A panel of reviewers representing a variety of stakeholders, including advocates of employers’ and workers’ interests, recently issued a report that debunks the myth that the Maine Human Rights Commission (MHRC) is biased against employers. This panel conducted its review in accordance with Governor LePage’s executive order that a panel study, among other things, factors causing and/or contributing to perceptions that the MHRC is prejudiced against employers and biased in favor of workers. In conducting its work, the panel noted that there are also people who believe that the MHRC is prejudiced against workers, not employers, but the panel unanimously found no evidence of prejudice against employers or workers.
“We think the report very clearly and unambiguously finds that we are factually not biased and don’t act in a way that is biased toward anyone in our process, nevermind labor,” said MHRC Executive Director Amy Sneirson. “We also think that anyone looking at our annual reports could have found the same thing a year ago without needing this review panel.”
The panel made various recommendations to improve the MHRC in ways that would, hopefully, reduce the perceptions of bias. These recommendations included more funding and staff at the MHRC.
“We are gratified to see the panel’s understanding that our agency is wildly underfunded and understaffed and its recommendations for more of both,” Sneirson said. “We’re looking forward to working with the administration to move forward with many of the recommendations in this report.”
The panel also recommended, among other things, more training for investigators on how to conduct investigations with neutrality; retaining a management consultant who could make recommendations for increasing efficiency in work flow at the MHRC; and expanding the MHRC’s mediation program. Many of the recommended changes will require legislative action. It will be interesting to see how the legislature and governor react to the recommendations as they consider them.