July 26, 2012 marks the one year anniversary of HB 401 (Relative to postsecondary training for workers with disabilities) becoming law and taking effect. This bill allows workers with disabilities to partner with employers to see if they can do a job, and gain practical experience that can help them build a future. This was one of the more satisfying bills that we worked on in the Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee. Very few people are truly disabled. They all have a contribution to make. We just need to take extra steps to help them find the things that they can do.
There were two main challenges to this bill. Employers who were willing to participate were rightly concerned about liability. The concern was that even as an intern, the worker may technically be an employee. In the event that the internship didn’t work out, the employer could be on the hook for workman’s compensation or disability payments. Another concern was that employers would use these interns to displace more expensive existing workers. We were able to iron out these two problems and build protection into the bill.
We heard testimony in the committee from a man who, despite the risks, was offered an internship and was then eventually hired by a NH hotel. It was a privilege hearing him describe his experience and the pride in his voice. Spread the word and help give someone a chance to succeed.
If you are a worker with a disability, or an employer willing to give someone a chance, contact the NH Department of Labor by email via http://www.labor.state.nh.us or by phone at (603) 271-3176. You can also contact me for assistance. through my website at http://steve4nh.com, or by mail at PO Box 624 Charlestown, NH 03603, or by phone at 603-826-5996
Representative Steven Smith