June 12, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 12, 2012
Contact: Julie Rabinowitz, 207-621-5009
Augusta—About one hundred human resource managers from across Maine gathered at the Department of Labor (DOL) building in Augusta on June 6, 2012, to meet with agency officials and learn how recent changes in labor regulations affect them. The program represents the first time human resource professionals, for whom labor regulatory compliance forms a core part of their duties, have been invited to the Department of Labor to learn about the services it provides to employers throughout the state.
The free half-day event, co-sponsored by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)’s Maine State Council, the Maine Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration and the Department of Labor, was open to anyone interested in human resources management issues. Kristine Avery, state director of the SHRM Maine State Council, described the event as “an opportunity to build the bridge between the Department of Labor and HR professionals representing Maine businesses in an effort to formalize a long-lasting partnership to benefit employers and employees in Maine.” Attendee Peter Fitch, human resources director for Lee Auto Malls, found the event “helpful and encouraging.” He added, “I am glad to see that the Department of Labor is reaching out to businesses. It is key that the DOL is educating businesses about not just who DOL is, their people, but more importantly, how the DOL can help businesses in Maine. “
The program, the Maine Department of Labor Update, featured Commissioner of Labor Robert J. Winglass, Deputy Commissioner Jeanne Paquette, the directors of the bureaus that comprise the department and other key department staff. Attendees also heard a short presentation on Maine’s economic outlook from John Butera, senior economic advisor to Governor Paul LePage.
“It is important that businesses not only understand regulations, but that they understand that the Department of Labor offers a whole range of services that help Maine businesses hire, train, and keep a strong workforce,” said Commissioner Winglass.
“Just knowing whom to call here at the department when you have a question can save a business a lot of time and clear up confusion that could lead to problems. In fact, the department has many more people who provide services to businesses than who handle enforcement; we want to help Mainers, both workers and employers, understand that,” Winglass noted.
Presenters covered such topics as the services of the Bureau of Labor Standards, which includes the SafetyWorks training and inspection programs; the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services, which connects businesses with employees with disabilities; the Bureau of Employment Services, which helps both jobseekers and employers through the CareerCenters, the Maine Job Bank, and programs for returning veterans; and the Bureau of Unemployment Compensation, which administers unemployment claims and benefits.
Participants also learned about the resources available through the Center for Workforce Research and Information, which develops and disseminates state and area labor market information to employers, job seekers, and other users.
Echoing the need to build a partnership, Fitch noted, “Meetings like this help build relationships and can create opportunities to work together for the benefit of everyone. I found the meeting informative and a great way to reintroduce the DOL to businesses who may only think of the DOL in terms of compliance. Clearly the DOL is seeking to reach out to Maine businesses to help with the issues we are all facing and these meetings are one way that we can begin to work more effectively on some of these issues.”
Nicole Morin-Scribner, director of human resources at St. Mary's Health System agreed with Fitch. “It’s refreshing to see our Department of Labor take on a strategic versus a transactional mindset and reach out to HR professionals from all sectors to better meet Maine's workforce needs.” Although not administered by the Department of Labor, the issue of workers’ compensation is of high relevance to HR professionals. Therefore, the program included a discussion of recent changes to employment standards relating to unemployment benefits and workers’ compensation. Paul Sighinolfi, executive director of the Maine Workers’ Compensation Board, addressed participants’ questions relating to workers’ comp.
Sarah Conroy, governmental affairs director for the SHRM Maine State Council, was glad to see the forum cover a wide range of topics important to HR managers, including the employment standards issue. “We’re so very pleased with the opportunity to visit the Department of Labor, and with all the effort expended to work with us to bring about this informative event and address our members’ questions and concerns,” she explained. “This was a fantastic day for business as well as the great state of Maine.”
Kristine Avery, state director of the Society for Human Resource Management Maine State Council, addresses participants at the Maine Department of Labor Update for human resource professionals in Augusta on June 6, 2012.
Commissioner of Labor Robert J. Winglass addresses the audience at the Maine Department of Labor Update for human resource professionals in Augusta on June 6, 2012. He emphasized the value that returning veterans can bring to an employer and reminded HR managers that hiring a diversity of experiences and skillsets, such as those that veterans or the disabled offer, is important to helping Maine’s businesses remain strong.