Palmer's nomination as state labor commissioner moves forward

Hartford - Sharon Palmer of Waterford was confirmed as the state’s Department of Labor commissioner by the state’s executive and legislative nominations committee on Tuesday.

Her nomination now goes to both the House and Senate for approval.

At the hearing Palmer said she was concerned about being able to continue all the department’s projects because 80 percent of the department’s funding came from the federal government, which has been an unstable funding source recently.

“We are keeping our fingers crossed and wondering and worrying about what is going to happen in Washington.” Palmer said.

The latest fiscal cliff scenario put 43,000 Connecticut residents at risk of losing their unemployment benefits, she said. This caused high volumes of calls to the department and forced department employees to work overtime to keep up.

The wage and hour division of the department has also been overwhelmed recently because some employers are not paying their employees, she said.

“Unfortunately, unscrupulous contractors and employers are committing more and more violations in this particular time,” Palmer said. “They are not paying people properly; they are not paying people at all; they are not paying their taxes; all kinds of violations.”

On the jobs side, Palmer said the department was working to grow job connections for workers and help employers learn about hiring opportunities. If state funding were to be reduced, the department would have an even harder time meeting its goals, she said.

State Rep. Selim Noujaim, R-Waterbury, asked Palmer how the department planned to better advertise its Step-Up program, which subsidizes training and employment for Connecticut residents, and other jobs programs.

Palmer said more communications efforts needed to be made, but that the department was so busy that it didn’t have time to “toot its own horn.”

Noujaim also said many employers had come to him concerned about rising workers’ compensation costs and unemployment benefits liability.

Palmer said rising workers’ compensation costs would be something the legislature would have to study.

“Connecticut is an expensive state,” she said, adding the state has higher wages and higher costs of living than other states.

With regard to employers’ unemployment benefits liability, Palmer encouraged legislators to send employers who felt they were not being treated fairly her way.

Palmer has been serving as the department’s commissioner for the previous three months and before that was the president of the Connecticut chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, which is a union that represents teachers and other employees in the state.

Other officials who were confirmed by the executive and legislative nominations committee on Tuesday were:

Michael A. Caron of West Hartford as a member of the Public Utility Regulatory Authority, Jamey Bell of Bloomfield as Child Advocate and Gerald T. Weiner of Woodbridge as a member of the Education Arbitration Board. Further action will be taken by the House and Senate to finalize the nominations.

j.somers@theday.com

Sharon Palmer of Waterford was confirmed as the state’s Department of Labor commissioner by the state’s executive and legislative nominations committee on Tuesday.
Her nomination now goes to both the House and Senate for approval.
At the hearing Palmer said she was concerned about being able to continue all the department’s projects because 80 percent of the department’s funding came from the federal government, which has been an unstable funding source recently.
“We are keeping our fingers crossed and wondering and worrying about what is going to happen in Washington.” Palmer said.
The latest fiscal cliff scenario put 43,000 Connecticut residents at risk of losing their unemployment benefits, she said. This caused high volumes of calls to the department and forced department employees to work overtime to keep up.
The wage and hour division of the department has also been overwhelmed recently because some employers are not paying their employees, she said.
“Unfortunately, unscrupulous contractors and employers are committing more and more violations in this particular time,” Palmer said. “They are not paying people properly; they are not paying people at all; they are not paying their taxes; all kinds of violations.”
On the jobs side, Palmer said the department was working to grow job connections for workers and help employers learn about hiring opportunities. If state funding were to be reduced, the department would have an even harder time meeting its goals, she said.
State Rep. Selim Noujaim, R-Waterbury, asked Palmer how the department planned to better advertise its Step-Up program, which subsidizes training and employment for Connecticut residents, and other jobs programs.
Palmer said more communications efforts needed to be made, but that the department was so busy that it didn’t have time to “toot its own horn.”
Noujaim also said many employers had come to him concerned about rising workers’ compensation costs and unemployment benefits liability.
Palmer said rising workers’ compensation costs would be something the legislature would have to study.
“Connecticut is an expensive state,” she said, adding the state has higher wages and higher costs of living than other states.
With regard to employers’ unemployment benefits liability, Palmer encouraged legislators to send employers who felt they were not being treated fairly her way.
Palmer has been serving as the department’s commissioner for the previous three months and before that was the president of the Connecticut chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, which is a union that represents teachers and other employees in the state.
Other officials who were confirmed by the executive and legislative nominations committee on Tuesday were:
Michael A. Caron of West Hartford as a member of the Public Utility Regulatory Authority, Jamey Bell of Bloomfield as Child Advocate and Gerald T. Weiner of Woodbridge as a member of the Education Arbitration Board. Further action will be taken by the House and Senate to finalize the nominations.
j.somers@theday.com

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