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Welcome to your virtual HR Department. At the Maine Corner Store, we understand how important each employee is to a small company—and how difficult it is to keep up with all the latest HR issues, from managing Millenials to hiring online to keeping payroll taxes straight. Our HR bloggers have experience in companies of all sizes, so they can answer your questions today and as you grow.


Monday, April 09, 2012

Conference highlights Maine’s untapped workforce

Posted by MSCC on 4/9/2012 4:51:00 PM

How hiring people with disabilities makes good business sense

The Maine State Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the Maine Department of Labor, held a business diversity conference on Tuesday, April 3, 2012, in Freeport titled “Maine’s Untapped Workforce: How hiring people with disabilities makes good business sense.”

With an aging population and an ongoing out-of-state exodus of younger workers, many Maine businesses and employers are thinking creatively in order to meet Maine’s unique labor challenges and boost their bottom line.  One proven strategy is hiring people with disabilities.  The result is overwhelmingly win-win: employers get reliable, productive, high-quality workers and job seekers with disabilities gain new skills, economic independence, and a better quality of life.

Following welcoming remarks to nearly 100 attendees by Maine Department of Labor Commissioner Robert Winglass and Maine State Chamber of Commerce President Dana Connors, Proctor & Gamble was awarded the “Welcoming Diversity Business Award.” Deb Russell, corporate manager for Walgreen’s, the nation’s largest drugstore chain, delivered the keynote address.

“We employ a lot of people with disabilities,” said Russell. “We have good employees – they meet and exceed our standards every day. Hiring people with disabilities has really improved our company for everyone involved. Imagine the difference we can make if all companies did this.”

“The business case for this disability employment model is compelling,” said Commissioner Winglass. “Employers report increased productivity and greater job satisfaction within the entire workforce. A concerted effort to promote diversity and employment opportunities for people with disabilities also demonstrates good corporate responsibility and creates an invaluable amount of goodwill in the greater community.”

“Today’s conference really highlighted how hiring people with disabilities makes good business sense,” said Dana Connors. “Large and small Maine businesses are thinking creatively, and hiring people with disabilities is a win-win for employers, employees, customers, and a company’s bottom line.”

One in five Americans has some type of disability, and more than 70 percent of people with disabilities require no special accommodations.

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Monday, June 06, 2011

Equal Opportunity and Diversity in the Workplace (Part 1 of 2)

Posted by Sarah Conroy on 6/6/2011 3:04:00 PM

Why Should the Small Business Owner Be Concerned with Equal Opportunity and Diversity in the Workplace in Maine? Part 1 of 2; June 2011 With our June blog entries we turn our attention to some recruitment and employment considerations that are quite relevant today as we see both more cultural diversity in Maine and more small businesses with federal government contracts. What we will explore is what benefit your business will derive from embracing diversity wherever possible, what it looks like and a bit about how to get there. In short, don’t embrace diversity because you have to, do it because it’s a wise investment in your business. Equal Employment Opportunity v. Affirmative Action The concept of equal employment opportunity means that each individual should be given the same treatment as all other individuals. Both disparate treatment of individuals and disparate impact of procedures on demographic groups are considered discriminatory and illegal. Equal employment opportunity is guaranteed by the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1991 and applies to all. This means that both the actual treatment of your applicants and employees and the impact of that treatment must be considered. A classic example of equal treatment resulting in unequal/disparate impact is the case of female firefighters not able to pass tests specifically created based on the physical strength of men. Even though the treatment is the same, the impact of that treatment is different. The women aren’t physically able to do as well as men. Because of cases like these, businesses are made to look at what is actually required to do a job, not what abilities most current job-holders possess and utilize to do that job in a “traditional” way. It forced employers to think creatively about other ways and possibly better ways to determine the ability to perform jobs. Much more here if you are interested in this concept: Affirmative action applies only to federal Contractors and it goes several steps beyond the requirements under EEO law. It was created by Executive Order 11246 and it requires that employers subject to it have affirmative action plans that they actively use to purposefully hire from protected groups. There are some complicated recordkeeping and reporting requirements as well as some equal pay considerations, but the law is dynamic and is being regularly refreshed to achieve its aims. For example, there are regulations under review right now to dramatically increase the hiring of returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. The challenge for some Maine small businesses is determining which parts of federal contract compliance laws apply to them if they do business with the federal government. We won’t focus on that here, but I am happy to address any questions that come up around this. You might also wish to visit these two sites to see what applies based on the type of contract you possess: and Please note that employers who are not government contractors are still subject to EEO laws and reporting requirements. If you are an employer with 100 or more employees, you must file an EEO-1 report each year. Some with fewer than 100 must also file. Here are the requirements: Up next, diversity – the business case in Maine. Sarah Conroy, SPHR, CEBS SHRM Maine State Government Affairs Director 207.713.8337


Monday, June 06, 2011

Equal Opportunity and Diversity in the Workplace (Part 2 of 2)

Posted by Sarah Conrory on 6/6/2011 3:00:00 PM

Why Should the Small Business Owner Be Concerned with Equal Opportunity and Diversity in the Workplace in Maine?

Part 2 of 2; June 2011

Diversity – the Business Case in Maine

Truth is, all of these concepts are probably too large for me to do them justice in a blog entry, so please consider this a primer and an invitation to learn more.  Diversity means different things to different people.  In HR, we generally use the term to mean we welcome the contributions of those in “protected classes”.  Protected classes being those specifically spelled out in the Civil Right Acts mentioned earlier.  This EEO poster will help refresh you.  Remember, you must post notice of the law in your workplace: .
While it is important to attempt to match your workplace demographics to those of your community wherever possible, this is a concept that may soon outlive its usefulness.  With the internet, the world is at our doorstep so increasingly Maine businesses are catering to consumers beyond borders.  As I am sure you know, the more your business can understand and serve the needs of different cultures, the more business you will generate among those groups.  Above this, however, are the unanticipated gains that come from learning how to do things differently because you have representation among your employee base that all think differently and can bring new perspective and energy to the mix.  For example, Daniel H. Pink in his book, A Whole New Mind, makes the case for the shift from left-brain dominant thinking and practice to right-brain dominant thinking and practice.  He suggested that the wonderful, logical, linear thinking that brought us the industrial age will not take us to the next stage.  It is the right-brain thinkers, creative, holistic  thinkers who will succeed in the worldwide, knowledge-based economy in which we now find ourselves where increasing computers are stepping up to do more and more analytic thinking for us.  For example, software can now be written to write the code itself and much more efficiently.   Learning how to seek out thinkers that will succeed in this new economy and attract them to your workplace will help ensure your success in the future.
Cultural Competencies
While this term is found most often in Maine in healthcare, whatever your business, you are wise to be culturally competent.  Cultural competence is defined as a set of congruent behaviors and attitudes that come together among professionals to enable effective work in cross-cultural situations.  So how do we then define culture?  Culture refers to integrated patterns of human behavior that include the language, thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values, and institutions of racial, ethnic, religious, or social groups that make up your employees, your  customers and your community. (Adapted from Cross, 1989).  It means you understand the drivers of that culture and you either bring out the best in workers from that cultural background or that your business understands well how to serve that culture, or hopefully, both!
So, how do we get there?  Start with (shameless plug) the Diversity Hiring Coalition of Maine:  Then it’s about listening.  Listen to your employees, listen to your customers.  Would they appreciate having a bilingual client service representative? Will they think very highly of your company that you “get it” and hire very smart people, some just like them?  What is the balance in your company between your company culture and an applicant that will “fit” and one that might be “fresh blood”?  Where do you want to be in 10 years with your workforce demographics?  If you are thinking about succession planning for your business, think about this too.  You’ll be glad you did.
Of course there is much more to this, so if you are serious about diversity in your workplace, I’d be happy to offer more concrete solutions.  As always, I can be reached at and I thank you for your interest!

Sarah Conroy, SPHR, CEBS
SHRM Maine State Government Affairs Director


End of Diversity/EO Posts

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Information on this site is intended to provide guidance, not legal advice. Since exact language and definitions of key terms are critical to understanding the requirements of legislation, rules or laws, we encourage you to read each carefully. Articles, blogs, and information offered here may be reprinted with attribution given to “the Maine Corner Store, a program managed by the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.” Please address comments to Melanie Baillargeon, director of communications, by calling (207) 623-4568, ext. 110, or by emailing

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