October 9, 2013
For Immediate Release: October 9, 2013
Contact: Julie Rabinowitz, 621-5009
Businesses must report new hires and respond promptly to requests for information about former employees filing for unemployment
AUGUSTA—Most bills passed by the Maine legislature in the spring of 2013 become law effective Oct. 9, 2013. Of note are two laws that relate to the reporting of information about a worker’s employment status to the state.
“Maine businesses should be aware of several new laws that affect them,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “The Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services have been proactive by providing online reporting services that make complying with these changes easier and much less costly than using the mail.”
The first, “An Act To Amend the Requirements for the Reporting of New Hires” (LD 929 PL 2013, Ch. 279), requires an employer to notify the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) when they hire or rehire an employee.
Although there has been a reporting requirement in place since 1995, this new law clarifies the definition of “new hire” and specifies when employers report. Employers should report newly hired or rehired employees or employees returning to work after a layoff to the state within seven days of the date of hire – at the point when the new employee first performs services for pay. This includes any individual who receives a W-2 form and any independent contractor when reimbursement for such services is anticipated to equal or exceed $2,500 in a year.
Maine recently launched an online reporting system that feeds this required information to the National Database of New Hires. Employers should visit the New Hire Report website at https://portal.maine.gov/newhire . For questions about the new hire reporting requirements or using the website, businesses should email Maine.Newhire@maine.gov or call (207) 624-4100.
For employers, reporting new hires and rehires can be a benefit because it helps lower their experience rating by preventing unemployment fraud and improper unemployment benefit payments. The Department of Labor uses the new hire information to ensure that people filing for unemployment are not employed in Maine or in other states. DHHS uses this data to capture child support through wage garnishment from non-custodial parents who are earning wages.
The second law going into effect, “An Act To Amend the Laws Governing Unemployment Compensation To Ensure Conformity with the Federal Trade Adjustment Assistance Extension Act of 2011” (LD 1311 PL 2013, Ch. 314), amends the laws governing unemployment compensation concerning penalties. Fifteen percent of an unemployment misrepresentation or fraud penalty must be placed directly into the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund.
This law also prohibits an employer from being relieved of benefit charges for a benefit overpayment that was due to the fault of the employer.
Commissioner of Labor Jeanne Paquette explained, “This applies to employers who have a pattern of not responding promptly to the department’s requests for information pertaining to an unemployment benefit claim. These include, for example, questions about how much a former employee made in wages or the reason the employee left the job. The answers to these questions determine whether a person is eligible for benefits, and if so, how much. Without answers, we often have little more to go on than the employee’s statement.”
Paquette continued, “When an employer later demonstrates why the former worker is not entitled to unemployment insurance, the department has to undertake significant work to adjust the claim, including requiring the claimant to pay back any benefits received.”
“The new law, by charging businesses as if the claim was valid, provides an incentive for businesses to ensure that they promptly respond to departmental requests. This saves both time and money for the department and reduces unemployment fraud.”
The department has also launched an online service to assist businesses in answering these requests. “SIDES E-Response is ideal for employers that have a limited number of unemployment claims. It reduces staff time, paper work and postal expenses plus the delays related to paper mail delivery in processing unemployment information,” she explained.
Employers interesting in enrolling or learning more should visit https://gateway.maine.gov/SIDES/sides . Businesses with questions about the unemployment system should contact Employer Services at (207) 621-5120 or division.uctax@Maine.gov .
A list of the recent changes that fall under whole or partial jurisdiction of the Maine Department of Labor is available at http://www.maine.gov/labor/labor_laws/index.html .