LePage scolded about eight administrative hearing officers and their supervisors, complaining that too many cases on appeal from the Bureau of Unemployment were being decided in favor of employees. He said the officers were doing their jobs poorly, sources said. [...]This isn't the first time LePage has tried to skew unemployment decisions toward business owners. Previously, word came down to hearing officers from their supervisors that they were awarding unemployment benefits to too many workers, and that they would have to notify supervisors of any decision to give unemployment benefits to a jobless person before formally recording the ruling. That practice didn't last long, but LePage clearly hasn't given up on denying unemployed people the benefits to which they're entitled.
LePage was asked by someone at the luncheon meeting about the 30-day federal deadline for holding an appeals hearing and what to do if an employer were to argue that more time was needed to prepare a case. LePage, who is not a lawyer, said that if allowing additional time for employers meant missing the federal deadline,“so be it.”
To their credit, the hearing officers told LePage that there are actual federal laws and guidelines that they have to follow. But some felt harassed and bullied, with good reason, and feared retaliation if they spoke out publicly, also with good reason. The pressure they face left labor law experts aghast:
“It’s certainly a breach of due process for (LePage) to even say anything” to hearing examiners about their determinations, [labor lawyer Howard] Reben said.Paul LePage has repeatedly shown himself happy to be outrageous, though. LePage will be up for reelection in 2014, and any Maine voter who's ever been unemployed should remember this one.
"The hearing officers are quasi-judicial people who have to interpret the law and to suggest that the law should be bent in a particular way is outrageous," Reben said.