State of Maine Unemployment Remains Flawed

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Now that the U.S. Department of Labor has spoken, it’s time to learn the rest of the story.

Feds warn DOL over hearing interference

A federal investigation found that Gov. Paul LePage and officials from the Maine Department of Labor intervened in unemployment hearings and acted with “what could be perceived as bias toward employers.”

Could as defined by the Oxford Dictionary; Used to indicate possibility. Possibilities are inconclusive suggestions.

The liberal response was predictively vindictive, personal & blatantly politically motivated. As reported by the Portland Press Herald article titled Political rivals blast LePage over federal findings.

State Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, also slammed LePage. Jackson, who is running for the 2nd Congressional District seat now held by Michaud, has traded many rhetorical jabs with the governor – some highly personal.

“For three years we have heard story after story about the governor’s intimidation and bullying tactics,” Jackson said in a prepared statement. “Today, the cat’s out of the bag. Governor LePage and his political appointees will stoop to any level of intimidation to get what they want.”

The expediency of the scoop has unfortunately trumped the full reporting of the reality of the truth being sought by Governor LePage, Commissioner of Labor Paquette & the independent Unemployment Insurance Commission. The US DOL Report deserves full examination as it includes a full page of significant recommendations beyond the shallow sound bites. For example;

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Also worth reviewing in the Commissioner of Labor Receives USDOL Report on Maine’s Unemployment System.

In addition, the department is working with the Governor’s Office to propose an emergency bill this session that will improve the unemployment system’s efficiency. This bill is LR 2772, An Act To Allocate a Portion of the Reed Act Distribution of 2002 To Use for the Administration of the Unemployment Insurance and Employment Services Programs.

This bill would authorize use of money that had been dispersed to the states by the federal government and is currently held within the Unemployment Trust Fund. The federal government rebated these funds back to the states to fund improvements to the operations of unemployment systems and employment services programs, including upgrading technology infrastructures and maintaining staffing levels.

Maine has an opportunity to use these funds to bring improvements to the unemployment system, as recommended in the Blue Ribbon Commission report, which will reduce fraud and increase responsiveness without requiring General Funds or an increase in payroll taxes for employers.

The Executive Branch of the State of Maine is interested in the needed & necessary systemic improvements to the unemployment system. Will the Legislature demonstrate the same needed & necessary leadership? The following is provided as just one example why the system needs to be modernized & standardized.

The current unemployment process, as applied, is procedurally rigged to favor employees first, employers as an after thought. Most benefit programs do this. The following story is true & has been verified as authentic.

An employee was out on federal & state protected leave. As the leaves progressed through the natural stages, opportunities presented themselves for the employee to return to work on a part time basis. The employee declined offers of part time employment. This would have the net effect of extending the period of job & benefits protection.

After the exhaustion of leave benefits, the employee was granted an unprotected extension of leave with a firm return to work deadline. The deadline approached and the employee reported via email that he would not be returning to work.

The employer’s good faith practice was to allow employees on protected leave with health benefits to accumulate a debt for their share of premium payments. The documented understanding was that the employee would repay those premiums upon return to work. In this case, the employee failed to return to work. Debt collection is unlikely.

Once employment was terminated, the now former employee files for unemployment. His rationale on his application was that he terminated for lack of work. This is FALSE and he should be denied unemployment for filing a intentionally fradulent claim. Instead, he was granted benefits. This despite substantial documentation being provided by the employer In response to the initial claim.

But wait, it gets better.

The Fact Finding Interview was not scheduled until three months after the initial claim for benefits. Even though a formal complaint was filed with the Maine DOL, no reasonable explanation has been provided for the lengthy delay. Thus the employer’s perspective was discounted by unnecessary and unexplained procedural delays.

Governor LePage is right. The unemployment claim system is procedurally biased against employers in favor of employees. Senator Jackson was right, the cat is now out of the bag.

What are your unemployment stories? IF you want them to be heard, please email them to me at RbtSmith@maine.rr.com

“The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.”

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One thought on “State of Maine Unemployment Remains Flawed

  1. Great post! You may be interested in knowing that LD 1802 (formerly LR 2772) unanimously passed in the LCRED committee on Tuesday, 3/11/2014. After it reports out of committee it will appear on the Senate calendar. With a unanimous report, the bill should make its way through the Senate and House fairly quickly. Being that it has an emergency preamble, it will become effective after the Governor’s signs it.

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