We can always count on Augusta to provide us with new ideas. Not all of them, however, are good.
Take LD 1157, for example.
“An Act To Establish the Fair Chance for Employment Act,” would make it illegal for employers — when advertising for a job opening — to say that applicants must be employed to apply.
Unemployment status could not be considered when interviewing a job candidate, nor could employment agencies consider the employment status of those seeking employment or consider the employment/unemployment status of a person when referring them to a potential employer.
But — here’s the kicker —the bill doesn’t “preclude an employer from considering employment history or the reasons underlying an individual's employment status” during the interview process.
Isn’t part of employment history knowing if an applicant is currently employed?
How could a business inquire about employment history without inquiring about current employment? Or the reasons underlying a person's status?
The bill goes further.
It requires employers and employment agencies to keep records of their compliance with this law, and gives the Director of Bureau of Labor Standards within the Department of Labor the authority to enter a business and investigate a complaint that a person was not considered for a job because he/she was not employed.
Many, many, many of unqualified applicants will also be unemployed, and companies will be forced to defend themselves against a business decision made based on the absolute need to hire experienced help.
The bill would allow the unemployed to bring civil actions against employers and employment agencies, or for another person to file suit on behalf of an unemployed applicant. The Department of Labor would also be empowered to file suit against businesses.
Maine would be required to create and fund a new Labor and Safety Inspector position to enforce these details, adding a new layer of bureaucracy to the Department of Labor.
So, let’s consider how this might work in the real world:
A high-tech company seeking a specific skill set that includes training and experience in the latest technology advertises for the job, but isn’t allowed to say “current employment required.” Then, the company waits for response.
In this economy, there could likely be an avalanche of applications from people who are not qualified because they are out of touch with current technology because they are unemployed, if only for a couple months.
And, then there could be another set of applications that come in from the unemployed to satisfy the unemployment benefits requirement that they seek work, whether qualified or not.
With this big pile of applications before him (rather than a slimmer one that might result from more targeted advertising), the Human Resources director at the high tech company sorts through the applications to determine who will be interviewed. Realistically, the employment history — which the employer would certainly want to consider — reveals the employment status — which the employer cannot consider without facing threat of a lawsuit.
In the real world, considering the work history means considering employment status. They cannot be split.
But, not to worry. The law allows companies an out.
The final sentence of the proposal reads:
“This subchapter does not apply to instances in which current employment status is a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to successful performance in the job.”
So, if an employer says — and most any employer could —that current employment is critical to meeting job qualifications based on up-to-date experience, then employment (or unemployment) can be considered.
Isn’t that what employers are doing now?
Why enact all this regulation, create an enforcement role and threaten every business owner with civil lawsuits if they can claim exception from the law? Which they most certainly will.
That sounds like a whole lot of needless busywork for state regulators and for private companies that cannot afford to be inefficient.
Cheers to Cumberland Gulf Group — which owns Cumberland Farms — for expanding its health care program and coverage for part-time employees in Maine. While the company is mandated to conform to the Affordable Care Act in January, it is stepping up early and will do so in October.
It will adjust the classification of 1,500 part-time employees to full-time status, according to Ari Haseotes, president and chief operating officer of Cumberland Farms, to make them eligible for expanded coverage.
The company could, if it chose, maintain the part-time status of these employees to maintain their ineligibility for health care, or forgo providing insurance for employees altogether and pay a $2,000 penalty for each of its full-time employees instead.
It isn’t because, according to Haseotes, it wants to find and retain qualified productive employees, and providing quality health care is a very attractive employee benefit.
So, good for Cumberland Farms for doing the right thing.
Let’s hope others will follow suit.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.