $11 million settlement for racial harassment and discrimination claims in EEOC v. Yellow Freight, a $2.75 million settlement for racial harassment and retaliation claims in EEOC. WRS, and a $10 million settlement of racial harassment and discrimination claims in EEOC v. Roadway Express.  Richard successfully tried EEOC’s contempt action in EEOC v. Supervalu which resulted in the award of backpay, fees, and an extension of the consent decree.  He has successfully tried federal jury cases, including EEOC v. Custom Companies, in which the agency won a $2.3 million jury verdict for three women and successfully placed the defendant under a four-year injunction and EEOC v. Costco, which resulted in a $250,000 verdict for a single victim. 

Prior to joining the EEOC, Richard worked in the Labor and Employment group of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in Washington, D.C. Richard was an ABA Government Labor Employment Fellow from 2004-2006.  In 2007, Richard received the Chair’s Excellence in Leadership Award for his work in the Custom case.  Richard received a B.A. from Northwestern University and a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School.  


Sara Elder is Vice President, Operations at Sedgwick Claims Management Services, Inc. In this role, she oversees Sedgwick’s Centralized ADA Management Team. Prior to assuming this position, Ms. Elder led the administration of short-term disability, leave, and ADA claims for select client programs. Ms. Elder is also a lecturer on Employment Law at North Park University’s School of Business and Nonprofit Management.

Before joining Sedgwick, Ms. Elder was Divisional Vice President, Associate Relations and Compliance for Sears Holdings Management Corporation. In this and other roles, Ms. Elder oversaw the leave and accommodations management, employee relations, labor relations, associate services, HR policy, HR compliance, and discrimination charge management functions for Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Kmart Corporation and their subsidiary companies.

Ms. Elder also served as Assistant General Counsel, Complex Litigation for Sears, Roebuck and Co., with a focus on class action and commercial litigation, and employment practices. She joined Sears following eight years of private practice, concentrating in the areas of commercial litigation, employment practices, and creditors’ rights.

Ms. Elder has frequently presented and trained on the issues of leave and accommodations management. In 2012, Ms. Elder was named one of the “Top 100 Under 50 Diverse Executive & Emerging Leaders” by Diversity MBA Magazine.

Ms. Elder graduated from DePaul University College of Law, where she was editor-in-chief of the DePaul Business Law Journal, and received her undergraduate degree in history and sociology from Washington University in St. Louis summa cum laude.


Shanon has had the unique experience of holding progressively more advanced positions in private practice, in-house/corporate legal and human resources work settings. Educated as an attorney, Shanon earned her JD from Howard University, Washington, DC. After law school, she returned to her hometown, Chicago, where she practiced general litigation, including employment law with a Chicago law firm.

Believing that she could make a more positive direct impact on people if she moved from a law firm to a corporate environment, Shanon accepted an in-house counsel position at her alma mater, DePaul University. Her career quickly accelerated over the next several years as she held positions in the legal department and in the human resources department, ultimately culminating in a role as Associate General Counsel with a focus on employment matters.

While at DePaul, Shanon completed an LLM in Health Law. She then returned to private practice to take on health care related claims, in addition to employment litigation. Thereafter, when law firm principals split into two separate firms, Shanon accepted an in-house opportunity at the University of Chicago Medical Center. There, she negotiated labor contracts between the hospital and their four labor unions. Attributable to her collaborative work style, Shanon achieved a number of milestones, including settling a significant backload of grievances and reducing the overall number of grievances and arbitrations.


Thomas G. Hancuch is a Shareholder in the Chicago office of Vedder Price P.C.  He has been advising employers on Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) compliance issues since the ADA’s enactment in 1990.

Mr. Hancuch’s practice focuses on representing employers in all aspects of employment and employee benefits law, including EEO compliance, workplace accommodations, leaves of absence and disability benefits administration, employee benefit plan design and administration, and other human resources matters. 

Mr. Hancuch has been recognized for his expertise in Chambers USA Client’s Guide to Leading Lawyers for Business, The Legal 500, and Super Lawyers.  In 2015 he was inducted as a Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel.  He has served as co-chair of several subcommittees of the American Bar Association’s Section of Labor and Employment Law, including the Subcommittee on Employee Benefits and Employment Discrimination.  Mr. Hancuch also served as an editor of Employee Benefits Law (3d edition), a leading legal treatise published by Bloomberg BNA.  He is a regular speaker on employment law and employee benefits topics.

Mr. Hancuch received his undergraduate degree, with high honors, from the University of Notre Dame, and his law degree, magna cum laude, from the University of Wisconsin Law School.


Debra L. Raskin graduated from Radcliffe College magna cum laude in 1973 and received her law degree from Yale in 1977.  She worked at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago from 1977 to 1981, serving in 1981 as Supervisor of Employment Litigation for that organization.  She served as law clerk to Hon. Lee P. Gagliardi of the United States District Court, Southern District of New York from 1982 to 1984.  From 1984 to 1986, she served as an Assistant Attorney General of the State of New York in the Civil Rights Bureau.  She joined the Vladeck firm in 1986, and became a partner of the firm in October 1988.  From 2014 to 2016 Ms. Raskin served as the President of the New York City Bar Association.  She is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, has taught at Columbia and Fordham Law Schools and has lectured and written on employment law matters for the New York State Bar Association and the Practising Law Institute, among other groups.