Over the past several years, May 4 has skyrocketed in popularity as Star Wars Day—as in, “May the Fourth be with you.” In honor of May the Fourth, we thought it would be fun to continue the rebellion against convention by using Star Wars themes to help future benefits gurus master the finer points in this or any galaxy. Outlined below are three benefits scenarios with a galactic twist to help blast home these common benefits concepts.
Scenario 1: After an attack against the rebel base on the ice planet Hoth, participants in the Rebel Alliance are spread throughout the galaxy. Princess Leia administers the Alliance’s retirement plan and has a fiduciary duty to ensure that the plan keeps current information on all participants. What steps should she be taking to ensure that the plan has current contact information for all the rebel participants?
A recently passed Galactic law requires the creation of a searchable, online database that would help rebel participants locate lost retirement benefits. Since the database isn’t available yet, Princess Leia should take several steps now. She should do her best to maintain accurate census information (though with rebels scattered from Dagobah to Jakku, that’s a tough ask), implement effective communication strategies using subspace transceivers and encryption algorithms as needed, and search for missing rebels. She should flag any undeliverable subspace transmissions and uncashed checks for follow-up. Current and retired rebel participants should be contacted periodically to confirm or update their home planet, com-link numbers and emergency contact information. Plan enrollment and exit processes should be built to confirm or update contact information, and participants should be advised to provide accurate information going forward.
Once a rebel goes missing or becomes nonresponsive, Princess Leia should consider reaching out to their designated beneficiaries or the participant’s union. Checking related rebel records (including payroll records) might help. She might need to use a commercial locator service or other online resources like the Galactic Death Index. Taking multiple steps to track down missing rebels is key—After all, there’s more than one way to skin a womp rat.
Scenario 2: The Mandalorian Din Djarin (aka Mando) wants to adopt Grogu (aka Baby Yoda). He is seeking financial assistance to help with expenses.
For simplicity’s sake, let’s say Mando is a regular employee of the Bounty Hunter’s Guild rather than an independent contractor working for the New Republic. The Bounty Hunter’s Guild offers adoption benefits. A first step for Mando is to check the Guild’s employee handbook and/or talk to the Guild’s benefits staff. There he can learn whether there are eligibility requirements to access adoption benefits. Assuming a “typical” service requirement of one year or less, Mando’s 5+ years of service as a Guild Bounty hunter should make him eligible. Mando should also ask whether any age limits apply to the child being adopted; some employers require that children be no older than what would be 16 or 18 human-equivalent years of age. At the time Mando seeks adoption, Grogu is roughly 53 years old. However, because of the pace at which his species matures, he is still a toddler.
Once eligibility is confirmed, what benefits are available? Often, an employer will provide financial assistance up to a capped maximum amount or percentage of total expenses. While there likely would not be any adoption agency or placement fees, and no maternity fees payable to the birth mother, Mando could well incur legal fees or travel expenses (that hyperspace mileage really adds up). He should submit the information about these fees to the Guild. Another common type of adoption benefit offered is paid or unpaid leave, running either concurrently with or in addition to family and medical leave mandated under Galactic law. Time off is typically provided to facilitate bonding between parent and child as well as to make adjustments to the living situation. While the bond between Mando and Grogu was firmly cemented some time ago, the leave could be spent settling into their cabin on Nevarro. Once the adoption is finalized, Mando should add Grogu as a dependent to his health insurance coverage.
Note: Fees paid for babysitting services are not reimbursable through adoption financial assistance. To recoup any fees paid to Peli Motto for her services, Mando should check with the Guild’s benefits department or consult the handbook to see whether a dependent care flexible spending account is offered.
Scenario 3: After being betrayed by Lando Calrissian, Captain Han Solo was turned over to Darth Vader who ordered him to be frozen in carbonite. Roughly one year later, Captain Solo was rescued by the rebels and freed from the carbonite. Due to the length of his confinement, he suffered from hibernation sickness, manifesting itself as temporary blindness, weakness, dehydration and memory loss. As his employer, the Rebel Alliance must deal with disability and sick leave issues while Captain Solo is recovering.
First, the Rebel Alliance benefits department will need to determine whether Captain Solo’s freezing was a work-related incident. Because he and other rebels were fleeing the Galactic Empire and hiding in Cloud City after the Battle of Hoth, it is likely his condition would be considered work-related under Galactic workers’ compensation laws. This will entitle Captain Solo to full or partial paid leave. The Alliance should also determine whether the workers’ comp leave should run concurrently with unpaid family and medical leave mandated under Galactic law. If the sickness incapacitates Captain Solo for more than three days, it will generally qualify as a serious health condition under these laws. The Alliance may also provide paid sick, medical and/or disability leave. These benefits could top-up Captain Solo’s pay to reach the level of his full salary or provide compensation after other paid leave has run out. The Alliance benefits department will need to coordinate when each of these types of benefits comes into play. If Captain Solo has lingering effects from the sickness, he may be protected under Galactic disability law. In this case, the Alliance may need to make reasonable accommodations so he will be able to perform essential job functions (e.g., clandestine infiltration, firing a blaster, piloting a starship and rescuing princesses).
We sense your powers growing, but don’t end your training now! Avoid the quick and easy path that Darth Vader chose—Use the comments section to ask another question or create your own Star Wars benefits scenario.
A special thank you to Steven Grieb, CEBS, Senior Compliance Counsel – Retirement Plan Consulting at Gallagher, Star Wars aficionado, active volunteer member of both the International Foundation and the International Society, frequent speaker and instructor, and true benefits Jedi, who inspired this blog post.