Working for You
The Department is constantly looking at ways to improve communication with its stakeholders throughout the state.
Matt Hankins is the UI Modernization Project Manager for the Division of Employment Security. He is responsible for managing a successful implementation of a new unemployment insurance system for Department staff as well as the public.
“I hope to positively impact both the staff that I work with as well as the public in how they perceive our agency and the service we provide,” Hankins says.
The new system will greatly improve ease of access and use for filing unemployment claims or employer quarterly reports.
“At this point, I have only one goal, and that is to ensure the successful design, build, implementation and acceptance of a new Unemployment Insurance system for Missouri,” Hankins says.
Hankins has been with the Department for 13 years. Prior to working for the Department, he worked with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs with the Division of Workforce Development while attending the University of Missouri. Hankins was a Russian Linguist for six years with the U.S. Marine Corps, serving three years in Misawa, Japan, and received a degree in Russian Studies from the University of Missouri. He is currently working on a master’s degree in Public Affairs as part of the Capitol Fellowship program with the University of Missouri.
Hankins and his wife Gina, have three sons, Caleb, Connor, and Cole. In his spare time, he attends his children’s sporting and school events, is active in his church, and likes to hunt and fish when time permits.
Accidents can happen at any time when working, whether it’s on the job or at home on the farm. Most don’t observe necessary safety measures until after an accident has occurred. Donna Kaye Scheulen, system administrator for the Division of Labor Standards, knows firsthand the importance of farm safety.
Scheulen recalls when her first husband was cutting down a tree and tried to pull it down with a tractor. He realized that the tree was falling in the direction of the tractor and narrowly bailed off the tractor in time, but suffered two broken arms among other injuries. However, his next accident was much more serious. While on his tractor, he drove over a large rock that caused the tractor to turn over, causing him to fall off and hit his head on a rock, which ultimately led to his death.
She says it’s very important to let someone know where you will be working and what you will be doing if you are working alone. She also advises workers to be aware of the dangers of simple tasks. Her first husband had been cutting wood and driving tractors since he was young, so it wasn’t that he didn’t know what he was doing, but that people become complacent when performing common tasks.
Scheulen promotes the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) and has been with the Department for 17 years. She works closely with SHARP companies across the state, which have made the commitment to put safety first in the workplace.
“Safety has to be a number one priority when working with machinery, whether it’s in the workplace or on the farm,” Scheulen said.
Being a mediator in a discussion can be a wearing and demanding job. It can be exhausting to hear both sides of an issue and try to reach a resolution where everyone is satisfied. But that is exactly what Glenn Easley deals with as a mediator for the Division of Workers’ Compensation.
He says the biggest change he’s seen within the Department is the movement to electronic communication. Most of the communicating he does with Department stake holders is now electronic.
Easley has been with the Department for almost 16 years and is a lawyer by trade. Prior to joining the Department, he had a private law practice in Poplar Bluff and Columbia for nearly 20 years.
His job is to oversee cases involving on-the-job injuries. As mediator of the Dispute Management Unit, his job is to provide information about the Workers’ Compensation system while encouraging everyone to work together to resolve their differences. The mediation program is completely voluntary, which could save everyone considerable stress, expense, and time, instead of dealing with contested litigation.
In addition to mediating, Easley regularly does outreach presentations and helps others understand the Missouri Workers’ Compensation System. He hopes he can increase awareness about the rights and responsibilities of all parties in workers’ compensation
“I plan to continue to help the Workers’ Compensation System’s varied stake-holders work toward safer and less stressful working environments for all of us,” Easley said.
When Easley is not working, he enjoys walking and biking with his wife on the Katy Trail. He also enjoys listening to old-time Gospel music.
Department staff are available to help claimants every step of the way when processing Workers’ Compensation claims. Naomi Pearson is a Senior Office Support Assistant for the Division of Workers’ Compensation and works closely with the Workers’ Compensation claim process.
“My goal has always been to do the best job I can while representing the division and the department professionally,” Pearson said.
Pearson has been with the department for 34 1/2 years. During Pearson’s time with the Labor Department, she has seen several changes in the Workers’ Compensation process. The biggest change has been to move processes online and use a paperless system, with electronic award and transcript mailings.
After a hearing is held and the decision is made in a case, the Judge provides information for an award. Pearson handles all aspects of the awards and appeals processes for the Division. She reviews the awards and distributes them to the correct parties.
If a case is appealed, Pearson notifies the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission to review the case. Once the appeal process is complete, she documents it and sends it to the appropriate division unit.
Outside of work, Pearson likes to read, embroider, and scrapbook. She also volunteers at her local library and the Braille Center in her church. She enjoys helping her daughter, Stephanie, with teaching projects, and spending time with family and friends.
The Department has a highly dedicated and tenured staff. Beverly Otto has been with the Department for nearly 42 years. Otto, who works as an accountant, first came to the Department in 1971.
Otto first worked at the Division of Labor Standards, where she audited expense accounts, paid bills, and worked with time sheets. She worked for the Division for 25 years, and in 1995 she moved to Financial Management.
In financial management, Otto manages expense accounts for the Department, the Division of Labor Standards, and the Division of Employment Security. She also prepares financial reports required by the federal government for the On-Site Safety and Health Consultation Program and Mine and Cave Safety Program.
Prior to working for the Department, Otto worked for Cheesebrough-Ponds on the production lines for glass packaging and plastic products for distribution.
Otto has been married to her husband for 36 years and they have two sons, one daughter, and three grandchildren. She raises beef cattle on her farm and her grandchildren purchase animals and care for them on the farm. Her family also butchers all of their own meat from the animals raised on their own farm.
Otto has several hobbies and loves the outdoors. “My hobbies are gardening, working with flowers, and mowing the lawn,” Otto said. She also enjoys traveling, going to her grandchildren’s ball games and school programs, and getting together with family and friends and going to St. Louis Cardinal baseball games each year.
During tax season, Guy Provencal is extremely busy. As an Unemployment Insurance Auditor, he has to be well versed on all aspects of the Missouri Revised Statutes regarding unemployment insurance to help employers meet their tax obligations.
“Many times they are confused or simply don’t understand what their responsibilities are as a business owner,” Provencal said. “I am here to answer questions and provide them with tips on how to keep their taxes low.”
Provencal has worked several positions in the short time he has been with the Department. He began working part-time in the Collections Unit in 2010, and was hired full-time as a Claims Specialist a short time later. He then returned to the Collections Unit as an Auditor in 2012.
“My job is to level the playing field for all businesses so that everyone has a fair shot of growing their company,” Provencal said.
Prior to working for the Department, Provencal worked as a Customer Service Representative for a local telephone company. He has been a licensed minister since 2004, and is currently the director of the men’s ministries at Solid Rock Family Church in Jefferson City.
Provencal is working to complete his Master of Business Administration (MBA) with an emphasis in accounting to get his CPA license. In his spare time, he enjoys playing the drums and the guitar. He also loves to golf, and spend time with his children.
One of the Department’s newest employees is Dana Carrington, who joined the Department four months ago to work as a Wage and Hour Investigator with the Division of Labor Standards.
As an investigator, Carrington is responsible for the enforcement of Missouri’s minimum wage, prevailing wage, and child labor laws. A large part of his time is dedicated to educating employers about those laws.
“Whether we use enforcement, education, or inspections, our purpose is to ensure that businesses in Missouri pay their employees the wages as decided by law and that they protect the safety and well-being of our youth on the job,” Carrington says.
Although he is new to the Department, Carrington is working hard to build his reputation as a top notch wage and hour investigator. He hopes he can make a difference in the state and potentially change perceptions in the criminal justice community about the need for prosecution of minimum wage and prevailing wage violations.
Prior to working for the Department, he worked with the U.S. Department of Justice and the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program in Indonesia for six years. In 2011, Carrington helped organize the evacuation of a village in the Province of Central Java, Indonesia. The village was located three kilometers from the top of Mount Merapi, an active volcano. The volcano erupted the day after everyone was evacuated, covering the village in 30 meters of ash and lava. He also served on the Springfield Police Department for 25 years.
In his spare time, Carrington enjoys playing golf, training his dog, and reading a good book.
It takes a lot of work to keep a website maintained and organized. But that is Carla Schrock’s mission each and every day. In her role as Information Technologist II, Schrock is in charge of adding content to both the Department’s website and its Intranet site. She works with Department graphic designers to add a visual element to the website when necessary.
Schrock says she became interested in styling web pages when she took a class while in college. She found she enjoyed working with Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and making websites easy to read while using an attractive design.
Schrock started working for the Department as an intern in the spring of 2009. She had the crucial task of helping redesign and restructure the Department’s website, labor.mo.gov. After graduating from William Woods University with a degree in Management Information Systems, Schrock started working full-time in 2010.
During her time with the Department, she has been instrumental in moving several forms and processes online, which makes sending information to and from the Department much easier. She says she hopes that her designs are effective and make important information easily visible to website viewers.
“Because the Department has to distribute time-sensitive material to its audience constantly, it’s crucial that we keep our web content fresh,” Schrock says. “I think we do a great job of keeping our website up-to-date and relevant to our viewers.”
In her spare time, Schrock enjoys camping, riding four-wheelers, and playing with her Cocker Spaniel, Reese.
When Jennifer Nauss went to law school, her motivation was to contribute something to the greater good of her community, and her role as Human Rights Officer with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR) fulfills that personal and professional goal.
When those who are living and working in our state believe they have been discriminated against and file a charge of discrimination under the Missouri Human Rights Act, Nauss investigates those allegations by conducting extensive witness interviews, documenting requests and reviews, and occasional employer site visits.
“My best friend tells me that listening is my super power, so I feel like my job is a perfect fit for my natural abilities,” Nauss said. “I spend my workday listening to and sifting through both sides of the same story in order to make a recommendation about whether there is probable cause that there has been a violation of state civil rights laws.”
Through the course of her seven years as an MCHR employee, Nauss has helped Missourians understand that unfair treatment is illegal discrimination only when an adverse action was taken against an individual because of his or her race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, disability, age (in employment only), and familial status (in housing only).
In addition to her investigatory work, Nauss has also had significant experience in marketing and communications in former editorial positions with Harlequin Books and Publishers Weekly in New York. She puts those skills to work for the Missouri Department of Labor as the Communications Coordinator for the Show-Me Fair Housing Awareness Project, an information and outreach campaign funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development designed to educate Missourians about their rights and responsibilities under state and federal fair housing laws. She is responsible for advertising, marketing, and printed materials connected to this state-wide public awareness campaign, and in that capacity has developed a Fair Housing Consumer Guide and a brochure detailing fair housing laws relating specifically to families and persons with disabilities.
Off the clock, Nauss indulges her love of the arts by volunteering at the Kansas City Repertory Theater and giving tours at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Security and safety measures are the top priority for Fernando Mendez. Mendez is a Management Analyst II, but he mainly works with the Department's Internal Security.
Mendez’s position has evolved several times since he first began working for the Department. He first was responsible for employee investigations and internal fraud cases. Now the majority of his responsibilities are making sure the Department lives up to the security portion of its agreements with federal agencies and that other state agencies live up to the security portions of their agreements with the Department.
Mendez’s security work is vital to the Department. By maintaining security compliance, the Department gets permission from various federal agencies to assist in uncovering Unemployment Insurance (UI) fraud by completing computer cross-matches.
“This helps Employment Security either prevent or reduce the amount of UI overpayments,” Mendez says. “Without this information, Missouri would have to collect more fraudulent overpayments.”
Mendez also deals with safety issues dealing with the Department’s buildings in Jefferson City. He hopes to continue to come up with new initiatives in security compliance or building safety.
Mendez has been with the Department for 24 years, only briefly working in the Job Services and Research and Analysis section after it moved from the Division of Employment Security to the Department of Economic Development in 1999. Before working for the Department, Mendez was in the Navy, and also worked for the Census Bureau for the 1988 St. Louis Census.
In his spare time, Mendez enjoys reading, mostly detective novels and books on architecture, and traveling. He enjoys collecting maps from all the cities he visits.
Tammy Cavender knows firsthand that training can be used to enhance an employee’s knowledge base and leadership abilities. Cavender, Director of Administration and Human Resources (HR) Manager, works with both internal Department staff and the public.
Cavender provides managerial and supervisor trainings that deal with HR issues, like hiring practices, documentation, and disciplinary actions. She also works with potential job applicants and informs them of what the Department has to offer.
As Director of Administration, Cavender develops and reviews administrative policies and handles disciplinary and performance actions.
Cavender has a Master’s in Business Administration, and has been a public servant for most of her career, serving 14 years with the Department.
“Training tends to be an overlooked area in many organizations,” Cavender says. “However, training is a critical component to professional development and growth for managers and staff.”
Cavender prides the Department for striving to offer a high level of customer service. The Department offers a variety of presentations on topics that deal with issues businesses face every day. These training programs are offered at no cost to customers and may be their only opportunity to offer such training to staff.
Before working for the Department, she worked as a communications specialist at the Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan, giving medical presentations to state employees.
When Cavender isn’t busy at work, she enjoys playing sports and spending time with her friends and her four children.
Safety is the number one goal for Occupational Safety and Health Consultant, Lynn Lechner. As a consultant, Lechner assists businesses with OSHA compliance issues. She performs inspections at the request of the business to identify safety and health hazards in the workplace.
“I try and bring as much information to Missourians related to safety that can be used both on-the-job and at home,” Lechner says. “We want everyone to come home safe.”
She also helped develop the “Hazard Lab,” a training demonstration/display to help industry and construction businesses identify defective equipment that could become a safety hazard at the workplace. Her hope is that the hazard lab will be able to travel to several conferences across Missouri and a national conference next year.
Lechner has been with the Division of Labor Standards (DLS) since 2008, and a public servant since 1999. Prior to working for DLS, Lechner worked for Saint Louis County Government, working with injury and accident investigation, property damage claims, general liability claims, building inspections, and employee training.
“I take pride in my work and representing the State,” Lechner says. “Helping Missouri employers and their employees is very rewarding. In turn, Missourians are receptive and appreciative of our efforts.”
An interesting fact about Lechner is she is not a native Missourian; she grew up in Green Bay, Wis., and moved to Missouri after college. Her hobbies include baking, researching genealogy, and watching sports.
“What about you?” These words still impact the Division of Employment Security (DES) Director, Gracia Backer. Said by her husband in reference to an open elected office, Backer has taken these words to heart. For more than 45 years, Backer has been a public servant to the state of Missouri. She has done everything from state government summer jobs, as a teenager, to her current position, Division Director, to which she was appointed by two different Missouri Governors.
During her 18 years as the State Representative from Callaway County, she was chosen by her colleagues to serve as Majority Floor Leader of the House of Representatives. While being the first woman to do so in the history of Missouri was an honor, her priority was being the best person for the job that she could be.
For her, the most challenging part about working as a public servant is time spent away from family. But knowing she is making a difference for Missourians and future generations makes it all worthwhile. Even to this day, she expects a lot out of her colleagues and employees, but she expects a lot more from herself. Gracia Backer has proven that she will never give up. “What about you?”
Tom Bastian is the newest member of the communications unit. Along with several tasks in office, his main duty is to ensure that clear and consistent communications are being utilized between the Department of Labor and its many public shareholders. He does this through news releases, newsletters, social media, publications and much more.
“To be in a position to help people find and utilize the resources that could change their lives is an honor and opportunity I am really looking forward to,” Bastian said.
Before working for the department, Bastian served as a Sergeant in the U.S. Army. He completed one deployment to Iraq. After an honorable discharge from the Army, Bastian completed his bachelor’s degree in public relations. With his management experience and work history, he brings a lot of insight to those returning home from service looking for future employment.
He has many hobbies, including hunting and fishing, playing a variety of sports, gardening, and doing various tasks around the house.
Stephanie Newton is a Claims Specialist I in the Benefits Section, working in Benefit Payment Control Adjudication. She audits wages reported by claimants and compares them to wages reported by the employer. If an overpayment of benefits has occurred, she sets up the overpayment and notifies the claimant. She also speaks to claimants to determine whether fraud has been committed, and helps them to understand how to claim correctly to avoid committing fraud in the future. Additionally, she is a member of the Department’s Wellness Committee, and enjoys offering encouragement to participants as well as coming up with new activities.
“My job is in place to ensure that benefits are only being paid to those who qualify for them,” said Newton. “My job also protects claimants who should rightfully be receiving benefits from an employer after work is not available.
Before working for the Department, Newton worked with special needs children at Jefferson City Public Schools. She also has a degree in Interior Merchandising, and has previously worked as a design consultant. She enjoys boating with her family and friends, as well as playing coed sports like volleyball and softball. Newton is an active member of her church, and also enjoys working out at the gym with her husband.
Human Relations Officer II Tammy Carlyle has served the citizens and businesses of Missouri for the past 12 years from the Sikeston office of the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR). As the agency that enforces the Missouri Human Rights Act, the state law that prohibits discrimination in Missouri’s places of employment, housing, and public accommodations, MCHR works to prevent and eliminate discrimination by 1) investigating and resolving discrimination complaints, and 2) educating citizens, employers, and housing industry professionals on their rights and responsibilities under the law.
In her role as Human Relations Officer II, Tammy oversees the daily operations of MCHR’s Sikeston office and works to resolve and prevent conflicts between citizens and Missouri’s businesses by serving as a neutral investigator of discrimination complaints and as a discrimination prevention trainer. For the past three years, Tammy has also served as the Program Manager for MCHR’s Show-Me Fair Housing Awareness Project (SMFHAP), an educational and outreach program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through a competitive grant award to MCHR designed to educate citizens and housing professionals about their rights and responsibilities under fair housing laws. As the SMFHAP’s Program Manager, Tammy has had the opportunity to be MCHR’s “boots on the ground” in Southeast Missouri, helping the commission develop and implement the SMFHAP’s many activities and foster new partnerships with community and business leaders, as well as community serving organizations.
“While April is designated as National Fair Housing Month, the SMFHAP has allowed MCHR to increase our proactive, fair housing outreach activities and share the importance of the fair housing message throughout the entire year,” Carlyle said.
Prior to joining the Commission, Tammy, a graduate of William Woods University, worked as an investigative paralegal with a law firm in Memphis, Tennessee, for a number of years before returning to Missouri and entering public service by working in city government then joining MCHR. “We live in the land of opportunity, and I feel privileged to work for a state, department, and agency that helps citizens understand and businesses offer equal access to those opportunities,” Carlyle said. In addition to her work, Tammy enjoys playing the piano, reading, and spending time with family and friends, including her two children, whom she begrudgingly credits for turning her into a Twilight and Harry Potter fanatic.
Ruth Jaegers is a key player in the Department’s disaster relief efforts. She has been working with the Department for the past 32 years as a Claims Program Manager. She oversees the administration of the unemployment programs in the Regional Claims Centers (RCC). Some of her specific duties include serving as a liaison between the appeals section and the RCC’s, working with schools and training for the state of Missouri, and her most important involvement lately has been assisting in the state’s disaster recovery.
Part of Jaegers’ job is making sure that all Missourians who apply and are eligible for unemployment benefits receive them in a proper and timely manner. Therefore, she makes sure those who have lost their jobs due to disaster are aware that they are entitled to unemployment benefits. With this in mind, she led the way when the Department sent several claims specialists to Branson in order to facilitate immediate assistance through on-site claim filing.
Prior to working for the Department, Jaegers worked in the accounting section of MFA, inc. in Columbia, Missouri. In her spare time, Jaegers enjoys reading mystery novels and playing games on her smart phone.
Jeannie Mitchell serves as an Assistant General Counsel for the Department. She works closely with the human resources office, reviewing personnel related policies, providing legal advice on matters ranging from discipline, to requests for Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), to accommodations, and much more. In addition, her office defends the unemployment trust fund, striving to protect the integrity of the system against fraud and abuse.
“I am pleased to work for an organization that takes pride in educating people about their rights in the workplace,” said Mitchell. In fact, the Department recently launched its new online Worker Protection Center.
Prior to joining the Department, Mitchell worked for the Attorney General’s Office in the Litigation Division. She attended Western Illinois University, where she obtained Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and French. Afterwards she pursued her law degree at The University of Iowa College of Law. Along the way she worked in retail, photography, and catering.Mitchell played the piano and clarinet for several years, and music is still among her favorite hobbies. An interesting fact about Mitchell is she is a second-generation American with Haitian heritage. She was the first in her family to be born in the US. In her spare time, Mitchell likes to cook, as she loves to try new foods and recipes. She also enjoys spending time with her family and friends.
In order to prevent wage and hour violations in Missouri, the Department’s Division of Labor Standards (DLS) has investigators, like Jerry Wolsey, who make sure Missouri workers receive what they deserve in compensation as set forth by the Missouri Wage and Hour laws. Wolsey, an Investigator II, has worked for the DLS since May of 2007.
Prior to working at the Department, Wolsey spent 30 years building his career in the investigative field, beginning as a law enforcement officer with training from the Missouri State Highway Patrol Law Enforcement Academy. Additionally, he received extensive law enforcement training from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Along the way, he founded Wolsey Investigative Service Inc. in 1989, which he sold in 2000.
In his spare time, Wolsey enjoys watching auto racing Indy and Sprint cars. He used to race alongside his father in the 1960s and ‘70s at various tracks in the Midwest. Sports are also an interest of Wolsey’s – particularly baseball and college football.
Discrimination in employment is the leading type investigated by the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR). MCHR’s Human Rights Officers act as a neutral party, investigating complaints of discrimination and determining whether or not discrimination took place. For more than 18 years, Gael Martin-Lee has been a Human Rights Officer with the MCHR, charged with investigating complaints of discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations, and then submitting written recommendations on the probability that discrimination has occurred. Because of gatekeepers like Martin-Lee, illegitimate claims of discrimination are less likely to get time in court, helping employers avoid expensive lawsuits.
Martin-Lee adheres to her primary goals of preventing and eliminating discrimination and providing fair and timely resolutions of discrimination claims through enforcement of the Missouri Human Rights Act. Having an interest in architectural design makes working in the Wainwright State Office building, which is historically significant as well as beautiful, something she loves.
Before being hired by MCHR, Martin-Lee earned an undergraduate degree in psychology from Kansas, a Juris Doctorate from Saint Louis University Law School, and then practiced law for several years.Outside of work, she enjoys tending her shade garden, reading, and fixing up her 104-year-old house. Martin-Lee also likes taking her Australian Shepherd, Jackson, on walks.
For the past two and half years, Danielle Rakow has been working with the Division of Employment Security as a Claims Specialist while also serving in the Marine Corps, from which she recently retired on November 1 as a Major. As a Claims Specialist, Rakow helps Missourians file their initial unemployment claims and she is involved with the determination of their claims. Additionally, she is part of the Department’s Rapid Response program, which assists employers when they are downsizing or shutting down. Rakow conducts meetings with the employees to educate them on the unemployment claim process.
“I’m just trying to be the best specialist I can, and provide the best possible customer service to the people of Missouri when they need to file an unemployment claim,” she said.In her free time, Rakow enjoys spending time with her husband and helping her kids stay busy with the activities they participate in, such as Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and various sports. In fact, she and her family are in the process of starting a Pick Your Own Blueberries business. Furthermore, they share their property with an array of animals including boer goats, chickens, horses, and rabbits. Her hobbies include reading and being involved at her church.
Tony Vaughan has been working as a Claims Program Manager at the Department for the past eight years. Vaughan’s position is crucial to the Department as he ensures that the proper processes are in place and followed to get unemployment insurance benefits to eligible claimants. He plays a key role in the unemployment process by providing oversight and establishing policies for Regional Claim Center (RCC) staff.
His duties include implementing changes to the unemployment insurance program due to law changes as well as serving as a State Coordinator for the Trade Readjustment Assistance program that provides aid to workers who lose their job due to foreign trade. Currently, Vaughan is anticipating the beginning of a project to modernize the Division of Employment Security’s computer system that will make the unemployment process easier for claimants, employers, and division personnel.
Before working for the Department, Vaughan attended Lincoln University, where he obtained his Bachelor’s in Business Administration. When he isn’t working, Vaughan spends his time serving as the Vice President of the Holts Summit Lions Club, or cheering on one of his favorite Missouri sports teams, including the St. Louis Cardinals and Rams as well as the Mizzou Tigers.
Les Thomas has been working as the Department’s Program Manager of the Mine and Cave Safety and Health section for more than a year. Thomas leads and coordinates a highly trained and well qualified team of mine safety professionals, who work to keep Missouri miners and cave visitors safe. On average, Missouri loses two miners a year in mine related fatalities, which is an occurrence Thomas and his team strive to eliminate altogether. In 2010, there were no mine fatalities, a testament to the hard work and dedication of Thomas and his co-workers. As of now, the Department is proud to continue into 2011 with no mine fatalities this year.
According to Thomas, keeping miners safe is a long-standing Missouri tradition that he intends to sustain by offering the valuable resources the Mine and Cave Safety and Health section to all members of the mining industry. Thomas believes some key factors to mine and cave safety are innovative training solutions and the continued enforcement of Missouri mining regulations. By enforcing certain rules and regulations for the mining industry, Thomas hopes Missourians realize it is not the Mine and Cave Safety and Health section’s intent to impose any hardship, but rather to protect the miners and minimize the impact on the environment.
Prior to working for the Department, Thomas was an ordained minister. He also served in the United States Marine Corps until 1992, at which time he began working for the largest underground mining company in Missouri. Prior to being promoted to Program Manager, he was the mine safety trainer. He and his wife Michele have been married for 20 years and have two sons, Clinton and Andrew. In his spare time, Thomas enjoys golfing, spending time with his family and, believe it or not, cutting grass!
If you have ever received a paycheck that did not reflect the full amount you were owed, you probably made a call to the Department to file a wage complaint. More than likely, you spoke with Brenda Kissinger.
Kissinger has been working for the Department for nearly 17 years, and plays one of the most essential roles in day to day procedures. As Senior Office Support Assistant she is the first responder to those calling to file wage complaints. She answers hundreds of calls a week and receives an average of 60 formal wage complaints a month. Because of her many years with the department, she is more than qualified to help with other questions relating to wage and hour and inform Missourians about their rights as workers.
Kissinger started out with the Department’s Division of Labor Standards (DLS) in 1993, and then began working in the Wage & Hour Section . Prior to working for the Department, Kissinger worked for Brown Shoe Company for 12 years, where she worked on a production line holding seniority as a “vamper” as well as several other positions throughout the factory. When the plant closed in 1992, she decided to obtain a certificate in Information Processing from Metro Business College.
Aside from her professional life, Kissinger has been married for 30 years and has two sons and daughters-in-law, as well as five grandchildren. She absolutely loves spending time and doing fun activities with her grandkids whether it is gardening tomatoes, jumping on the trampoline or playing baseball. Traveling is another one of Kissinger’s hobbies. She’s visited 38 state capitols, and hopes to visit the capitols of all 50 states in her lifetime. When she is not spending time with her grandchildren or traveling, Kissinger enjoys attending country and classic rock concerts, as well as catching up on some of her favorite mystery television shows.
DeSheila Milton, Labor and Industrial Relations Manager, has worked within the Department of Labor’s Division of Employment Security (DES) more than 12 years. Milton acts as the Tax Support Manager in Employer Contributions, and provides training to new staff as well as annual and intermittent training to existing staff members. In fact, she has been on the cutting edge when it comes to educating DES auditors on identifying worker misclassification.
Additionally, Milton represents the DES during seminars that educate employers regarding topics such as unemployment information (UI) taxes and general unemployment information, specifically 1099 fraud. She also prepares new tax training methods and educational programs in order to assist staff members as the UI tax system evolves.
Milton brings a lot of experience to the DES. Prior to working for the Department, Milton served as an account clerk for the Missouri Division of Water Patrol for two years. She also worked in the hotel industry as a front desk supervisor and night auditor at various establishments in Jefferson City.
Milton is married with three children: two girls and one boy. Outside of her professional life, her new hobby of choice is crocheting, but she also enjoys drawing, camping, listening to music, writing poetry and most of all spending time with her family and friends.
John Gillam has been with the Department of Labor for over two years as an Investigator II within the Fraud and Noncompliance Unit of the Division of Workers’ Compensation. As an investigator, he has many significant job duties that are vital to both the Department and the citizens of Missouri. These include analyzing initial allegations of workers’ compensation fraud and noncompliance, locating witnesses, suspects and victims, and obtaining written, verbal and/or tape-recorded statements to verify or refute these allegations. He has also worked for other state agencies including the Department of Corrections, Division of Workforce Development, and the Department of Health and Senior Services, for a total of more than 20 years of service to the state of Missouri.
Gillam’s work affects all Missouri workers who are covered by the safety net of workers’ compensation insurance. If state law is violated or fraud is committed, then costs can be passed along to everyone involved in the process. It is vital that correct information be obtained and used in these cases that affect lives in major ways.
Gilliam, married for over 20 years, has two children, Lindsey (age 20) and Nicholas (age 17). Despite losing his parents at the age of 10 and spending 10 years in foster homes, Gillam was the first person in his family to graduate with a Master’s degree. Outside of work, he enjoys hunting, fishing, spending time with his family, and woodworking. He is also a veteran of the Missouri National Guard and Army Reserve, and was recently honored with a “Silver Star” award from Gov. Jay Nixon.
Cornell Dillard, Chief Human Relations Officer, has worked for Department of Labor for 12 years. In fulfilling this position, Cornell is accountable for investigating grievances, discriminatory and non-discriminatory complaints, as well as sexual harassment complaints. Ultimately, he serves as the department’s internal investigator for anything in the workplace environment while aiming to ensure an atmosphere free from hostility. Dillard provides training to employees to make them aware of their rights under the law. His objective is to remind everyone to conduct themselves professionally so they don’t create a hostile environment for others. “My goal is for everyone to respect each other positively, heck get along with each other,” he commented.
Dillard also takes his teachings on the road by presenting to organizations and businesses throughout the state about various workplace topics. As a former drill sergeant, he has no problem gaining the attention of his participants and sharing with them the important message that everyone has the right to feel secure and free from bias in the workplace. “Equal opportunity means the opportunity to be equal. That’s the key.”
Aside from Dillard’s meritable job duties, he admits that he classifies himself as a “trekkie” as he explains his love for Star Trek and all other sci-fi movies. In his free time, he confesses that Sudoku puzzles have become more of an addiction than a hobby.
William Scott-Inlow, more commonly referred to as "Dub," has been a Wage and Hour investigator for the Department of Labor for more than fourteen years. Dub has a passion for the working youth and serves as an advocate for safe, healthy, and lawful employment of children. Dub investigates Child Labor complaints by conducting random workplace inspections to ensure compliance with Missouri’s labor law. Protecting children and their wellbeing is Dub’s number one priority and he says he will continue to educate employers, parents, school officials, and youth about the laws surrounding young workers in the workplace.
Dub’s admirable work is primarily about the big picture and the future of our children. Ensuring a safe and legally compliant work environment helps to provide young workers with an overall rewarding working experience. “In the proper working environment, the child employee is more apt to develop personal discipline and acquire invaluable work habits that they will carry with them the rest of their lives,” says Scott-Inlow.
Outside the workplace, Dub has been working on a book about the history of the establishment of institutionalized religion. Aside from his writings and studies, Dub enjoys walking his Alaskan Malamute, Chronos.
Staci Fowler, Administrative Analyst II has been with the Missouri Department of Labor for 15 years. As an Administrative Analyst, she is responsible for keeping the department’s policy and procedure manuals, publications, and forms current and relaying the information to department employees. She also assists with the development, processing, and maintenance of approximately 2,000 forms and 20 manuals. Those forms include the required posters businesses must display in their workplaces. Fowler receives calls from employers who have been contacted by private businesses trying to sell the posters. Fowler wants employers to know they can print the posters directly from the Internet absolutely free of charge. Employers can also call to have copies mailed to them. When an employer registers with the Missouri Department of Labor, it receives an employer packet filled with pertinent information on such labor topics as Workers’ Compensation, Employment Insurance, Human Rights at the Workplace, and Wage and Hour requirements. Approximately 1,000 employer packets are mailed out each month.
Fowler’s main focus is to make sure the employees of the Missouri Department of Labor are supplied with current forms and current policy and procedure manuals to ensure its customers have all the information they need. This allows employees the ability to assist those outside the Department seeking help or information about the Department of Labor. “The Department’s Mission Statement is: “To Promote and protect industry and labor.” I believe in this mission and I believe in this Department. We have all been hit with tough economic times, but I have seen how the employees in this Department have pulled together to provide the best assistance to the citizens of Missouri they can and I feel that I have a role in that goal. I am very proud to be an employee of the Missouri Department of Labor.” When Fowler isn’t at work she is working on completing her second college degree, Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, and spending time with family and friends. “I especially enjoy my grandson who I think is awesome.”
Kristy Lambert is the Investigations Unit Supervisor at the Kansas City office of the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR) an independent state agency housed within the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. MCHR enforces the state laws prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. She has been with MCHR since 1992, serving first as an investigator, then in the agency’s Early Resolution Unit, where she conducted mediation, negotiation, and conciliation of discrimination complaints. Lambert has served in her current position of Unit Supervisor since 2004. Throughout her tenure, she has conducted education and outreach programs for the Commission from time to time. A significant project she and the Commission are currently working on is writing and implementing a year-long federal grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to conduct education activities on housing discrimination in Missouri’s Bootheel.
“Educating Missourians on the laws against discrimination is deeply important to me and I am grateful to work in an area of law I passionately believe in,” said Lambert. When Lambert isn't working for equality in the workplace, she enjoys singing for the Kansas City Symphony, trying new recipes in the kitchen, and traveling to new places.
Jim Avery, Chairman of the State Board of Mediation, has been with the Department for two and a half years. However, for a great majority of that time, he has been protecting our country by serving as a first lieutenant in the Missouri National Guard in Afghanistan. “Thanks to technology and the flexibility of the Department, I was able to fulfill my duty as the chairman and serve my country. These last two years have been very rewarding and have definitely put my abilities to the test,” said Avery.
His job as the chairman consists of determining appropriate bargaining units of public employees that request the establishment of such units and conducting elections to determine the exclusive bargaining representative for those units. When home, he travels through the state conducting elections of employees within bargaining units to determine whether a majority of them want union representation. “I can try to get both sides to come to an agreement in order to avoid a hearing. If we can avoid going to a hearing, it speeds up the process and allows the voters to have their voices heard.”
Jim’s work affects the lives of Missourians by ensuring a fair election to decide representation by a labor union within the public sector. “The election process has to have the highest integrity to ensure the proper outcome of the election,” he noted. When Jim is not working, he likes going to sporting events including Cardinals, Rams and Blues games. Jim left for Afghanistan in October of 2009, and when he returned in September of this year, he was welcomed home by his friends and family.
Daniel Stark, Program Manager for the Missouri On-Site Safety and Health Consultation Program, has been with the Department for nearly 10 years. His job consists of creating a yearly cooperative agreement with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), meeting Strategic Plan Goals from both OSHA and the state of Missouri, oversees yearly expenditures, ensures all consultants have the resources to do their jobs efficiently and effectively, as well as making sure the Consultation Program as a whole runs smoothly. “My main focus is to keep staff educated on safety and health hazards and program implementation; utilize employer suggestions to improve the program; and use new technology to make the consultation process as smooth and effective as possible,” said Stark.
Daniel’s work affects the daily lives of Missourians by giving small employers and employees the tools and education they need to make their workplaces safer and achieve compliance with OSHA. “We identify workplace hazards that many times employers and employees did not know existed, which gives us assurance that we are truly making a difference in making a particular workplace safer.”
When Daniel is not at work, he is spending time with his 14 month old twin daughters that look and act nothing alike. He loves to play drums, record music and watch basketball.
Janet Lepper, Chief of Unemployment Insurance Programs, has been with the Missouri Department of Labor for 41 years. Reporting to the Director of the Division of Employment Security, she oversees approximately 340 staff, who administer the payment of billions of dollars of unemployment benefits. The unemployment program is a safety net for people who have lost their job due to no fault of their own. Janet’s work profoundly affects the daily lives of the thousands of Missourians who have been laid off by helping them keep roofs over their heads and food on their tables and otherwise provide the basic necessities for the life and health of their families while they are looking for work.
“My goal right now is to help the staff pull through this challenging time that is making history. I hope to lead the claims operations into a modernization program that can revitalize a system that is beyond antiquated. Even though the recession and its effects have burdened the country since late 2007 and early 2008, it is rewarding to serve those who need assistance until they find full-time employment. No entity more than this Division has their finger on the pulse of what a recession means to Missourians and the nation.”
When Janet is not working she is spending time with her two grandchildren who fill her life with joy and happiness. She is very passionate about her family, gardening and photography.